Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Life Without Writing?

When I remember the past, it comes in a series of snapshots, which (rather like a 'Harry Potter' photograph) begin to move when I select one, bringing to mind details that I can never be sure I have not added over the years.  There are some that keep coming up, like a picture of me on a Greek beach at Christmas wearing a royal blue jumper and a pink skirt with my arms stretched out to the side. I look happy, my head tilted, a big smile on my face.  I look as though I am on the point of taking off and gliding over the sand.  Another comes to mind, forcing out the girl in the blue jumper.  I am at the zoo with my daughter.  She is not much older than one and she is grinning because she has just counted to three, or I think she has. I see her face close up and wonder where this version of her has gone. Then there is the jolly camper van I used to have and the adventures that went with it. I recall the smell of grass and the dripping of the rain as I boiled a kettle and made tea on the tiny stove.  The interior was orange and green, but I didn't care. All these people.  All these places.  All these moments.

Today, at my desk, I listen to the birds outside my window and I wait for the sound of my children returning from school, as they have done so many times before.  A collection of returnings - I can't remember the first time and I don't really want to think about the final time, which is surely nearer than the first?

I should go down and do something useful.  Make some tea, or hang the washing out.  But I came to my desk because I was wondering about the way my life has turned out and whether I should change it.  There must be stuff that I'm missing and stuff that I would do better without.  Perhaps I should write a list?

There are things I wouldn't miss.  Like housework and going to the doctor's or the dentist's.  I don't much like shopping, either.  I wonder what the children would say if there were no milk in the fridge and no clean pants in the drawer.  I wonder whether everyone's teeth would go brown and fall out without regular checkups. I consider whether I could get used to internet shopping.

When I think of giving up these things, it's just a kind of madness, obviously.  I play my part for my family's sake, just as they play theirs.  They expect me to do these things and lots of others that I was not made for, just as I expect them to be polite, pass their exams, earn a salary and love me.  It would be no good messing about with the everyday things. Not until we found a world where there were new rules, allowing us all to pursue our creative ideals, and where food preparation had become redundant.

What then should I change?

I think of the books I have written, published and sold or given away to people who either read them or didn't. Liked them or found them unremarkable.  Could I give it all up? Should I go out and find a 'real' job that pays better?  Increase my teaching hours?  Do some fruit picking? I might survive for a while, after all, the world is a lovely place, with lots of things and people in it that I haven't seen yet.

But I'm pretty sure I couldn't stand it for long.  Not writing, I mean. I know it is a luxury, a self-indulgence, when considered against the horrendous stories in the news.  I could go and help those worse off than myself, sell my house and give away my possessions.  Maybe I will one day.  Who knows?

The fact remains that, for now at least, I write because it seems to me that writing is what I was made for, above all else.  And I am constantly delighted that it should be so.

Life without writing?  Not an option.


  1. I've always been writing (well, since primary school) and even when there's not been time to formally sit down and commit words to paper, I've been 'writing in my head' as it were; tossing ideas back and forth and letting plots bubble away in the cauldron of creativity that is my subconscious. I don't think that I could go for long without writing in one form or another.

    1. Know what you mean! I find myself constantly thinking about plot and characters in my books. Almost like having another life! It's an organic process that I enjoy, although friends say it would drive them mad.