Saturday, 19 November 2011


Me (seated) shortly before deciding on writing career
          A student recently asked me, “Why are you a writer?”  And since writing’s not secure or lucrative, why am I still?
          There isn’t one simple answer.
          It was an early decision.  My aunt tells me that she remembers me marching up to her and my grandmother and firmly announcing that I intended to be a writer – at four years old.  This surprises me because I thought I’d decided much, much later in life - at seven.  But, whichever, I was unwavering thereafter
          But why did an infant want to be a writer?  I used to think it was due simply to my family’s immense respect for books and writers.  My mother almost revered books, and minded us scribbling on the wallpaper far less than drawing in a book. So, in our house, saying you wanted to be a writer was sure to win approval.
          These days, I think Nature and Nurture are almost equal in influence, and my family were great story-tellers.  Throughout my childhood I heard stories of my mother’s childhood: of how one hot-tempered auntie punched her fist through a glass pane, of an uncle was taken to hospital in a wheelbarrow, of the cat which could open the door when my mother couldn’t.
My Grandmother Price
          My father countered with tales of my grandfather’s battle with a mouse called Mickey Duff, of how my great-grandfather served time for GBH – and how my Grandmother won a national newspaper’s story-writing competition.  Nearly fifty years later, I won £50 the same way.
          Telling stories was what you did.  Anything that happened, you polished into a story, with dramatic pauses, twists, punch-lines.  Writing stories down was a natural progression.
          And then, writing is acting for ugly people and action for coach-potatoes, which suits me perfectly.  I can take on whatever appearance I fancy, in whatever century, change sex, change species, even become an extra-terrestrial.  I can sail Viking ships, ride with reivers, dig a canal, emigrate to Mars – all without leaving my sofa and laptop.  As the student said, “How cool is that?”
          Lastly, writing never becomes boring.  Difficult, frustrating, head-nipping – yes.  Boring, no.  I once knew a novice writer who wrote a play for a University production.  It was well-received and the novice decided to write another for the following year.  After several months, with head severely nipped, she cried out, “It doesn’t get easier, does it?”
          She’d thought it would, you see.  Everything else she’d tried had been easier the second time, and easier still the third.  Obviously, writing would be the same.  After all, she knew how to do it now, right?
The Sterkarm Handshake
          No art – be it writing, painting, music, dancing, or even Fuzzy Mathematics – ever gets easier.  You don’t have to be Shakespeare or Beethoven for that to be true either.
          Every new piece of writing brings new problems, and exposes new areas of ignorance to be researched.  You never know where a story’s going to lead you.  You’re always learning.
          I had no idea, fifteen years ago, when I headed off for a walking holiday based in Durham, that, as a result, I was going to learn so much about the reivers and their way of life – to say nothing of modern weaponry.  Nor, that fifteen years later, I’d still be learning more.
          I’m doing what I declared I would, fifty-odd years ago, aged four.  I can’t say I regret it.

          And here's Blot -  


madwippitt said...

What is Fuzzy Mathematics? Is it something to do with wippitties being able to count up to three, and knowing when they've been short-changed on the third one?
As for Blot ... well, his facility for napping just further proves how in touch with his inner wippitt he is. We expect to see his nose getting longer and pointier any day now.

madwippitt said...

Short-changed on the third TREAT I meant, but failed, to say in my haste ...

Anonymous said...

I just awarded you a Liebster blog award Susan - check it out on my blog! I love your colour schemes... and blot....

Susan Price said...

Thanks Jen! I will check it out. And Mad Wippet - Fuzzy Maths would bend even a whippet's brain. It's for computers, and the essays I see on it have sentences that go something like: 'The latent time sequences are irremediable' and 'Let X be interrupted, sequential and hard..' For any Fuzzy Mathematicians, I know that isn't right, but since I never understand a word and only correct the grammar, I can't remember the actual words...

madwippitt said...

Wippities have fuzzy velvet coats and can count to three treats, and assure me that Fuzzy Maths is therefore a canine concept. Humans (sad naked little things) appear to have got the wrong end of the stick and completely confused themselves and everyone else.
The theory is very simple -
Q:How many treats make three?
A: Three, although if the human is interrupted, sequentially challenged and/or hard, sometimes it's two. Or one. Or, on occasion, none.
There is another name for this among those who fancy themselves as dog trainers: 'Variable Reward'. Very fuzzy arithmetic indeed!

Joan Lennon said...

"Writing is acting for ugly people!" What a great line!