You didn’t notice but I borrowed you about twenty minutes ago. I was asking your advice about a writing thing and I just went off into the most tedious and even poncy side points. As we talk, you see, I’m in a rather posh club in London waiting to deliver a couple of workshops for Equity. It’s a really nice club. I could and did go on about it. But your time is more important.
And I do want to sound you out on something. Next week I’m due to give a talk on the Life of the Writer at a university. I asked if the writer could be Alan Plater or Emily Dickinson, I did. But it has to be about me and since there is no way in the world I can stand talking about myself for three hours, I’ve got to think of something.
It’s for students on a writing degree and I didn’t study writing, not at university or ever, so I can’t charm them with tales of debating Proust in the bar. I could, but they’d see through both my points and that I only drink tea and Pepsi Max on the rocks.
They have asked me to read from my writing, so I’ll do some of that. But what I’m thinking is that because they’re students, they probably don’t yet know what it’s like writing for a living. I presume some will be mature students so they may well know all about it, but on balance, I’m probably safe to stick to that. Safe and hopefully best.
It’s where to start, though. And how to fill three hours.
I do know that I absolutely, definitely, completely do want to stop people writing three very similar words in a row for emphasis. Also that for everything else that writing is, it’s a job. If you do the professional stuff professionally, you get to do the artistic stuff artistically.
There’s also that yes, there are very definitely harder jobs than writing. But there are also easier ones.
I think I’m going to end up saying that you need to take writing seriously and to get on with it. That’s it. Twelve words. Given that our general speaking rate in English is three words per second, I’ve got two hours, fifty-nine minutes and fifty-six seconds to fill.
I’ll make sure I read from my longest book.