Acutely aware that I need to up the blog rate, I scribbled the following on the plane as I flew home to Aberdeen yesterday. It turned into what I hoped was a light-hearted piece but the denouement was cruel. It went as follows:
Soon I’ll be home after a few days in London. Not my favourite city (Paris is way ahead in that race) but an exciting, fascinating place to be all the same. The impression everywhere is that things are happening, people are on their way somewhere. Even the Trafalgar Square tourists and the Regent Street shoppers seem purposeful. Actually, come to think of it, maybe that’s why I prefer Paris. Over there, they stop and sit sipping coffee and Pastis to watch the others go by. I know it’s a cliché but they do linger over seemingly endless lunches and, rather than try to catch up with time, they’re savouring it as it passes. It suits my preference for languor over action.
Having said which, one of the reasons for my trip was to meet with a publisher to discuss writing a 145,000 word non-fiction book. It’s an interesting, challenging project and, unlike with fiction, there’s a guarantee of publication (unless I make a cock-up of it all). It means setting aside the languor and working full time to meet the deadline. I have no idea what’ll happen to the blogging but I hope I’ll see it as relaxation and not disappear altogether.
I intended to make this a relatively straight, informative posting, but the notion just came to me that this writing business fits into all the superhero stereotypes. People such as Billy Batson and Clark Kent live along their ordinary lives, lost in the crowd. Suddenly, duty calls and, with a quick detour to a phone box (harder and harder in these days of mobiles/cell phones) or a cry of ‘Shazam’, they’re transformed into an extraordinary being. And so it is with writers.
There they are tweeting, trying to remember the lead singer of some forgotten 70s group for a Facebook challenge and generally behaving like all the inadequate mortals around them when suddenly they get the tap on the shoulder from their muse, agent or publisher and Blat! they morph into creators of new universes, using their powers to help others escape the mediocre. Only when the job is done do they switch off their power source or put down their pen and disappear back into the humdrum.
Trouble is, it takes Captain Marvel and Superman maybe twenty minutes to stop Jupiter crashing into the McDonald’s where some 5 year old kids are celebrating a birthday party – the poor bloody writers have to keep it up (and you can choose any of the double entendres you prefer at this point) for months.
Ah good. I’ve set the self-pitying tone which will no doubt be the counterpoint to the next six months or so.
And that was it. But then I got home, opened up the emails and was faced with a nice, polite message from the publisher saying it would be good if the book could be finished by the end of the year. I resisted the temptation to ask which year he had in mind. But it does give an ironic twist to the notion of the superhero. I must learn to resist the temptation to whinge. You never heard Superman begging Lex Luthor to take a time-out.