I don’t really write much any more. This is partly due to not seeing the point in publishing stuff that no one will read, and partly because two small children remove most of my brain. I’m sure they get up in the night and suck all my ideas out with a straw.
Anyway, my husband seems to think I should at least try to make a living from writing. This seems to me a bit like being paid to eat Nutella. No one gets paid for stuff they enjoy in my world. I would never have done any of the jobs I’ve had if I hadn’t been paid. Those jobs funded great holidays, and a house. Most people prostitute themselves doing stuff that isn’t their passion. Then again, writing isn’t really a passion. Running is, or cycling, or getting to the top of something I thought I couldn’t do.
He was saying we should work out how long it would take to write something, and how much childcare we could afford before I was ready to flog a crummy novel on Amazon. There are two problems with this. The first is that great authors very often need no time carved out to write. They write at night, when their children are asleep, or they write before they even have children. Kafka famously worked in a bank all day and wrote all night. JK Rowling was a single mother who wrote Harry Potter in a cafe – if you ask in any Edinburgh cafe, it was definitely their cafe. Then of course you have the more common (and self-selecting) model among successful writers: precocious talent that means they have always supported themselves from their writing. That leads us to the second problem: at 38, the chances of me being able to make even enough money to cover a childminder are vanishingly small; much smaller than my chances of getting cancer, which is of course something I view as wildly unlikely.
Burbling on to myself (which is what this blog is) can indeed be achieved at any point and works itself around my day. I wrote my last post when slightly drunk on the train home from the theatre, and I am writing this post next to Conrad, who is enthusiastically trying to spread butter on a bagel. Sebastian is in the corner squishing bananas, and I smell an imminent nappy change requirement. The reason I decided to flip my computer open is that I was reading an article about the death of Margaret Forster, who appears to have been a very gifted novelist I’ve not really heard of. Apparently, she used to write for two hours a day, every morning, with a fountain pen. She didn’t revise anything, didn’t talk about her writing, didn’t agonise. Didn’t even care if her books were published, she just wrote them. She went to Somerville, and had three children. I went to Merton and only have two children, so I’m one up on both fronts. Two children are obviously no trouble, and Somerville seems like a horrible place. Hilda’s is preferable. I was going to write a long post the other day about life at Oxford, but it’s rather difficult, given it’s so much a part of who I am. A lot of it was probably just the same as being 19 is anywhere else; sitting in people’s rooms, pretentious conversations about Camus, people telling you you’re beautiful, student sports, drinking too much and dancing. Dancing used to be the only thing I wanted to do with my life. Something physical, not sitting around in front of a computer. The chances of making a living out of dancing or any other form of entertainment are arguably even smaller than the chances of making a living out of journalism or any other form of writing, so I suppose I can see why my mother always refused to let me dance. Maybe she thought I was so single minded I would give it all I had, and actually succeed in making it a career. I’m not sure I ever got that far in my thinking. I saw The Nutcracker when I was seven, and no doubt like every other little girl on the planet, that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t even want to be the Sugar Plum Fairy or sissy little Clara – the snowflakes had the sparkliest costumes, with stiff tutus and brilliant white shoes. Dancers’ careers are mostly spent in those sorts of tiny parts, and they retire in their mid-30s, probably becoming secretaries and finding some rich banker to marry them. When I was about 10, I was even more intrigued by the strangeness of Anna Pavlova’s life and death. She died of pneumonia even though she knew perfectly well she had pneumonia, and there were antibiotics available in those days.Maybe she didn’t want to get old. I can see why, if your life has been all about physical skill, and it is only going to disappear altogether before you die. That’s what I hate about the lyrics of the Ed Sheeran song, Thinking out Loud. It’s a great song, but so depressing:
When your legs don’t work like they used to before,
And I can’t sweep you off your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?
I know it’s supposed to be a love song about how love endures through all the ups and downs of life, through old age, but it sums up every fear I have about the future: disability, dementia, depression. The third verse is probably supposed to be a bit uplifting, after he says that he’ll be loving her till they’re 70, and feel the same way as when they were 23:
‘Cause, honey, your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
And, baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
Right, so even if she doesn’t smile from her cheeks any more (too much botox), it’s ok, because he can remember what she looked like when she was young and beautiful. The trouble is, he might not remember anything at all. Even if he does, it’s very difficult to remember the feeling of youth, the passion, the massive emotional see-saw. I know it was different, and often awful, but I can’t think like a 23 year old any more. I can’t stand in a room with peeling paint and smoke, and some cheap disco lights, and think it’s all the most amazing thing in the world, because the guy I fancy is looking lustfully at my legs in a short skirt. I would be bursting with energy, dancing with complete abandon. If that was me now, I would think, in no particular order:
Must remember to put on a sock wash tomorrow.
He’s looking at me. I like that look, but I really want to go to sleep.
I’ve drunk too much, we’re supposed to be going to a Christening tomorrow, how am I going to get them both dressed, fed and out of the house in time? Damn, this is going to hurt.
My knees feel a bit funny on one side again, maybe the bike trailer is too heavy after all.
Hmm, this place could do with some Dulux Endurance+. Maybe they could do it in that nice teal colour.
So anyway, the plan we discussed over our Valentine’s Day dinner was that I should write a screenplay, rather than a novel, if the aim is to make money. Everyone is trying to write and flog novels; they take forever to write, and stand almost no chance of being read by anyone. A screenplay is a commercial enterprise right from the start. The only small snag is that you also need to know what you’re doing technically, and I know nothing.