There’s a persistant rumour that Dan Brown has an army of researchers who provide him with background information on any place or subject he needs for his novels. It’s easy to imagine him, behind his impressive oak desk, shuffling through the reports from his minions, spotting the detail he needs for the latest twist in his new book. As would-be millionaire writers, we regard Mr Brown with an envy that would curdle milk at twenty paces. Why, if we had an army of researchers, we too could write unlikely tales of mystic codes and albino assassins. But we’d be using the researchers to buy the groceries, vacuum the living room and repoint the chimney.
You see, too often the cry of the newbie writer is ‘I don’t have time!” We all feel it, in our literary marrow, the desperate knowledge that we could have written ten bloody marvellous books by now if it wasn’t for the niff-naff and trivia that get in our way. Like, you know….Families and stuff.
It’s a good excuse, and you can use it for almost anything. “Yeah, I was going to be a Brain Surgeon, but I just didn’t have the time for all that study. I mean, I want to do it, and I’m doing a little light neurosurgery on the weekends, but I haven’t had a chance to really…get stuck in…”
The trouble seems to be that writing is seen as a diletante’s hobby, the kind of thing said with an apologetic smile, referring to some lines dashed off in fountain pen in a leatherbound journal, possibly relating to a childhood memory of summer, and then abandoned for months. We instinctively devalue what we’re trying to do, what we WANT to do, and so actually doing any writing at all gets shoved further and further down the “to do” list until it drops off the bottom.
Let me blow my own trumpet for a minute: I’m a published playwright, with plays performed around the world. I’ve won awards, competitions, had my plays made into short films, radio shows… I am, to be blunt, quite successful. And yet today, before I could write the one and a half page sketch I wanted to write, I had to go to the Library, do three loads of washing, get the groceries, wash up the breakfast dishes, do the reviewing work left over from the start of the week, make phone calls on behalf of the school…Basically, I had to clear my to do list before I would allow myself to do the writing I wanted to do. because even I seem to feel that writing isn’t as important as all those other things.
So, fellow writers, before February slips right by us, let’s stand up and demand our rights. Let’s hold up our heads and say loud and clear “We are writers, and there’s nothing wrong with that! I am NOT ASHAMED!” I dare you to put your writing in it’s proper place on your list of priorities. I’ll do the same and we’ll see if between us we can’t give Dan Brown a run for his money. And if his researchers find themselves out of a job, there’s always my chimney that needs repointing….