OK, I write a lot. I’ve written since I was eight and have written almost constantly since since I was eighteen or nineteen. I write, research, think about or plan my writing most days including so-called holidays.
Essays, reports, theses, poems, stories, articles. novels, now this weblog - you name it, I have written it.
I love to see the word on the page.
I enjoy seeing the pages in my notebooks full of my own writing. I like the smooth sheets of typescript as they shoot off the printer in their hundreds. I like the scribbled, densely edited sheets waiting to be transcribed yet again. I like the crisp new pages in the published books, miraculously reflecting the paragraphs that started out as speculation in my notebooks.
In my work I meet a lot of aspiring writers and am very impressed by their ambition to write a good story, a fine poem, a great novel. I have been privileged to see these great things happen.
But I am bewildered that - for some - the delicious, enticing activity of writing itself is seen as a chore. I hear how hard it is to get down to the writing. Such aspiring writers will cite meetings, obligations, domestic work, child care, parent care, challenging hobbies, gardening, cooking, the washing, cleaning the car, doing the shopping, a bad leg, a bad cold – all these things are cited as reasons why individuals find it hard to find time for their writing.
I tend to reflect, then, about priorities. For me, to sustain it at the centre of my life, writing needs to be very near the top of my list of priorities. For me, it has come second only to the safety of my children and the serenity of my home. For me, this lifelong writing apprenticeship has developed the imaginative skills, the focus, and the intellectual organisation to write the stories that bloom and blossom in my mind. Each novel is a new adventure.
I can see that my sense of priority is in contrast to a more dilettante approach to writing where writing is a pleasant and rewarding hobby, as much for personal satisfaction and literary identification as for any desire to be a professional writer. This is absolutely fine. Such people are great fun to work with and can produce excellent writing.
It’s interesting, though, that occasionally I sense that because I write a good deal and - amongst other things - write a full length novel each year, it is seen as not quite right. That somehow the quality of the writing must be less. In some mouths the word prolific becomes loaded. Yeah, I am too polite to say, as prolific as Charles Dickens, as prolific as Honore de Balzac, as prolific as Anthony Trollope.
I stifle my feeling of unease but I long to say read the books! Read the books…
Only once have I responded outright and that was when some rude person used the term churning out. ‘Yeah,’ I said, flinching. ‘You’re right. I churn out books like brain surgeons churn out operations.’