Wednesday, 2 December 2009

When the chips are down

Last night I won a $600 prize in a competition. Yay?
No. It wasn’t a short story competition. If my Ace-King hadn’t run into an extremely lucky (whole stream of expletives deleted) Ace-Seven on the other side of the table, it could easily have been $10,000. The week before I won $2,678 one evening and about $700 another. This is all bad news. Poker is one of the things I do when I’m not writing.

An online poker tournament requires hours of application and concentration in front of a computer screen – sounds familiar? It demands an overall plan implemented through a serious of micro-decisions. It demands insight into a variety of characters, predicting their reactions in challenging circumstances, without actually meeting them. It rewards a certain amount of creativity and preparedness to put yourself on the line, to click caution to the wind, throw all your chips on the table, take a big risk and do what you know is right in the situation. But stop! Let’s not admit this analogy. They have nothing in common. Poker is simply a way to avoid writing when I’ve got the hideous block parked on my chest.

The others are: going to the gym, booking tickets to the World Cup, spending time with my son, spending time with my girlfriend, cooking great meals, reading South African guidebooks in preparation for said World Cup. I’ve even tried to con myself into thinking I might set a story in South Africa one day based on this research. Nonsense and delusion.

In other words, I have a wonderful life (if you don't want to be a writer). But for me, all these activities must be stamped out. All non-writing time is a waste of life and at the moment I’m wasting nearly all of it. Work has spread through my world like the flu.

This doesn’t Strictly count. It’s not real writing; it’s not fiction. Poetry counts, but I’m not writing any poems at the moment.


I know you think all life experience is valuable as the raw material for fiction, but I'm afraid you are wrong. I've done my living. Now I want to do my writing.

This is my last slot before Christmas so I also want to take the chance to say HAPPY CHRISTMAS! to everyone who visits these pages. In the New Year I resolve to publish posts bubbling with enthusiasm for writing.


Samantha Tonge said...

I'm intrigued, Rod, have you ever lost large amounts?

I believe writers are obsessive by nature and it's a pleasant change to have a gambler on the team, instead of the usual chocoholics:)

Seriously though, the internet can be a terrible distraction. I Google all manner of rubbish when i'm stuck for words - I diagnose myself with terrible illnesses, find out the latest on Jordan's love-life... I'll even Google myself if i'm really struggling to write.

At least your distraction is earning you money.

Yes, here's to an enthusiastic 2010 for all of us.

Roderic Vincent said...

Hi Sam,

Because I play mainly tournaments I don't risk emptying my wallet in one go. Everyone buys in for, say, $20 and the pool of money is split between the winners. Your losses on any one evening are limited to the buy-in.

And I'm not a gambler (ahem); it's the gamblers I want to meet at the tables: the ones who make wild bets when their hand is unlikely to come through. I am, however, an addict. Since I wrote that piece I had my biggest win, coming 2nd out of 941 players for $3,200. That hasn't exactly encouraged me to stop.

Roderic Vincent said...

Also, I hope you liked the picture of my dining room - set up for degeneracy.

Samantha Tonge said...

It all looks very decadent - the most we gamble with in my house is Smarties. That must be where i'm going wrong...

Do tell me you spend the money on something reckless:)

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Hey well done on that win, Rod!
As to life getting in the way of writing - that's an interesting one. 'Cos life, well lived, can really fuel writing. Write a short story. Go on, you know you want to...

CambridgeLady said...

Congrats on the win! I could never play Poker - I just can't do that poker-face thing ..... everyone knows what I'm holding :S

Roderic Vincent said...

Cambridge Lady,

That's the beauty of online poker. No faces! You can jump up and down and scream and laugh and cry and nobody knows what cards you hold.

Roderic Vincent said...

Susie, you are so right. I do want to. I can't wait until the current rash of work is over and I can fling myself into writing.

CarolineG said...

Ah, Rodders, I know what you mean about working spreading through your life like flu...hope things ease up soon and you get some of your life back.

Derek said...

Rod, judging by the photo, it looks like you had a 'full house' there with you. And that's why my comedy writing isn't selling! Merry Xmas to you too.

Roderic Vincent said...

Thank you.