Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Guest post by Jo Carlowe - Guilty pleasures
Oh the sheer unadulterated pleasure, each stroke bringing the senses to life – what a wonderful guilty indulgence.
I’m talking about writing, of course.
Each stroke of the pen, or tap of the keyboard, eliciting free-flowing words: sometimes lyrical, on occasions funny; each sentence ascribing moods, feelings and philosophies to people who moments before were swimming in the chemicals pinging between the synapses of my brain.
But to me this all seems like a terrible indulgence. I trade in words, I’m a journalist. My working days are dictated by the deadlines and word-counts imposed by commissioning editors of publications requiring anything from a feature about the masturbatory habits of men, through to details of the latest pay deal for consultant radiologists. That’s how bizarre and on occasions dull my job can be.
I appreciate that once a novelist is established, that they too will become a hostage to the wills and whims of their agents and publishers. They will have deadlines and word-counts and will be asked to do the unpalatable: such as adding or altering a character to enhance the book’s commercial appeal, but at the early creative stage the process is untainted in this way.
I want to write fiction. I know I am like so many others whose lives moves along a parallel trajectory to what they would really like to be doing. I am there with the photographer camped outside Katie Price’s house who wishes he were filming polar bears for the National Geographic or the session musician who repeats the same ‘la la, oooh’ background vocals over and over, when really she feels her own material and voice deserve an audience of their own.
And so that is me – writing articles which are read by real people, for which I am paid real (albeit not very good) money and wishing all the time that I was dealing not in reality but in fiction.
So what to do about this? Every time I allow myself to indulge this desire, I feel guilty. A little voice says: ‘Why aren’t you working? Why aren’t you drumming up proposals to send to papers and magazines? You’ve got a mortgage to pay, you’ve kids to look after; there is no one else to support you, what right do you have to be so indulgent?
And so I have joined a creative writing course – not because it will help me to get published, but because the tutor will set me tasks and I will meet her deadlines – only this time the material that I produce will be written with joy rather than dreary compulsion. It might, I hope, inspire me to get out that half-written novel that has been resting for too long, and allow me, to once again, view writing for pleasure not as a luxury but as a necessity.
Jo Carlowe, is a freelance journalist, specialising in health and psychology. She lives in London with her two children and plans to fulfill a promise that she made to herself, to start writing fiction once her youngest child started school (which he did in September).