As a person of northern, working class pedigree, I simply
cannot abide whingers. My DNA includes the immortal response to any query as to my well being.
'Not so bad.'
Remember the scene in The Full Monty with the MC balancing on the roof of a car which is slowly sinking into the canal. When a passing friend asks him how's been...you get the picture.
This wasn't made up for a film. Towards the end of my Dad's life when he was attached to an oxygen tank ( replacing as it did, his habitual Embo Regal), whenever anyone expressed sympathy for his condition he'd remind them that, 'There are plenty in the grave yard that wished they felt half as good.'
So you can imagine my annoyance when at a recent coffee morning of well heeled Yummy Mummies, the complaints started to crank up.
I admit here, that my envy of their cashmere clad, pert little buns may have hampered my objectivity, but come on ladies, in what universe does a late Ocado delivery constitute something to even mention. Ditto finding a cleaner. Ditto gaining half a pound.
I spent most of the morning humphing in a way that only emphasised my unbotoxed crows feet.
Later I met a writer friend and told her exactly what I thought about these graceless lovelies, before moving on to a discussion of the publishing industry at present. And here, I'm ashamed to say, I joined the fray. I whinged and whined like a good 'un, only with untoned arms.
Advances are down.
Discounts are up.
The Supermarkets have too much power.
Publicity budgets are being slashed.
To anyone listening in we must have sounded like a right pair of numpties. For we have both had an enormous amount of luck. We are both published several times over. We both make a living from our work.
When ever I'm tempted to moan, I remind myself of something Elizabeth Gilbert of Eats, Prays, Loves fame, has on her web site, and which she says, she too tries to remember when this mad business starts getting her down.
'It's not the world's fault that you want to be an artist...now get back to work.'
That's fine for someone who has sold a squillion copies in every country in the world, I hear you shout. Pragmatism is easy when you're on the up and up.
And still I'm drawn to accentuate the positive.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that we writers ought to be eternally grateful for any scrap that falls from the publishing table, rolling over, baring our arses and preparing to be shafted. Far from it. My advice to any writer would be to get a good agent and never sign anything unless you are absolutely sure you understand it.
Nor am I saying that we shouldn't be allowed to have a scream when things go wrong. Getting a disappointment off your chest is often just what the doctor ordered to avoid festering bitterness.
But I do think it's worth reminding ourselves regularly that despite rejections, bad reviews, poor sales, we remain ridiculously lucky.
We have a strange, yet wonderful gift. We are the teller of tales. We live to entertain and thrill. We conjure laughter and shine lights in remote corners of humanity. We should thank our lucky stars every day.
When I pointed out my unattractive inconsistency to my friend, she in turn pointed out that discontent is in fact the writer's best trait. It's this that forces us to work and re-work a sentence, to return to themes again and again.
She thinks we should embrace it. If being dissatisfied with things makes us better artists then so be it.
Maybe she's right. But I remain unconvinced. I hear writers endlessly rehearse the problems in this business. The stiff competition. The lack of imagination on the part of publishers. And I've never seen any sign that this hones their creativity, rather it just uses up energy.
So I for one intend to quit whining. When something makes me unhappy, I will try to change it, and where I cannot change it I shall try to accept it. And on those days when the literary world seems against me and my work, I shall at least keep it to myself.