SUPER SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD...
I’m thinking about Rust.
D’you know him? Spawned from the pen of the brilliant Andrew Davies, Ron Rust is Creative Writer In Residence at Lowlands University (otherwise known as the pissant swamp). And Rust takes his job very seriously. His mission: to discourage as many students as possible from embarking on a career in Creative Writing, in order to narrow the field for himself.
Davies never explains exactly how Rust achieves this, but I think I know. Rust doesn’t leap out and bash students over the head with a rock. Nor does he set about their novels with a blow-torch. He’s much cleverer and more insidious than that:
He slowly and deliberately pours cold water over their ideas.
Have you ever encountered a Rust? You’ll know if you have. One minute you’re buzzing with excitement about your writing. The next, you’re shaking Rust’s limp and clammy hand, and your energy’s seeping away. Ron Rust is the worm in your apple, the wet in your blanket, the snake in your grass. He’s the man in the joke who, when asked for directions, says: Oooh, I wouldn’t start from here.
Sometimes, and more lethally, Rusts travel in pairs. I met a couple of ‘em in the gallery where I work. Ron spent a long (looooong) time telling me why a painting by our featured artist didn’t work for him. Ronette asked if we had any images of the exhibition, but when offered the catalogue (£2.50) said she didn’t like them that much. Eventually Ron asked what kind of work I did. I pointed out my painting. The Rusts looked, and swiftly looked away, only to resume their diatribe. Their silence said it all. Rust is, after all, the result of mixing air (nothingness/silence) with cold water. I’ve been scraping off the sediment ever since.
Rusts have always been around. Even Rudyard Kipling encountered one, in the person of the editor who returned an article to him with a note saying: ‘This isn’t a kindergarten for amateur writers. I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.’ No wonder the poor man turned to making cakes.
It never fails to astonish me how difficult it is for the Rusts of this world to squeeze out a word of encouragement. It’s not as if we writers expect the world – just a response with a flicker of interest; an acknowledgement. A tiny flame to warm the cockles of our hearts.
So let us rally for an anti-Rust day. It’s really very simple. Today, we each give someone a bit of encouragement. A word of praise. An acknowledgement of a job well done. Some enthusiastic support. A compliment. A thank you. To show we’ve noticed what they’re good at, who they are. Then all we have to do is sit back and watch their faces light up and glow.
As Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes: ‘Being with real people who warm us, who endorse and exalt our creativity, is essential to the flow of creative life. Otherwise we freeze…I’m not certain how many friends one needs, but definitely one or two who think your gift, whatever it may be, is the pan de cielo, the bread of heaven.’