Pursuits of a Personal Nature

There used to be this guy I worked with who loved his garden. There are a lot of them about apparently. Guys who love gardens I mean. Not gardens. I know there’re a lot of those about – they’re everywhere, right? Anyway, don’t get me wrong, I quite like my garden too; I just don’t feel the need to tell everybody how lush my lawn is and what’s sprouting up in my herbaceous borders from one weekend to the next. But this guy was clearly proud of his cultivations and so every Monday morning, after the younger lot of the office had oafishly entertained us with how many alcoholic points they’d managed to down and then Up again, this guy would regale (a kind word for *bore the pants off*) a dwindling crowd with how perfect his privet was.

Which is all well and good if you’re of a gardening ilk.

And there were a couple of kindly souls who’d seek his advice on bug treatment and fertilisation advancements and this would please Gardening Guy no end. Because someone had taken an interest – in his interest. And that, of course, is a nice thing to do.

But behind his back I always saw a rolling of eyes and a sighing of sighs and I vowed never… NEVER to speak of my own personal passion and weekend pursuits EVER.

Especially in the company of the people I worked with. It was bad enough trying to ‘keep it’ from people I lived with and slept with, let alone trying to reveal it to those with whom I spent the majority of my life. Nope, my hobby would remain a figment of my own imagination. Literally.

And now I remember why I felt this way. It’s because the minute you tell somebody you work with that you’ve written a book/are writing a book/intend to write books until your fingers fall off, then you aren’t even met with the well-intentioned looks that Gardening Guy got. There’s a brief pause. (Is it ‘stunned’? I’m never sure. And I’m equally never sure whether to be insulted or flattered by this stunned pause). Followed by a widening of the eyes and a rising of the eyebrows and then you know precisely where this is going:
“So what’ve you written?”
And after you’ve explained – without wishing to appear a staggering combination of pompous/useless/deluded – that you haven’t actually had anything published… yet… there follows:
“Oh you SHOULD”
Like it’s a choice. Like it’s something you haven’t thought of having done yourself. Like it’s such a simple, obvious thing to do that it’s taken the Newly Qualified Teacher of PE and Personal Development to inform you of this and why didn’t you think of this before, you MORON!
And this is the point at which the blood begins to heat up very nicely and the stunned pause somehow transmutes from audience to performer and there follows what any writer worth his/her salt would ruefully term a pregnant pause which lasts all of three minutes or until PE/PD Teacher grabs his warm photocopying from the stack and runs off back to his class, totally disinterested in any form of conversation continuance.

Of course if I’d told him I’d spent the weekend with my arm up a cow’s arse in my passionate pursuit of animal husbandry, I bet news of my 'novel' endeavours would have been round the staffroom like a dose of Andrews.

Sometimes it’s best just to say nowt.


Helen Black said...

I've come to the conclusion that that most people have no clue about the publishing industry or writing.

First, they are under the impression that everyone has a book in them.

Second, they think everyone who has written a book gets them published automatically...or with little real trouble. Afterall, as anyone will tell you, there are sooooooooooooooo many badly written books out there.

Third, they think writers make millions of pounds.

Now you can try to disabuse folk of these delusions. But then it sounds so defensive. A bit pathetic really.

As you say. Best to say nowt.
HB x

Keith Havers said...

I wish I'd said nowt. The problem is I 'came out' a while ago and now people ask me how the writing is going. I have stock phrases like 'I'm waiting to hear from an agent about my novel' or 'I've had some interest shown in my latest short story'.
I think I need some new ones though.

Caroline Green said...

Yup, I hear you...

I actually kept my writing such a secret that I don't really know how to 'come out' now that something is finally happening. I think it's good that you've already done it, Deb. Imagine how great it's going to feel when you answer that question with, 'Actually, I do have some news...'

Deb said...

Oh how true, Debs! I remember bumping in to an old class mate once and when I told her I was a journalist and author, she looked me up and down and said in amazement, 'What, YOU? An author? How on earth did YOU manage to do that?'
And the other week, my new neighbour (we haven't lived in this area very long) caught the tail end of a phone call I was having with my editor about a feature and said, 'What? Like you write for real magazines? Like the ones you get in Sainsburys? Well I never! I thought you just sat at home all day!'

Roderic Vincent said...

Try telling them you write poetry. They start assuming that your dad still collects you in the car after parties.

Debs Riccio said...

Ha ha! Am so glad this resonates with you guys - was beginning to wonder if it was just paranoid old me - now, Rod - I hope you remembered to wash behind your ears!

Frances Garrood said...

I think the most infuriating of all is when someone adds "I've always thought I'd like to write a bok" or "everyone tells me I should write about my life/travels/epxeriences", as though it's as easy as falling off a log. And they think they will do it, one day, when they can be bothered to get down to it, and of course it will be published, becasue getting published, as we all know, is so easy, isn't it?