Guest Blog by Nik Perring - Being Different

I was asked by the lovely folks here at Strictly Writing to write ‘some-thing a bit different’ for them. And as, over the past few months, they’re not the only ones who’ve called my writing (or me!) a bit different I realised I had my topic. So, this is a little piece about me, and about being different.

I’m a writer. I don’t work normal hours, I’m not on a salary, I don’t have a degree, so I reckon that does make me a little different to others. And it’s not an easy ride. I have the grumpiest, and most demanding, boss in the world, I have to work harder and longer than I’d like to and everything I do is down to me. So I’m inventing work every day. Constantly making things up. Other people would get sacked for that; I get paid. If I’m lucky.

And there’s also the question of what I make up, the work I produce: is that different too? Probably. I don’t work to a brief, I’ve no projects clients have given me. I’m creating something that no-one has asked for and I constantly run the risk that it’s something no-one will want.
So why do I do it?

Well that part, mostly, is easy to explain. Forgetting the financial side of things, writing is interesting. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s something that I want to do.
I like diversity. I like things to be interesting, I like to be interested. I like having the opportunity to write about whatever subject I like, whatever interests me, and that, by its nature leads to lots of different things: different genres, different forms, different subjects et al. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes I get it wrong. No, often I get it wrong. But it’s the trying that’s fun, the challenge, the discovery, the finding things out. And of course the joy when it works takes some beating too.

I’ve been asked, many times, why I don’t stick to a particular genre or length (why I write so many different things), and I think my answer is: because I don’t have to. And that’s with no disrespect to anyone who does. I guess there’s a danger than I’m a jack of all trades, not an expert - but it doesn’t feel as though I’m either. I’m not an expert, I’m still learning, and I hope that continues for many a year; but I’m still a writer, and as a writer, it’s up to me what I write about; it’s my responsibility. That’s not to say that I can be flighty, everything has to have a point, it’s not frivolous (well, no more than writing anything can be) but there are so many stories to tell, and all of them are different.

If I’m interested and, in some small way, interesting, then I’m happy. Even if that makes me a little bit different.

And I’ll bet I’m not the only writer who feels like this.

Nik Perring is a talented short story writer, a poet, and author of the children's book 'I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do?'. Read his journal here. Nik is also currently a nominee for the Six of the Month award - please do vote if you enjoy his entry!


Anonymous said...

Nik, it's great to be different, and not always easy in this culture. Being true to yourself is so important - and yet if one wants to earn a living, the two don't always go hand in hand. How do you manage to do this?
I paint (or once did) as well as write, and whichever I'm doing I feel guilty because I'm not giving my 'all' to the other.

Nik Perring said...

Hi Susie - you were quick out of the blocks!

I know what you mean about feeling you're neglecting something, but I think, to myself, that I can always come back to it; it's having those ideas, unwritten, to be tried, that gives me focus, and probably confidence too.

As far as earning a living goes, well it's dificult to earn a living as a writer full stop. So maybe being adaptable helps - to go one step further it means that I don't just have to talk about writing for children when I run workshops.

As I said, I'm not particularly flghty - I just write a lot of different things. And that's not just so I'm amused - it's all serious, or as serious as it can be.

Hope that makes sense!


Nik Perring said...

Oh heck. Spot the typo!

Anne Brooke said...

You're so right - sticking to a genre is soooo last century, my dear! We must plant a flag for we writers who don't see the point of genre. After all, it doesn't bother the readers! So why should it bother us?



Administrator said...

Hmm, i admire your diversity, Nik. I have to say i often feel like 'just another aspiring novelist' when i submit yet another novel, and when i read how many novel submissions agents receive each week.

I can't imagine writing a short story though...

Sam x

Anonymous said...

I agree with all you say, Nik - about why we love writing as a 'job' and about doing what you want to do. I also write novels and short stories, try to write the occasional article, and have dabbled in poetry. I had stories for children published before my adult stories and novels. Diversity is great - but if you're getting paid for it all, you're one of the lucky ones! To feed myself, since giving up the day job, I now stick to what I've got a fighting chance of having published! And that means genres and guidelines, sadly. Life's like that!

Gillian McDade said...

A really interesting blog Nik - thanks for sharing with us :)

Tania Hershman said...

A great blog post, thank you Nik and thank you Strictly Writing, I'm delighted to have found your site. Nik, you know that I feel the same way as you about "being different", that round here a full-time fiction writer is not just a different-coloured pepper, she's out of the vegetable section entirely! (Metaphor going too far?!) This urge to explain myself has been with me for years, beginning with the years I was a freelance journalist and friends would tease me about not getting up until late and not doing any work. It took a long time to get past that. Now I have stopped explaining, for the most part, and just try and get on with it.

I applaud what you say about diversity - that's the joy of being a writer of short stories or poetry, I think. Always something new. But that could be because I can't imagine having the dedication to immerse myself in the writing of a novel.

Writing is a joyous thing, it is everything that surrounds it that makes it difficult: money, publication etc... Would that it wasn't so!

Nik Perring said...

Thanks for your comments, folks.

Anne, that is a good point; we read widely, why not write widely too?

Sam, there are plenty of things I can't imagine writing either. Stick at it!

The Write Woman, it sounds to me as though we're quite similar. When I say I write lots of different things, that doesn't mean I can ignore guidelines - categorically not! I'm neither arrogant nor good enough to be able to do that. Guidelines (more than genre, I think for me) are still a huge part of my life and, to be honest, I don't know where I'd be without them. I think also that not being a genre writer is one of the reasons why I feel I'm able to do all these 'different' things; I'm not saying one's better than the other, just how it is for me.

Gillian, always a pleasure.

Hello Tania - my non-vegetable section friend! It's a little bit like that around here as well.

I agree entirely: explaining and/or justifying what I do is difficult (usually, when people ask what I write I say 'All sorts'). And it is the new-ness of ideas and of stories (there are so many) which is exciting. And as everything that surrounds writing isn't easy, it's nice, and probably essential, to be able to enjoy the writing part.

There are no rules dictating what we write, more just how we write them.


Caroline Green said...

Thanks for an interesting post, Nik. I especially liked where you said you write in lots of different genres just because you can! And who is anyone to tell you otherwise, I say.

Nik Perring said...

Exactly! :)