Sunday, September 16, 2012

When is a writer not a writer?

The realisation has tacked back and forth across the ocean of my mind (the kind of ocean that houses a vast, voracious, rubbish-filled gyre at its centre) many times that, although I write for a living as a copywriter, I am not a writer.

Similarly, although I spend innumerable hours trawling the great Sargasso of the internet watching, reposting, reading and commenting on posts, articles and other peoples' blogs, this is only my third post in nearly 4 years, so I am patently not a blogger either.

I've been humbled and embarrassed on occasion that friends and colleagues have thought me possessed of enough talent to be a novelist/blogger/scriptwriter. They tell me it's just a fear of failure that holds me back from writing something other than ads, and of course there's a fair whack of truth to that; I'm smart enough and honest enough to know that the thought of expending months or god forbid years of my life on a writing project only to recognise that it's just average, or competent, would be way too depressing.

I used to wonder at my lack of enthusiasm or ambition for it, explaining it away as because I write for ads it feels too much like my job to come home and do more writing, especially work I'm not and quite likely will never get paid for; there's truth in this as well.

So while there are more than enough examples of copywriters who successfully shed the 'copy' to become simply 'writer', from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Salman Rushdie to Peter Carey, I simply haven't been able to muster the desire to do so myself.

But one evening as I sat before my computer racking my brain for something witty or provoking to post as my Facebook status, the not-exactly-blinding realisation - more the dim illumination from a motion-activated night light - emerged from the Gyre, and that 10 watt lightbulb was: I have nothing to say.

Oh sure, it's taken me four paragraphs of rambling to make that point, and that I'm even bothering to blog this makes for a somewhat lukewarm contradiction, but I know it to be more true than the fear of failure or of slogging away at a second job.

I find this curiously liberating, not to mention a refreshingly honest and surprisingly enlightened self-analysis for someone who has enjoyed a career in spin. It occurs to me that more people could benefit from this little piece of Charles Colton-esque wisdom.

And that leads me to a small paradox: that perhaps I do have something to say after all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In the name of the blog

I decided to change the name of these collective mutterings from the seemingly innocuous 'Come On In The Water's Fine' (because in fact there is a bloody great rip just inches below the glass-like surface that will drag you wayyyy out into the grey-green fathomless depths, smack bang into the gaping, terrible maw of a white pointer) to something a smidge more upbeat, id est 'Keep Passing The Open Windows'.

For those unfamiliar with the phrase, it comes from John Irving's wonderful 'Hotel New Hampshire', and is basically an appeal not to defenestrate oneself, a bit of a understated literary 'buck up, old chap' encouragement. (Come to think of it, my other great inspiration comes from Scarlett O'Hara who opined "after all, tomorrow's another day" which pretty much says the same thing, just differently.)


I'm a huge fan of John Irving. That is, I'm not physically a huge fan of his, though having said that I'm certainly of the more volumptuous (so much funnier and more descriptive a word than 'voluptuous' - I wish I'd thought of it) persuasion. I should amend that previous statement anyway, viz: I am a huge fan of John Irving's novels after and including Hotel New Hampshire; I don't hold much truck (or any other motor vehicle - they're just too heavy) with the earlier ones, which all felt like less interesting drafts of the book that ultimately became Hotel New Hampshire. He's one of those writers whose books make me cry not just because he tells such marvellous, original tales involving dysfunctional people you still manage to care about, but because his writing is just so fricken brilliant, and I implicitly understand mine is not and will never be. Sigh.

Anyway, my good friend Google revealed that there's a song by Queen with this same title, so I present a verse of said song (I mean, it wasn't said as in spoken, I was just being pompous and using rather archaic English, so sue me) that nicely conveys the tone I wanted to capture.

Do you know what it's like to be alone in this world
When you're down and out on your luck and you're a failure?
Wake up screaming in the middle of the night
You think it's all been a waste of time
It's been a bad year
You start believing ev'rything's gonna be alright
Next minute you're down and you're flat on your back
A brand new day is beginning
Get that sunny feeling and you're on your way

Just believe - just keep passing the open windows
Just believe - just keep passing the open windows

Perfect - just the right
soup├žon of optimism amidst the general melee and malaise.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's that time of the month of the season

The niggling actually starts before now; that sense that I really should've thought about Christmas and the presos for the rellos before Christmas was actually imminent.

I pretty much gave up buying gifts for friends - I mean, it sucked in a major way that as a singleton, I got to spend a bomb buying pressies for Bob, Bobette and their two ankle biters Bib and Bub when all I got in return was a plate of home-made, gone-soft biscuits with slightly burnt edges. (Don't get me started on the whole birthday present thing.) Not believing in Santa, I can't even leave them out with a glass of milk (and perhaps a dash of Tia Maria, always the perfect partner for cow juice) for him to tuck into as he wends his weary way in and out of chimneys and air conditioning ducts.

Then there's the tired routine of turning up at every Christmas gathering as the spare wheel. Trust me, everyone's a couple amongst my family and friends, except for the kids (and there's WAY more than a couple of them). It doesn't matter how ragged and tense, how bored or how boring a couple has become with each other over the years, Christmas has the effect of causing them to rally, to unconsciously re-weld the cosy bond that brought them together all those years ago and make me feel like the little match girl, freezing alone on the streets with only a box of matches to give her warmth. (Hmmm. Must remind myself that in Sydney's ugh-I-hate-hot-summers summer, houses DO burn really well.)

So ho, ho maybe I should become a ho and at least I'll be given something this Christmas, even if it's an STD.