Writing is a funny business. Even a laugh-a-minute guy like Joseph Conrad would probably have agreed. I don’t mean the daily grind of turning up at the desk, although that sure beats any other job I ever had. What I mean when I call it a funny business is the way it’s perceived by others. Like it isn’t a proper job. You can tell by the things people say to you.
Quite often I avoid the subject of what I do for a living. I’m now of a certain age and appearance such that strangers might safely assume I’m retired. That’s fine with me. I’d honestly prefer to find out about other people’s lives than talk about my own. But sometimes, if I’m accompanied, my companion blabs. My husband does it all the time. And then, having confirmed that I’m not J K Rowling, I have to give an account of myself. This is pure torture for me. My view on writing fame is as follows: if you have heard of me, I’m delighted and abjectly grateful. If you haven’t, I don’t want to press my case. Having been charmed by my winning personality you might feel compelled to rush to a bookshop and buy up its entire Laurie Graham stock, but no pressure from me. Truly.
I was in one of those, ‘Would I have heard of you?’ situations recently, after Mr F opened his great big mouth. Then the enquirer followed through with, ‘I should do more writing myself.’ She said it with a sigh and a faraway look in her eyes. And the only reply that came to my mind was, ‘Why?’ I can understand people think they should exercise more, or call their mother more frequently. But write? No, no. There’s already far too much of it going on. Do something useful instead. Learn CPR.
This week someone asked me, ‘So what are you up to these days? Any more books in the pipeline?’
Actually, I rather liked that image. Hey, it’s been more than a year since we had a new Laurie Graham. Yeah…. airlock in the pipeline. They hope to have it fixed by October.
But my point is, this pipeline woman wasn’t a stranger. She knows I have to pay the rent. What the feck did she think I was up to these days? Lying on a couch eating Maltesers?
So here’s the bottom line. Yes, I’m still writing. Will be till they screw the lid down on my box. But no, I don’t think writing is a particularly noble or enviable profession that everyone and their Uncle Ernie should aim to join. I realise it has its rewards. Also its setbacks and disappointments. And I know I do it because I am otherwise unemployable. Maybe I should learn CPR.