Distant Elephants

elephants2   This morning I slayed (slew?) an elephant. Not a real one, you understand. I like elephants, though I acknowledge they don’t make good neighbours. Uprooting trees, trampling crops and generally setting themselves up for an ASBO. And they look so cute.  But I’m talking about distant elephants, those things we agree to because they’re months and months away and then every time we open the diary they’ve grown bigger and more threatening.

I was asked to lead a historical fiction workshop on the flimsy grounds that if you have some writing ability you can advise others who have ambitions in that field. I’ve never attended a workshop. I have little idea what goes on in workshops. To me the word belongs to the world of craftsmen. I have a friend who makes jewellery. He has a bench and an array of tools and a dentist’s overall besmirched with jeweller’s rouge.  That’s a workshop.

Anyway I kind of agreed to do it because it was nice to be asked and I figured it wouldn’t hurt me to try something new. I put it in the diary. It was a pinprick on the horizon.  A writer friend, very experienced in these things, warned me it would be a huge amount of work. But that didn’t bother me. It was more the growing dread of not knowing what the hell I was doing and worse still, not being convinced that workshops are a terribly good idea. I’m on record as saying that writers should just sit in a room and write and not always be asking others to critique their stuff.

And every time I allowed that thought to surface the workshop elephant lumbered a little closer.

By last evening I could see the whites of his tiny eyes. ‘Walk away, Laurie,’ I thought. ‘Do it calmly but do it while you can.’

So I did. I cancelled. And guess what? I discovered the organisers were thinking of cancelling anyway. They’ve encountered a few organisational hitches (they said). Or maybe the word got round. Laurie Graham? Are you kidding? She hasn’t even passed Workshopping Level One. Instead of being cross or panic-stricken the organisers were quietly grateful that I had made the decision for them. They were relieved, I was relieved, we who are relieved salute you.

I now have an elephant-free diary.

Leave a Comment