I have completed my massive rewrite – the authorial equivalent of knocking down several walls and installing new load-bearing (I pray) beams, and the typescript is now with my agent. The bank manager and I hope this means that the career drought will soon be over.
I’ve been getting plenty of well-intentioned advice during this lean period. Have I, for instance, thought of writing about cats? Always a good selling point, apparently. Well, no. I have nothing against cats but their inscrutability defeats me. Dogs, pigs, horses, even sheep (see below) have all made fleeting appearances in my novels but I have never been tempted to write about a cat.
Another acquaintance asked whether I’d thought of writing romances, with or without sex scenes? Yes, I have thought of it and even tried it many years ago. I discovered how tough it is to write what doesn’t come naturally. If you think you could knock out a Mills & Boon over a weekend, go ahead. And the very best of luck.
Then, have I thought of teaching writing? Ah yes. This is arguably a sensible and lucrative career opening for someone like me. I know people who do it. The problem is, I don’t know how they do it. No-one ever taught me how to write so the whole business of writing courses is a mystery to me. Furthermore, I’d worry about giving students honest verdicts on their creative efforts. It’s not like algebra, after all, where the answer is right or wrong. One woman’s Jane Austen may be someone else’s Stephanie Meyer. And anyway, I’m a coward.
I never planned to be a writer but no-one told me I couldn’t, whereas they did tell me I couldn’t go to medical school because I wasn’t bright enough. I now realise they probably saved several patients from meeting horrible, iatrogenic ends before I got struck off. So what else might I have been but now never will?
I’d have loved almost any back-stage job (except lighting, because I don’t like heights) and am very slightly envious of someone I know who’s been working as a dresser on a production of Les Miserables. Replacing lost sequins, confecting ‘prop’ whisky and custard pies, making the 10 minute cast call? I’d have been your woman.
And by way of extreme contrast, I think I might also have made a happy shepherd. Just me, a dog and a flock of Swaledales. Weather doesn’t bother me and neither does solitude. But then, there’d be the constant worry about foot-and-mouth disease and the overdraft. All things considered, maybe I chose, or rather fell into, an easier career.