Writing is a lonely business. You write alone but that's not what I mean. If you are a writer you are lonely. Well, I was. Desperately. At least that's how I used to feel.
I am sure there are writers out there who won't agree with that. And that's fine. Where I grew up, though it could have been anywhere in Scotland, you didn't make a big deal about being a writer and, if you did let it slip, the first question was always – always – "Have you been published?" or some variant thereof. And, as I hadn't been, my writing was relegated to either a hobby or a phase I would grow out of. Either way it was nothing to be taken seriously.
"So you are a
and I felt unclean
and wanted my closet back.
23 March 1989
Once I started appearing in print the next question was, "So, how much did you get paid?" or a variant thereof. Somehow the £1.50 I got from Aberdeen University was hardly worth mentioning. If anything it was best not to mention it.
Twenty-odd years later I'd finally got round to that novel we're all supposed to have in us. My father, whose eyesight was starting to go by this point, said, "Read me that story you wrote." I said, "Dad, it's a novel," but it was never going to be anything other than "that story our Jimmy wrote." We never even got to the end, not because he died or anything (that would have been poetic) but one day he'd had heard enough.
I know that sounds sad (and it is) but this is not a cry for sympathy. I could've used a hug at the time but I survived. I was sure I wasn't alone in my aloneness. It's a big world, there was bound to be someone else out there wallowing in aloneness. I had to believe there were others out there scribbling away for dear life and not showing anyone or hardly anyone but they didn't know me and I didn't know them.
A few years later, just after my dad died, I logged onto the internet for the first time, typed "poetry" into a search engine and the rest is history. Writers think in words, we distil complex emotions to a few letters. I can reduce my feelings on the day I logged onto the internet, typed "poetry" and started to check out the links to a single word: home.
The US Democratic Party used the phrase 'You never had it so good' as a slogan in the 1952 US election campaign. In the UK, the expression is generally associated with Harold Macmillan's opinion as to the success of Britain's post-war economy; that was in 1957. Fifty years on can I just say to the young writers out there: You have never had it so good. Okay, getting published is so much harder than it was back in the fifties but at least you don't have to be alone. There are blogs and forums and online communities and you never have to be alone again. You can still choose to be alone but somehow it is so much easier knowing you're not.
It won't make the writing any easier mind.
So, we've reached the end of 2007. It's a benchmark. I know when I started writing this blog I had my doubts if I could keep churning out a quality blog week in week out but I seem to be doing okay. Let's see if I can keep it up.
The nice thing, and the thing I didn't anticipate, is that I'm not as alone in this venture as I expected. I knew there would be readers but I wasn't so prepared for relationships. There you go. So, to all my unexpected friends I wish you a happy New Year when it comes and I'll see you on the other side.