So why write? Good question. I’m glad you asked it.
I’ve always liked words, and grew up in a house that encouraged reading, with that sort of gentle competitiveness you get between brothers who have similar interests. Growing up, there simply wasn’t the money to have my books and his books – not really – so, we shared, and then it became a “have you read this one yet?” discussion most days. If my brother got a book from the library, I would likely have a few days to give it a go before it went back, or maybe we’d share our spoils from the car boot sales we’d regularly go treasure-hunting around, with my parents. Add to that grandparents who would get us books for Christmas, and fed my burgeoning comic-reading habit with a handful of coins to see what was on the newsagent’s shelves around the corner.
I loved the multitude of worlds that were available in books – I skewed towards genre fiction, my eyes widening with the wonders of Pratchett or the crazed voltage in the stories in 2000AD, two influences that have stayed with me, and will remain with me until the day I am composted. But despite all this invention I immersed myself in, I could never really get my act together to actually write something new myself, convinced that if it wasn’t as good as the stories I loved, then why bother? I was, dear reader, an idiot.
I compromised. After decamping to uni for a miserable couple of years, I distracted myself from my studies by becoming a letter-writer of sorts. Keen to keep in touch with my group of friends, who were now scattered across the country, I would send them letters, with a “four sides of A4” minimum, in handwritten pen, as it was some years until I had a computer and printer of my own. I would try and spin out the humdrum days in my digs into anecdotes, and squiggle cartoons in the margins, and maybe – just maybe – I’d throw in a compilation cassette as well, all in the hope that the recipient would enjoy it (the prehistoric version of “leave a review!”?) and, if I was really lucky, receive a letter by return. I’ve kept every letter ever written to me.
Over time, letters were replaced by email, and my habit broke, as texts and the like became a too-easy cop-out option by way of communication. Where once I’d send a thousand words to someone with my news, such as it was, I’d now make do with a couple of sentences. My bad.
But through all of that, there was a constant – people would say to me “oh, you really should write a book”. I wonder, why did they say that? Because I like words? Because I like telling stories? Maybe. But more accurately, I think it’s because “why not?” and that is definitely the thing that managed to convince me to heave the Sisyphean stone over the top of the hill, and get it done. I just sat down one day, with all excuses now so pathetic that I couldn’t, in all good conscience, bring myself to hide behind them, and wrote. When I went to get a cuppa, I had managed two thousand words. And then I’d done it. Two thousand words is a piton wedged into a rock face. Not a steep drop, but I might stub a toe. Write a few more words and the drop gets steeper, and I might turn an ankle. Before you know it, you have forty thousand words and that’s a broken arm. Keep going. Keep going.
So I wrote. And I got my book finished. And I keep writing. I’m halfway through a second book. I’ve written a few comic scripts, with some art starting to come in from the artists. I…enjoy it.
To finish today, here’s my latest obsession. I usually like to keep my powder dry on new songs I’ve fallen in love with, as I like to think I’ll sneak them onto a compilation CD for people (yes, I still do that), but this is too good to keep hidden. Purloined from Warren Ellis’ newsletter, it’s the Interlude scene from HOLY MOTORS. You know the drill. Louder, please
NOTE – with the current lockdown distraction trend of posting twenty year old pictures, the photo is me and one of the very best people in the world, Lee, who was absolutely one of the people who said “you should write” – he gets a “deddy” in the book.