Friday, February 12, 2010

Who'd Be a Writer?

Apologies for the recent absence from this blog, which was due to much busy-ness. One of the very many things which preoccupied me was a visit to a private secondary school to conduct workshops with younger classes and to talk to upper school classes about the whole business of being a writer. My readers may be interested to know that the matter of greatest concern for the future guardians of our culture appeared to be that of Making a Living, and achieved its best expression when I addressed the whole of Year 10 in the hall at the end of the day:

Boy 1: What's your best-selling book?

Boy 2: How many of it have you sold?

Response of shock at the figure of 3,000 (they opened by asking me if I like Twilight, and know that it has sold in the millions), and I explain that I write literary and not commercial fiction, and that it's not on the whole possible to make a living out of literary fiction.

Boy 3 (puzzled): But what's the difference between literary and commercial fiction?

I explain, essentially that literary fiction doesn't obey the expected formulae, isn't simply entertainment.

Boy 4 (a bit incredulous): So why don't you write commercial fiction that sells?

I explain that though I may sometimes have thought of it, basically I can't and don't want to: I'm looking for the truth rather than just to entertain, and I'm constitutionally incapable of doing the expected thing (adding that I was always in trouble at school, which raises a titter).

Boy 4 (really incredulous): How do you buy things?

I explain that I do other things for money such as talks like the one I am giving now.

Boy 5: So isn't it just a hobby then, rather than a job?

Hm. Not so sure I fired up that particular lot to be writers...
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