I once entered a scriptwriting competition ran by Big Finish. Along with the competition guidelines they included some quotes and advice from established Big Finish writers. One of these quotes stated that writers hated having to write – they preferred to have written, and this struck a particular chord with me.
If procrastination had been an Olympic sport this year then stand aside Mo, Chris and Jessica: it would have been me running off with all the gold medal plaudits. One of my favourite writers, Douglas Adams, made missing deadlines an art form. This never seemed to be intentional or malicious. From all accounts he was a very nice man – he just found it extremely difficult to sit down and write, and yet look at what he produced on a good day.
I’m not even a full-time writer. I work full-time in an office and have to think about writing in my spare time. You will notice I used the word think, I never actually said that I write in my spare time. I can’t say that I write in my spare time because I don’t actually write. I make cups of coffee, I pick up books and read pages at random, I take a sudden inexplicable interest in Homes under the Hammer, but I don’t physically force myself to sit down and write one word after another.
By the way, this blog doesn’t count – I’m just at the stage where I really, REALLY have to get things off my chest.
To be fair, I have had a rather important distraction this past year. I became a first time dad and this wonderful, momentous, life-changing experience has helped me to put a few things into perspective about goals and dreams. It’s also helped me to realise that the current of time seems to be flowing at an ever-increasing rate. Samuel will soon be a year old already and yet it only seems like yesterday that I brought him home from the hospital with my wife and tried to cope horrendously with my first ‘proper’ nappy change. It seemed to consist of a lot of flailing arms and legs, and me exclaiming:
“Argh, he’s weeing!!”
“Argh, he’s pooing!!”
“ARGHH! He’s weeing AND pooing!!!!”
More and more often recently I’ve been shocked at how many years have passed since such and such a film or song was released, or certain events took place. It doesn’t make sense that so many years have passed by in so seemingly short a time. It also brings into sharp focus the number of unfinished writing projects that seem to be building up in the attic of my brain. Ideas and titles for scripts and stories, meandering blocks of dialogue that might make an important contribution to a finished project or disappear for all time up the orifice marked ‘Delete’. My online short story collection, Ghosts, Kebabs & Random Musings (www.lulu.com), promised potential customers that the collection would be updated with more stories every few months. I haven’t been anywhere near it for ages. It sometimes feels like the only constants in my writing are the things that I’m scared of. Fear of rejection; fear that what I’m submitting isn’t quite good enough; fear that I’m not good enough. Is this the same for all writers? I honestly couldn’t tell you, as I don’t know that many. Maybe I should work in a partnership more often. It never seemed to do Galton & Simpson any harm. I selfishly take comfort from the diaries of Michael Palin, one of my all-time heroes, describing how many drafts and how much work he had to put into the scripts of The Missionary and American Friends. Even John Cleese had trouble making the script of Fierce Creatures work after the huge success of A Fish Called Wanda.
Perhaps the key to enlightenment lies in ploughing on regardless and taking the rough with the smooth. Learn from your mistakes and don’t beat yourself about the head too much if things go wrong. There are other, more important priorities demanding my attention at the moment anyway. My little boy is smiling his most charming smile and wants me to play peek-a-boo with him. How can I possibly resist that? Work on projects when you can, take comfort in the company of family and friends, and brace yourself for warp factor poo when it’s your turn to change nappies!!
You can download Gareth’s play, TURNING THE TIDE, at the Wireless Theatre Company website: