Reading another post today here made me think about whether or not being a writer makes a person a bit different. Is it one of those all-consuming jobs which all but consumes you or is it just necessary to be a couple of bricks short of a hod to even contemplate writing a book.
It would be nice if I could give you a snappy answer. Sadly, I’m not much of a one to give snappy anything. However, for what it’s worth, I do think that if you embark on the process of writing a book with even the remotest idea of what is entailed then you do have to be a little doohlally – or seriously addicted to that feeling of completion. To be honest, I think most people who write stuff do it because they can’t not. Trying to work out where it started in myself is impossible, I started daydreaming too early to actually remember the point when I began but I think something that has helped me to have ideas, or at least gestated the whole writing thing, is seeing the world cinematically.
Approximately 100 years ago, when I lived in London, I used to ‘enjoy’ if that’s the right word, a 50 minute commute – well it was 50 minutes unless I walked briskly up the hill to West Hampstead and took the train. Then it was a 20 minute walk and a 10 minute sauna courtesy of Network South East… if I took the tube, the sauna was 20 minutes but It didn’t begin until Baker Street. The exercise was nice but I have an idea that most people in the carriage with me saw their commute as a boring section of downtime – you couldn’t do anything constructive like read a book because by the time the train got to Kilburn (or West Hampstead if it was a non-rainy, let’s-do-the-20-minute-yomp-up-the-hill morning) it was rammed and a spare seat was rarer than unicorn pooh. For my own part, I saw it as an opportunity to listen to music without the remotest feeling of guilt that I should be doing something more edifyinge [I know, typo, but it’s so Pythonesque that I couldn’t bring myself to remove it… sorry]. So, even though you practically had to take out a mortgage to buy one in those days – a bit like buying anything made by Apple – I bought a personal stereo.
Nothing prepared me for the inside-your-head sensation of listening to a Walkman for the first time. Blimey! And when you actually… well.. walk about with one on, I mean, in a town. The minute the first notes hit my ears the rain-sodden drabness of North London was suddenly sparkling with cinematic fairy dust. Every dreary concrete vista gained a panoramic grandeur. My mundane, farty little life was all big screen drama. Soon it was impossible to go anywhere without the musical accompaniment required to turn each dull tramp into a music video, a cut scene from Bladerunner, a piece of film noir or a scene from StarWars… It wasn’t long before the music carried my imagination away beyond London, and every morning, while the rest of me blundered robotically through the streets; fodder for the foetid belly of the train, my mind wandered the roads and cities of K’Barth.
One of the few things I miss about my life pre-McMini is being able to listen to music like that. I miss the big screen experience of every day life. The curtailment of my own peculiar brand of ‘home’ cinema is probably one of the main reasons why I had to write things down. Because my brain had become used to wandering off and wouldn’t come in from the wild.