Writing has been my main obsession since I was ten. When other boys my age got footballs for Christmas, I got my first typewriter.
Since that time, almost half-a-century ago, writing has been my sanctuary. Imagination has never been a problem for me. The difficulties I've encountered in the 'real' world have driven my need to invent other worlds that I feel more comfortable in. Over those years, I've spent my evenings and weekends, and any other spare hours, writing. I've written short stories, poems, plays, scripts, and one novel. I've had a few things published, including the novel, but never made any money out of it. That used to bother me. I wanted to make money and become independent with it, so that I could then spend the rest of my days alone, writing - like Annie Proulx, for instance, or Charles Bukowski. Just me, my desk and chair, my word-processor... and my coffee machine! It wouldn't have to be a fortune. I can live on minimum wage, and have done for many years. I've pared it to the bone. Everything - including relationships - has taken second place to writing. If I had a guaranteed income of £12,000 a year, I'd give up work and sit alone at home and write.
My novel was a semi-autobiographical account of living with mental illness. At the time I wrote it, the suspicion was that I had Borderline Personality Disorder. Since then, I've had my ASD diagnosis. I now read the novel and realise it's all about living with Asperger's. So... I'm going to rewrite it from the new perspective.
Here's a snippet from the original text. See if you identify:
From Chapter 7'I moved into this flat on my own. My sister and I weren't speaking then, and I didn't have anyone else to help. I didn't have much anyway. My only big stuff was a fridge, a wardrobe, my bookcases and sofa. Most of it came to pieces. I used the camper to shift it all. I started at 9 in the morning and finished at 11 that night. It took 12 trips in total. 12 trips-worth of stuff from a tiny bedsit. Each trip meant between 8 and 10 times up and down the stairs, carrying boxes and bags and even the fridge, a stair at a time. So, an average of 9 times up and down on each trip. There are 50 stairs from the car park to my door. 50 x 9 x 12 trips = 5,400 stairs I climbed, carrying heavy weights. Then the same number down again. Then, at the bedsit, 18 stairs x 9 x 12 trips = 1,944 stairs down carrying the same heavy weights. Then the same number up. Total stairs up for the day = 7,344. I made some extra trips, too - to make sure the old place was empty, to put the camper away, to check the meter - so I can probably round that up to 7,500 and be about right. A stair riser is about 7 inches. The stairs here are, anyway. 7,500 x 7 = 52,500 inches, which is 4,375 feet. The summit of Ben Nevis above sea level is 4,409 feet. In moving that day, I climbed almost the equivalent of the height of the highest mountain in the British Isles.It reassures me to know this. I climbed more than a physical mountain that day.'
Does anyone else write? Be good to hear from you.
Thought this might be worth bumping. I recently wrote a short story with view to entering it into a competition and sent it round for feedback to the Writer's Group that I'm in. The feedback I've gotten so far is very much "nice idea, shame about the execution". It seems to me that my ASD mind is very good with facts, figures and processes, but has real difficulty in the sort of character work needed to make great fiction. This may come about with practice, but it has made me think that perhaps fiction writing isn't my forte.
Non-fiction in fact (no pun intended) may be my area, as I'm getting an article published in the magazine of the heritage railway I volunteer at.
Yes, that's interesting. One of the things that comes up on the AQ test, of course, is 'Are you able to work out a character's intentions when reading fiction?' To be honest, I can't - unless it's absolutely obvious. My ex-partner and I used to watch a lot of films, and she would always be able to figure out what was going to happen based on the behaviour of particular characters. She thought it odd that I hadn't sussed it, too. I remember as a kid, too, hearing my parents say 'I knew that was going to happen' when watching a TV programme or film, whereas I never had a clue. This clearly doesn't bode well for someone who professes to write fiction. Yet I've managed to write plenty of short stories which have won prizes. On the whole, though, I suppose I haven't really written fiction that has complex characters. My one novel was based on my own life. My latest book is non-fiction. I wrote a comic blog for several years, and it was very popular. But the main character was based on me, and the other characters - I think now - were a little cartoonish. Ideals of the kinds of friends I'd like to have, if I had friends. They were all rather naive. Thinking about it now, they were probably all different aspects of me. Some writers, like Graham Swift, are strictly 'fictional' in their approach - saying they could never write about anyone or anything they know personally because that would then be a negation of creativity. I'd dispute that. Every writer has something of themselves in their work.
I've belonged to writers' groups - including online - but have always found myself giving up on them, even when my work has been liked. I prefer to follow my own path with my work. Many times, people have asked me 'What does that mean?' or 'What's the purpose of that character?' I find such questions tiresome. It's like the playwright Harold Pinter once said to someone who asked him why a particular character had done a particular thing: 'Because it's what he did, that's all. I had no control over it.' I once won a short story competition, and when I received the critique afterwards, one of the judges had said that one particular character was entirely superfluous, and she had no idea why I'd put that character in. I couldn't believe it. That character's presence set the tone for the entire story, and in many senses was the most important character. Even professed 'experts' don't always know what they're talking about. If people keep asking for explanations, it's often because they're too lazy or obtuse to figure it out for themselves! As for creative writing classes and MAs.... no thanks! I had a friend who did an MA, and she wrote to me once in a great deal of distress because her tutor had taken one of her pieces apart in a critique. I read it. The guy was an idiot. She was writing what she wanted to write - which is what it's all about, really - and he wanted her to write what he wanted to read!
Fiction may still be your forte. Don't worry about what other people say or think. Bukowski didn't - and he still made a good career out of writing fiction that he wanted to write... which was also pretty much based on his own life.
Well done with the article. :)