Tuesday, 28 April 2009

I'd like to go on record as saying that writing is like any other craft in that if you study it and practise it, you'll improve. I'm tired of hearing people say writers are born, not made - that's nonsense.
I'll admit that a few have a natural kind of effortless talent for writing - in the same way that some people are born to dance, or have a glorious singing voice (isn't Susan Boyle delightful?). But most of us can, with time, patience and effort, hone and improve our writing, with results that range from perfectly acceptable, to work that is a pure pleasure to read.
The most important attribute for a writer is the desire to write. The urge and the need to get some words onto screen or paper - on a regular basis. The motivation to spend time doing that, even when they're tired, the ironing's piling up, it looks like macaroni cheese for supper again (chuck in a tin of tomatoes for variety and vitamins) and they haven't made love to their partner for over a month. And if people are driven to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard in the face of all that, who is anyone to give them anything other than help, encouragement and support?

Monday, 27 April 2009

Retreats for you

Everyone's definition of being grown up is different. For some it's having a mortgage and/or a pension. Others see giving birth as the defining moment of adulthood (although this has been repeatedly disproved). And for some, a fridge that contains more than five different kinds of food of the non microwaveable variety, the total of which outnumbers the units of alcohol therein - plus fewer than three kinds of fungus - adds up to an accurate representation of the grownup state.
In some small way I suscribe to all of these viewpoints, although at 50, I'm sad to say I've never yet felt particularly grownup. But recently I was offered fresh hope in the growing up stakes, in the form of a small and appealingly neat machine, which politely but eagerly gobbles up bank card details and immediately cyber-spits relevant sums of money into appropriate bank account. It positively shimmered with financial promise. And as soon as I saw it, albeit in a photo, I knew that owning it would set the seal on my newly founded retreat business, and, perhaps more importantly, make me feel like a proper grownup business person.
I went through a lot to get this little gem. I filled in forms the size and length of a novella - wrestling with questions which appeared to be directed at people who inhabit some kind of curious parallell universe, and have a peculiarly skewed approach to life. I opened new bank accounts and closed old ones - something that, as most of us know, requires at least three days hard graft and another 3 days to recover from it. I had long telephone conversations with people who, although charming, had the kind of accents I struggle to understand. I found this stressful, as I dislike being rude, but found myself forced to repeatedly say, 'I'm sorry?' and 'could you say that again' to the point where it really did seem as if I was being just that. And finally, after weeks of all this, I endured a training session in the use of the machine, with a man who clearly found my lack of technical ability pitiful, not to say pathetic.
There were times during this period that I wanted to give up. I wanted to tear up the novellas, set light to them and shove them into our solid fuel rayburn, taking a cruel satisfaction in watching them crackle and burn. I longed to shout hysterically at the people with accents, and viciously slam the phone down before they could deliver yet more unintelligible responses. I longed to snap and snarl at the one who didn't understand that my technical ineptitude conceals many other qualities.
I'm monumentally glad I did none of these things, but chose instead to grit my teeth, clench my buttocks and soldier on to the bitter end and glorious climax. Which is the card machine that now sits smugly and comfortably on my desk. Waiting for the next collection of numbers to be tapped into its perfectly formed keypad, or a card to slide sensuously along its slit, effortlessly translating the results of either into real money, which it then deposits neatly in my bank account.
It has become my friend and ally, gently boosting my business, nudging my cashflow from the slow to the middle lane, and adding a crisp professionalism to the entire outfit.
I love my little machine. It makes me feel strangely grownup, and I've called it Dorothy.