Friday, November 24, 2006

Writer behaving badly

I have a suspicion that most blogging careers, like those in politics, end in failure. Especially confessional blogs such as this one, where with every succeeding post the shrouds are drawn further back to reveal the writer's feet of clay. Indeed, I have an uncomfortable feeling that this post in particular is going to hammer a few more nails into the coffin of my blogging ambitions.

Be that as it may, I need to tell you how the other day I found myself thinking about what was my real motivation for wanting to be a writer. What drove me to form that passionate need to communicate with my fellow human beings? Gradually I traced the development of my vocation back to my adolescent years, and that's when the trouble began.

When I was sixteen and first gripped by the burning desire to become a writer I read E. M. Foster's Howards End in which he propounded his famous dictum "only connect." Unfortunately, as far as my future readers were concerned I didn't only want to connect with them. I'm sorry to say I wanted to shag them too. Only the female ones, I hasten to add. Back then I wasn't anything like as radical or experimental a writer as I imagined myself to be.

At the time, of course, I was totally convinced of my own latent genius. Based on no evidence other than my totally unjustified self-belief I had convinced myself that I was potentially as great a writer as Tolstoy (who I had never read; still haven't in fact). I firmly believed it was my fate to be as universally revered as the great Russian writer while at the same time being as dissolute as Fitzgerald or Hemingway. And, naturally, I was well aware that if you're some kind of artistic genius then it is perfectly alright to behave badly, indeed it's virtually de rigeur. Once you reach those higher echelons of artistic endeavour whatever you do will be tolerated. If I had any doubts about becoming a writer, this knowledge spurred me on.

And so I imagined myself earning great fame and fortune from my writing. I determined I would spend the bulk of the money on the finest wines. The callowness of my ambition can be gauged from the fact that, in today's money, I reckoned I would have to spend between four and five pounds to get a decent bottle of wine, a small fortune but a necessary investment if I was ever going to become suitably dissolute.

Nor was there to be anything cheap about the literary groupies I fantasized I was going to attract once I reached the summit of the bestseller list. As well as being beautiful they would also have to be incredibly well read and have, at the very least, a first class degree from a good university. Almost my intellectual equal in fact. This would make for good conversation but even more importantly, because I abhorred the potential tawdriness of life, I reasoned that by conducting my affairs in an intellectually rarefied atmosphere I would insulate myself against any suggestion of the second rate. Just to make sure, I determined that these slim, blonde, long-haired admirers would come almost exclusively from the upper classes, although they wouldn't be horsey or agricultural, having spent most of their youth ensconced in the family library, buried deep within the bowels of the stately pile. So they would be pale too. Interestingly pale, with milky breasts just like the kind Lawrence wrote about.

Despite the fact that I lived on a council estate in deepest nowhere in the very back of beyond I figured that meeting these sexually supercharged fans once I became famous wouldn't be a problem. Apart from my weekly sojurns down to the London literary salons I felt sure that the regular and extensive Lecture Tours I would embark upon in America would provide rich hunting grounds for my predatory ambitions. Indeed, it occurred to me that exhaustion would likely be my biggest challenge. Oh, and sexual disease, about which I was only vaguely aware at the time. Uneasily I recalled that I had read somewhere that if I was going to be promiscuous I'd need to wear a condom. This was bad news. I abhorred condoms. Apart from anything else they were always too big. Not to mention the idea of going into the local chemist to buy a packet. In the end I decided that when women started throwing themselves at me I would risk my health for my Art. Besides, I could hardly deny my fans their fifteen minutes of satisfaction. I owed it to them - they had bought my books after all. Back then of course most of the STDs floating around were innocent, innocuous little germs such as non-specific eurythritis and gonhorrea, easily treated with penicillin. Syphilis was more problematic but I accepted that one couldn't create great Art without taking some risks.

As the years passed my lack of publishing success only consolidated my literary fantasy. I got married but reasoned that my wife would readily forgive my future transgressions when I hit the literary big time, accepting that my randy behaviour was necessary to sustain my artistic drive. After we had been married for several years we moved out into the country, removing me even further from the temptations, and rewards, of the literary scene. I remained undismayed. My fans would be a resouceful lot, driven by insatiable desire. I imagined them arriving at our cottage by bus.

As I matured my fantasy developed and took on a life of its own. For example, I regularly pictured myself at breakfast with my wife, at a time when several of my novels were dominating the best seller lists.

"This place is too small. We need somewhere to keep them, an extension," I can hear myself saying, as I peruse yet another bumper royalty cheque.
"How many are here at the moment?" my wife asks, a trifle anxiously.
"At least seven."
"Gracious. I hope I've got enough eggs. They're always ravenous in the morning."
"Let them sleep a bit longer. They're fu...shagged out, the poor dears."
"It's all right for them. They're only here for one night. It's you I worry about, darling. You're at it every night now you're famous. You're going to kill yourself at this rate."
I raise my eyes wearily and smile at her. Her concern for my welfare is indeed touching. But we both know we are making sacrifices for a higher deity, for my Art. Indeed, that's why she has given up her career as a scientist, in order that she can devote herself more fully to my needs and ensure the survival of my muse.

And then gradually, along with my libido, the dream fades, its diminution measured in rejection slips. My muse is still around but she remains a virgin. The only virgin in the village, in fact.

Which, now I come to think about it, is probably no bad thing.


  1. This is me smiling ....what a guy!

  2. Anonymous5:13 pm

    Such imagination Pund - good job you write really, otherwise you may just become a danger to society!

  3. Doesn't matter why you started, you're hooked now matey.

  4. Anonymous5:49 pm

    An entertaining insight into your dream life Pundy. But..15 minutes of pleasure for your groupies......come now sir, surely you exaggerate

  5. So having achieved this degree of self awareness, what nowadays motivates you to keep writing?

  6. Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, comes to mind.

  7. confucious, don't forget that a fair bit of that 15 minutes would be taken up with me reading extracts of my latest oeuvre to my acolytes. About 12 minutes, each, on average. Then they'd get one minute to respond before I moved in on them.

  8. maxine, me, self-awareness?????

    My motivation nowadays? Desperation.

  9. Shocked. Shocked.

  10. Anonymous12:52 pm

    You really have thought about this, haven't you? Hmmm......

  11. Anonymous9:58 am

    Probably the best confessional post I've read. Not only does it demonstrate your literary virtuosity, it also indulges that great male passion: talking about shagging. If ever I'm in your neck of the woods Bill, maybe we'll get together, have a drink or two, and discuss, "bints we could have, or would have (given the chance) knobbed"