Calm Before The Storms


Taking advantage of the fact that I still have a couple of days off in order to get some writing down. Some of this is pure admin – answering emails, sorting out rehearsals and the like for the next bunch of Cast Iron Theatre performances – but a fair amount is to do with actual, ‘real’ writing. I always get in this sort of mood after I come back from visiting the Edinburgh fringe. Now that I’m back down south, I’m back on a normal civilian timetable, with no real understanding or appreciation of what my friends up in Scotland are still going through. And these people are performers – they were beginning to get more than a bit stir crazy when I left almost a week ago. They’ve been doing shows on a daily basis – sometimes twice daily, sometimes three times a day .. and I still think to myself that this is the sort of business that I want to get involved in? I am probably a glutton for punishment.

One of the things I’ve been working on this morning is an old novel that I managed to dig up. Well, I say novel. That’s probably a reasonably generous term. I hacked it out in under a month during a Nanowrimo – the annual event that gets you to commit to writing down 50,000 words in thirty days. At that, at least, I succeeded – with less than a minute to spare before the deadline, with aching typing hands on an unresponsive laptop, in between sets at a comedy gig I was appearing at that night. And in all fairness, despite my self-effacing dismissal of it, it’s not actually terrible. Well, obviously, it’s awful: it was hacked out in thirty days by someone who was making up the story as they went along while holding down a fulltime job, teaching acting classes, and directing plays. But, in real terms (and accepting all the above), it hangs together reasonably well as at least a first draft, or more accurately what might be called Draft Zero. Never to be shown to anyone, ever. To be honest, I have seen completed novels thrown up (now there’s a Freudian slip) onto the kindle that did not read as well as my incoherent hackery.

As well as doing the edit on that novel (because, actually, it might be worth salvaging once it has undergone a rewrite or twelve), I am completing some short stories, and a kid’s play for next summer. This is, in some ways, the part of the year that I love the most – when I have more than two consecutive hours in which to write. Right now, my mind is reasonably clear and not at all deranged: I can see how it’s possible to get the next draft of the novel finished by next month, the children’s play drafted by the end of the year, and a bunch of short stories bundled together by January. But that’s basically because I have time at the moment. I should acknowledge that I have exactly this conversation with myself around this time of year, every single year. Like a Tinder date with someone with a great profile pic who reveals themselves to be a bit racist, it’s initially thrilling, but ultimately disappointing. Because it’s a fair bet that – once again – once next week rolls into view, my timetable will be so packed that I won’t have enough space in my head to concentrate on as much writing stuff as I’d like to at any one point. How people who have not only a full time job, but also families cope, I’ve no idea.

I’m also managing to read a bit at the moment. While up at Edinburgh, we saw (amongst others) Bridget Christie and Robin Ince, both of whom were signing copies of their books. I’m a sucker for a book signing. Not necessarily because it’s a chance to meet the author (although that’s clearly part of it), but I somewhat over-romantically like the idea of putting the money directly into writer’s pocket., more or less. I’m loving A Book For Her, which is sort of like a stand up’s memoir mixed with the book Half The Sky (which is where I first read about the charity The Girl Generation), which is smart, funny, and makes me wish I’d caught shows like A Ant live. Robin Ince’s book is a collection of short horror stories written by various comedians. It opens with a pair of brilliantly nasty stories – one by Reece Shearsmith, and a genuinely upsetting one by Sara Pascoe. Again, it’s something that’s compelling me to get the hell on with my own collection. Not that it’s just frustrated writers like me that struggle under the yoke of procrastination. I was amused / not amused to catch an old episode of Mock The Week on Dave (where else?) where the stand up comic Ed Byrne provided a question for the answer ‘Four Years’ with the enquiry ‘How long have I been “writing” my sit-com?’ The wry and bitter grin he gave suggested that he wasn’t exactly joking.


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