In a top hat


I do this every day. I teach others how to do it all year long. I talk the talk…

And now that I need to walk the walk, it turns out I’m about as good at it as a drunken fish riding a bicycle in a top hat. In a bog.

Someone once said to me, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I’ve been thinking about that statement a lot lately.

When I was at Uni, we had discussions about novelists versus short story writers. Can you be equally good at both? Or are some people simply more geared toward one or the other? I think of Poe when I write this–his full length novel made me want to take a hammer to my skull. (The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, if you’d like that particular brain-melting experience.)

Maybe that’s my issue–maybe I’m meant to be a short story writer, and editor. Maybe that massive hesitation I felt about submitting my first novel was justified and I should have stuck to the five thousand and under realm.  Maybe, I’m not meant to do, but rather, just to teach.

Or…and it’s just a hunch…maybe writing is damn hard work. Maybe it takes that crazy ass dedication I’ve heard folks talk about. All that stuff I tell authors to do, like knowing your conflicts and arcs, and having an idea of where the story is going to end…maybe I wasn’t talking out my ass after all. Maybe this corner I’ve written myself into, and am loath to dig myself out of, has to do with me not doing as I say and winging it, the way I’ve done most things in my life.

So. At some point, I need to plant my fishy-bicycle-riding self in the chair, fix the issues and get on with the story. A bit like life overall, really.

2 thoughts on “In a top hat

  1. Reminds me of Agatha Christie’s character, Ariadne Oliver, a mystery novelist who often lamented writing her own character as a Finn and the difficulties she had not knowing anything about the Finnish people. One of my favorite quips from her is a retort to someone who thought she just sat down and wrote a book in one go:
    “It must be wonderful just to sit down and write off a whole book.”

    “It doesn’t happen exactly like that,” said Mrs. Oliver. “One actually has to think, you know. And thinking is always a bore. And you have to plan things. And then one gets stuck every now and then, and you feel you’ll never get out of the mess—but you do! Writing’s not particularly not enjoyable. It’s hard work, like everything else. … Some days I can only keep going by repeating over and over to myself the amount of money I might get for my next serial rights. That spurs you on, you know. So does your bank-book when you see how much overdrawn you are.”

    I hope you find your way out of your corner quickly and with minimal hair-pulling-out. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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