I was in Notthingham for most of last week, and, while I was there, I got into two separate conversations with two other creatives. One of them is an artist, who has worked with the husband, and will no doubt work with him again, and the other is another writer.
You know me, I regularly snark about things, and one of my regular snarks is that if a person works hard enough, and believes strongly enough, there is nothing to suggest that he has any less likelihood to be what he wants to be than anyone else. One of my regular snarks is that we don’t get where we’re going by luck; we get there on our merits.
The artist and I were talking about the difference between doing a job and being what we do; I don’t just write, I am a writer, and I said that not everyone is as lucky as that. He, very rightly, refuted that premise. He said that if a person cleaned buildings he was a cleaner and all the time he carried a mop or a broom he was a cleaner, and that it was no good claiming to be anything else, he had to get off his backside and be that something else. He pointed out that he’d done whatever it took to be an artist, that nobody had opened a door for him or encouraged him or given him a break; that he’d worked his arse off for impossibly long hours, that he’d pushed and shoved at doors, that he’d fought for every inch and that he’d made his own luck.
The writer I had a similar conversation with said more-or-less the same thing. He talked about working endlessly, never taking time off, being rejected over and over again, and keeping at it. He talked about being organised, keeping track of ideas, finishing work, working on editing his own material, sending submissions to anyone and everyone, scrutinising guidelines to make sure that all submissions were exactly what was required, and playing the game.
I sometimes wonder whether my snarks, especially my snarks about work, about making art of any kind, about being professional in the creative arenas aren’t just a little bit stern, a little bit businesslike, a little bit off-putting, but these two consummate professionals agreed with me, and they did it spontaneously, without being asked.
The truth is, it’s tough out there. You can think what you like about the standards of work being produced. You can do what I do and pick up novels in Waterstones, and argue that first lines aren’t terribly good, that the writing isn’t compelling, that storylines are derivative. You can decide that you can do better, but you can’t argue with the fact that those writers worked hard enough for long enough to get their books published, and that’s more than you’ve managed to do.
With that in mind, it’s Saturday morning, and some of you are looking forward to a weekend of fun and frolicks, of shopping and socialising. I am looking forward to a weekend too, and I really am looking forward to it; I know that I will enjoy it, and I know that when I get to the end of it I will have a warm, satisfied feeling of a job well done. This weekend will include at least two six hour work sessions, and that’s a good deal less work than most weekends hold for me.
If you remember nothing else, remember this, “The harder I work, the luckier I get”... It’s true, you know.