I was told, yet again, this week, by someone who has proven he knows what he’s talking about, that I am, “An accomplished and powerful writer.” He also said, “Your stories are very dark, but that's what makes them so powerful.”
You’d think I was onto a winner, wouldn’t you?
The World doesn’t want ‘tough’, ‘brutal, ‘uncompromising’, ‘controversial’ or ‘devastatingly dark’, which were some of the words used to describe my novel Naming Names. Honestly, I’d hope a book about child abuse would be all of those things. In fact, don’t those sound like the sort of things that might be used as quotes to sell a novel about child abuse? Can’t you just see the back cover of that novel?
“Devastatingly dark...” the Guardian.
A couple of weeks ago I more-or-less decided to stop writing, or, at least to stop writing for myself. I can write every day of the year, anonymously, on commercial projects, and be paid well for my efforts, but as soon as I take time out to write the projects that matter to me I find that I cannot get arrested. I’m beginning to feel as if my very name is jinxed.
Google me. That’s right, I don’t exist. OK, you’ll find this blog, and you might get a whiff of the Mslexia prize. You might also learn whom I’m married to, but you won’t find a single piece of work with my name on it. Look a little harder and you’ll find a short story or two and a couple of collaborations with the husband, under a version of my name, but my body of work is like an iceberg, buried in an ocean of anonymity.
Most of the time, that’s exactly the way I like it.
Then there’s my work.
I’ve written a book a year for the past four years that nobody wants, and a fifth, a sixth and a seventh that are stewing in my head are less and less likely to be written with every day that passes.
In the darkness of last week, at the bottom of my cycle, when I was contemplating giving up on pursuing a writing career of my very own, I realised why I write the way that I write.
I realised that I can write almost anything at almost any time in my bi-polar cycle... and I do mean almost any time.
I do not write when I am manic. I do not know, for sure, whether I can write when I’m manic, because, let’s face it, when you’ve got that much energy and everything’s that much fun, who wants to be sitting alone at a keyboard hammering out acres of prose?
Yes, that’s right... No one, that’s whom.
So... It turns out that I write more... most, even... when I am sad, when the World is a dark place for me. So, I suppose it stands to reason that I’m going to be drawn to write dark stories.
There was a time when that was OK, when there was room for darkness in the World. That time is over. We are in a recession, the publishing industry is remarkably cautious about its output, and everyone wants to please.
Let us shed only tears of joy. Heartache is on nobody’s agenda.
That’s OK, but, can I just ask this one question:
What about the truth?
I don’t know who said it, but I will refute with my dying breath the notion that writers are paid to lie. It is my contention that we are paid to tell the truth... that we are paid to open our veins and bleed the truth if need be. Today my blood, along with my sweat and my tears has a market value of zero.
That’s OK, I’m adaptable. I’m a writer, and I can always make a living, and, while I know it’s arrogant to say so, I think the World is a poorer place all the time that my stories remain unpublished. Here’s why: If my dark, powerful stories aren’t getting published you can bet your life that there are much better writers than I am, with much more important truths to tell filling computer files with stories that will never see the light of day.