Friday, 30 May 2014

Are You Made of the Write Stuff?

Or How to let people know you’re a real writer By Derek Duggan

While it’s obvious that a big part of being a writer is actually doing the writing, there are several other things that the modern day author needs to become. A salesman, for one. An entrepreneur, for another. And a lot has been written about these things. However, one thing that is often ignored is this simple question – How pretentious do you actually need to be?

It may seem abhorrent, but being pretentious is a vital part of being an author. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the preserve of the high end literary set. No – these days it is expected of even the most ordinary of writers. Even if you’ve just written a book about army people going around doing shooting and stuff, you will still be expected to be such a pretentious twat that you will do interviews on the telly wearing a balaclava. And that’s a fact.

But you don’t need to jump to this level of bellendedness straightaway. It’s very difficult to carry this kind of thing off from a standing start, so ease yourself into it. Start simply.

Step one is to listen exclusively to BBC Radio 4. Even Gardeners Question Time. This will teach you the vernacular. After a month or so of solid listening you’ll be ready to begin.

The first thing you can do is to stop calling yourself a writer. If you want to be taken seriously you must always refer to yourself as a wordsmith. If you introduce yourself to people thus you can rest assured that they will remember you.

Next, you’ll need to let people know how clever you are without actually saying anything. This seems tricky, but actually it’s very simple. Merely buy a copy of Ulysses by James Joyce and carry it around with you everywhere. Make sure you crease it up a bit and dog ear the pages so it looks like you’ve actually read it and then just leave it on the table when you go to meet friends for coffee. Don’t worry; you won’t have to actually read it. Nobody will ever question you about it or want to discuss it because despite selling millions of copies worldwide the only person who’s ever actually read it is Mrs Joyce and the chances of her showing up to have coffee with you is pretty slim. Once you’ve become comfortable with the book you can learn off a couple of random quotes from it and slip these into conversation. For example, if someone tells you they’re going on holiday to Ibiza or something, why not say – Won’t that be nice? Or, as Joyce might have said - The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea. This will make your coffee partner realize that you are indeed a right wordsmith.

After this you might want to have a shot at doing some literary jokes. Perhaps take some friends to the Zoo. When you get to the bear enclosure indicate one of the animals with the corner of your copy of Ulysses and say – I think that one is a Samuel Beckett bear. Your friends may look at you quizzically. Then say – Yes, you can tell because of the big paws! Guaranteed hilarity will ensue and everyone will marvel at how bloody brainy you are.

The next thing you might think about is wearing a hat or some roundy glasses or if you want to go the whole hog, both. Nothing says I’m a brilliant writer like wearing a Panama hat while it’s pissing down in Croydon. And would anyone have gone to see Waiting for Godot if the author responsible hadn’t been an ardent roundy glasses wearer? I think not.

Next you’ll have to start producing something yourself. As a wordsmith you will be used to getting inside the heads of your characters, so use this skill to your advantage and think your way into the head of a teenage girl so you can write some horrendous poetry. Once you’ve done this you’ll be able to whip out your notebook at social gatherings and subject strangers and friends alike to an impromptu recital of your latest poem – Polite Smiles. You will be amazed at how well people will relate to your theme.

Once you’ve mastered this the sky’s the limit. You really can do what you want. George Orwell got so good at it that he pretended to be a tramp for a couple of years. Ernest Hemingway was such a master that he regularly got drunk, punched people in the face and joined in random wars. And John Irving talked about how important he was endlessly.

So what are you waiting for? Dress up like Doctor Who and get out there.

Glad I could help.

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