Sunday, 18 July 2010

Let's be Boring

At the first Romantic Novelist Association Conference I attended an agent gave a speech about what, in her opinion, made the perfect writer. Obviously a brilliant writing style came high on the list, but about half way through I remember there was a collective sharp intake of breath from the audience. The agent wanted the writer to live a boring life. She must have sensed the hostility because she quickly rushed in to say this was her wish list, and like it or not, a writer with a settled life was more likely to write.

I was thinking about this recently. A writer friend was telling me how she'd stopped writing for the last few months after the death of her father, and how she was worried that she'd got completely blocked. I was able to reassure her that I too had stopped writing when my father died, but as the shock had diminished, the writing had come back.

We can be so hard on ourselves. We're not machines. Of course we stop writing when our real lives absorb all the energy we'd usually spend on our fictional ones. Our loved ones die, have affairs, lose their jobs, we move house. We fall in love, or out of love, have problems with our children or our children have problems that need us there. Life happens. It takes our emotional energy away from the page.

So I understand what the agent wanted from her writers. Productive people whose lives were settled. But we can't stop life from happening to us. Because then, what would we have to write about?

At last! I've got my finger out and have committed to running some day courses:
Writing a Novel - 31st July in Bath and 18th September in Truro
Getting a Novel Published - 1st August in Bath and 19th September in Truro
Contact me on for more info...


liz fenwick said...

Too true. No agent will even look at me with my life!

Sarah Duncan said...

Ah, but you can be living a settled life even if it's physically in perpetual motion. Besides, I'd have thought any agent would be impressed that you manage to squeeze in any writing time at all.