Friday, February 24, 2006

A Change is Gonna Come

A day off after a long, difficult week and my mood has swung every which way. The gap between my creative ambitions and my life-ambitions is as wide as ever, and possibly irreconciliable. Its my 39th birthday in 8 days and I guess that's probably affecting my mood as well. About 10 years ago I started cut and pasting my stories into a photocopied magazine that I then would give to a few friends to get feedback. The first story I wrote for this, "The Ghosts of Coos Bay", based on an American trip of the previous summer was definitely a step-change in the quality of my writing. As I put together issue 28 (!!!) of this occasional magazine, I realise that to all intents and purposes I've stayed in the same place since then - despite leaving Manchester for London, then giving up one job/career to do a creative writing degree, then changing career, public sector rather than private, I'm still this mixed bag of creative ambitions and projects, and unresolved life-ambitions, and there's always a tug between them. Life is in the living I guess, and that's what I try and do, but its a bundle of uncertainties still. The most recent story I wrote was as influenced by my current life, as the Ghosts of Coos Bay was by that trip abroad - yet the earlier story is a work of pure imagination, using only the place of memory (a Godforsaken logging town in Northern California), whilst the latest seems lazily self-involved. A day off, particularly one accompanied by a rare self-hating hangover, at least gives me time to make a few decisions. I'm far too quiescent, usually, and every now and then my anger at the injustices of the world froth over; but I'm a literary man not a firebrand. I wish I could be a politicised person like Normblog , he's almost quicker to comment than the Guardian - today its Ken Livingston's suspension, and what I realise is that although I'm interested in systems, I've no clear idea how the mechanisms of the modern world really work - where the real power lies. Belatedly I come to Roy Hattersley's piece on Andrew Motion, "how awful it must be to wake up in the morning and remember that you are the poet laureate" he writes. I'm not sure whether Motion's talents are genuinely "boundless", but he's certainly a good biographer, and more recently I guess, a successful "operator", using the Laureateship to prise open those bureaucratic doors that would otherwise remain shut. It's hard to know what he thinks about anything these days, as although he will pronounce to order for the papers, its almost always the expected line. I'm trying to remember when the Laureateship is over? I think this time it was time-limited, nobody would want that life sentence. He interviewed me for a place on the UEA course back in 1997. He was the first real-live writer I'd ever met, but by the end of a long day, the medication he was taking for a back injury was beginning to wear off, the interview was short and unsuccessful. I remember that one of the other candidates that day, a woman called Frances Liardet, was already a published writer, and I picked up her debut novel a rather good coming-of-age thriller "The Game" from the campus bookshop. So, not quite ten years ago, but whatever she got out of the course, it appears not to be a second novel. She was very kind and pleasant on the day, and it was the "literary atmosphere" rather than anything else that made me apply for the novel writing course at Manchester, a road that lead me here.

1 comment:

Maassive said...

Cheer up. You were "the inaugural bloggerel" at 's new soon-to-be-exhaustive collection of Manchester blogs. And I'm excited to hear you read at Verberate on Monday.

Speaking of Verberate, what did you think of the flyer I designed? I figure you'd get it -- so few others did. Including my "American Studies" majoring flatmate. Shameful.