Friday, 22 February 2008


In a condition common to all writers I find myself desperate to get on with my novel just at the moment when I have other work to do. I do not resent the other work (editing another author’s book) as it is interesting (honest, guv). But it always seems to turn up just when I feel most inclined to plough on with my own stuff. And I suspect the second I finish the editing, I will turn to the blank sheet of paper to my right and sit staring at it in the abject misery that is lack of inspiration.

The weather doesn’t help. I just know that the second I finish the editing, the pleasant early spring weather will disappear and the village will be plunged into a scene out of ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. I will have to pile on the layers and sit in a sleeping bag, feet wobbling on hot water bottle. Have you tried writing when icy blasts slice up through the carpet and sleet slides down the window through which gelid air leaks?

It could be worse. At least there are floorboards and a sleeping bag and hot water to put in that bottle. At least the sleet does have a window to slide down. And whoopee, the government has taken a sudden interest in the ‘creative industries’ (whatever they are), just like it took a sudden interest in ‘culture’. I suppose it makes for good headlines. But it has all the echoes of ‘Cool Britannia’ (and how uncool that was with all those sad arse ‘pop stars’ swanking around 10 Downing Street), and I bet little or no money finds its way to writers.

The whole thing is a con. It has nothing to do with nurturing creativity (otherwise schools would be properly funded and staffed and those actually being creative whether in the arts or the sciences would find support instead of being labelled scroungers along with the sick and disabled). It has nothing to do with culture (oh yes, that sound is me reaching for that much quoted gun). The government found that money was being made and wanted to get in on the act. But to be honest, politicians are people who couldn’t empty a full bucket of water if you explained to them in words of one syllable that the instructions were printed on the underside in big letters. They are like a pestilence. Everything they touch becomes diseased, covered in slime.

The opera and other centres of excellence (who decides?) will take on their apprentices (who decides?), there will be a photo opportunity, and then the money will slowly dry up. Besides, how many creative talents have been turned out through specific programmes of formal training or education? And please don’t go all gooey eyed and breathless as you mention UEA. It was good for a couple of years and has done nothing but turn out clones whose work is duller than the proverbial and less edifying than a copy of the Beano.

Creative talent needs a society in which their talent is appreciated (even if the work they produce is not always much understood); it needs a society that is far less obsessed with cults of personality, with celebrity, and all the endless tittle-tattle about people who are, basically, a waste of space. You cannot create this society by setting up a few apprenticeships and making crass statements about ‘culture’. The very fact that politicians have to talk about this makes it very clear they have not the first idea what they are talking about.


Vague said...

Well, icy blasts are indeed slicing between the floorboards and gelid air is doing very strange things indeed at the window. Dare we hope this means you've finished editing already? If not, all power to your writing implement :-)

Anne Brooke said...

I sympathise about the editing quandary - very, very true! And you're right about UEA stuff - is it just me or is every MA creative writing course churning out the same old stuff (hush my mouth ..)??



JJ said...

Well I can't comment on the icy blasts while I'm here in Bangkok, but I certainly agree with a lot of what you say.

I think the sheer desire to be a politician should rule out any chance of it ever happening to that person. I think they are, without exception, ghastly creatures.

'Who decides?' was definitely what occurred to me when reading the original article. Yes, more than likely they'll hold some kind of televised talent show, led by celebrities ...

Cool Britannia? Oh dear god, please.


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Awwww, Grrrrrumpy Grrrrraeme, I love your rants. I couldn't agree more. (And I think you should win a prize for using the word 'gelid' in a blog post.)

Graeme K Talboys said...

Thanks all. These rants are like earthquakes. The pressure builds up somewhere beneath the crust until... I feel another one brewing right now. It will only take some daft announcement to set it off.

liz fenwick said...

Sometimes I'm glad we are not living in the UK at the moment. Couldn't agree more with your rant :-)