Last week on Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey said these immortal words: “I wonder if writers know the pleasure they bring”! I would have done an air punch if I was prone to such but instead I gave a small smile (I’m half British and inhibited, even when it’s only the dog & cat watching. And you haven’t seen my cat. He’s a pretty cool customer. The dog? Not so much.)
Anyway, it was a bit of an hallelujah moment for me: not least ‘cos I’ve got a girl crush on Jane Garvey and her soothing tones yet incisive questioning. Of course I know she wasn’t specifically talking about me – but still, it made me smile, so much I tweeted her – and SHE ACTUALLY TWEETED BACK OMG!!!! She did say she was partial to a footballer’s autobiography, and er..I can’t see me ever writing one of them, but still
So, my joy was because I have long felt that my job – when I can call it such, ie when I’m actually earning owt from writing, which is intermittent – is something I love doing so much but seems so frivolous and unimportant, how can it possibly be ‘worthwhile’. Specially opposed to something like brain surgery, or making a road or teaching a child something (though I do hope I do that too, every day, with my own kids…I teach them loads like how to duck a box round the ear, how to match scarlet with anything, how to – )
And yet I also heard the esteemed author Kate Atkinson on the radio a few weeks ago (yes how I love that little black box that sits unassuming in the corner of almost every room in my house) and she talked of writing being ‘rescue’ and again, that felt very poignant to me.
Because whether she meant rescue for the reader or the writer, for me writing is a life force, without being wanky & pretentious –it’s part of who I am, what I live and breath and I can’t stop doing it (sorry about that), even though my fortunes have been less than outrageous…
And at the most terrifying moments in my life, when I was very ill and feared I might die; when I left my marriage and feared for my children’s psychological well-being, I kept writing, writing, writing on and on, largely privately, but also for my work – and it helped me make sense of things, it helped me keep my head just about above water. As did reading other writers’ work…
At the height of my treatment for lymphoma, just before my last novel was published, the PR asked me if I wanted to write about my illness. I said no, because I was so shocked and scared, I wasn’t ready, it was private etc – but also the idea of using cancer as a sales tool seemed – unseemly. Now, though, five years on, I may be ready to write about it: just to say to anyone out there suffering, you’re not alone, I got through so you can too.