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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why Not Be A Writer?

'I am astonished that some crook has not had the idea of opening a writing school', said Arthur Cravan in 1914.

'Why not be a writer?' asks an ad for The Writers' Bureau, Cravan's prophetic vision of which obviously led to his despairing disappearance in 1918.

Where to start? Because I'm talentless, because I've never read any books, because I spend all day eating crisps and watching television, because I don't own a word processor and am functionally illiterate: will that do?

'Chris Fenn, Aberdeenshire' would disagree. He has a monthly column in four magazines and occasionally writes for health magazines too.

'Christina Jones, Oxfordshire''s 'first three novels are all best-sellers!' So she'd disagree too. Her life 'has changed completely.'

Asked for advice to would-be writers, Raymond Chandler said: 'I have done everything from giving would-be writers money to live on, to plotting and rewriting their stories for them, and so far I have found it all waste. The people whom God or nature intended to be writers find their own answers, and those who have to ask are impossible to help. They are merely people who want to be writers.'

People who want to be writers aren't writers, in other words. Writers are people who write. Wanting to or not doesn't come into it.

Finally, how long can it possibly take for a letter to be delivered? 'I was paid a £25,000 advance for my novel "Red"', says 'Jon Eagle, Essex'. 'I look forward to receiving my Certificate of Competence.' It says that on every ad for the Writers' Bureau I've seen. Maybe it isn't coming, Jon: maybe you've been had. Maybe you're not certifiably competent after all. Have you been writing without a licence? Expect a knock on the door any time soon.

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