There’s an idea that drives me a bit nuts. It has too much to do with the fact that most of us can read and write, and books are just a big pile of words, so of course anyone can do it. We don’t have a collective belief that we all have a fresco, symphony, ballet or opera in us. Or a really impressive bit of brain surgery just needing the right context to bring it out. This is in many ways a shame, who knows how many amazing things haven’t happened because the person who should have done it was bogged down in the idea of a book.
I cherish creativity, in all forms. I love the gorgeous photographs on facebook of things people have knitted and sewn, the craft items and artwork. Having dabbled enough in song writing to know I’m not terribly good at it, I am deeply impressed by people who can reliably get an idea down succinctly to a good tune. There are so many ways of being creative, but for some mysterious reason we’ve elevated the book as some kind of creative ideal. At the same time, from the business side, it’s one of the least lucrative things you can do. Write a song and busk with it and at the end of the day there will be some money in the hat. Not so with a book. If you have dreams of wealth and fame for writing, a novel is almost certainly not the answer. The money these days is in film, TV, and writing content for computer games. If you think that’s going to be too hard to get into, it’s not any worse than writing novels. Sure, the illusion of self publishing is that you will get a readership, but putting a book out there and getting people to read it is a whole other thing.
If you’re drawn at all to more bardic ways of working, then creating just for yourself isn’t going to be enough. The sharing of inspiration, and output is so much of what it’s all about. Making things that have nowhere to go is not a happy or rewarding process. It feels like something has aborted, and it feels wrong, and demoralising. Finding spaces to share creativity is actually a key part of the creative process. Short stories and storytelling often results in being able to get a thing into the world, where novels do not.
I’ve seen this from the outside too many times. People who wanted to write a book, and who didn’t know all the technical and business things that go with it, assuming it would be easier than the symphony or the ballet. It isn’t. Not being able to take the work forward cripples confidence and undermines inspiration, and a person who was full of creative energy can end up with very little. Frustration will do that to you.
Everyone has the capacity to create, and there are many different ways of doing it, all of them equally valid. Having been through this process with novels, I’ve ended up moving away to spend most of my time working on other things. The graphic novel are out there and doing well – there is more of a market for them, for a start. I’ve found a deep love of writing non-fiction work, which came as a total surprise to me. Far more of my creative energy goes into non-fiction work these days, and I’m determined to get back into dancing and singing. Novels are nice, and when I find a good one, I enjoy it, but they aren’t the pinnacle of creative achievement, and it’s not worth getting too focused on them. What you might have in you is the next cult TV hit, the next Ben Ten, the next pant wittingly funny piece of stand-up comedy.
If, after all of that you’re thinking, no, I really must write a novel, it is the only thing that makes sense then, yes. You may well have a novel in there trying to get out, and I wish you much joy of it.