Being a writer...
So this is it. It is a warm sunny Friday in early May, a little after half past nine in the morning and I am sat alone in my small office, armed only with my computer, a large steaming hot cup of tea and my imagination. Today, for the first time in my fifty years on earth, I am a writer.
For the best part of twenty-five years I have been a musician. More specifically I have been ‘the other guy’; standing at the back for various local rock bands and pretending I could play the guitar. However, a worsening problem with my left hand has more or less dictated that my days as a pretend rock-star are over, at least in the short to mid-term. I have had to find another creative outlet, so I have decided to write.
I have always been in awe of those with the ability to communicate in a simple but eloquent way. I could listen all day to modern giants like Stephen Fry, who has a vocabulary matched only by his huge intellect, and the late, great Douglas Adams, whose astonishing grasp of the English language never fails to engage and delight me in equal measure. I take great pleasure in the art of placing one word in front of another. When I was a member of the local rock band; ‘The Mafia’, I would write an annual diary, which was posted online and I liked to believe may have been mildly amusing. I am responsible for a large portion of the nonsense that you will find on some of the websites of the bands that I have been in. As a Fraud Specialist working for the NHS I am required to write a great deal. I produce a newsletter which is distributed to the entire NHS workforce in Hampshire, about twenty-five thousand people. Sometimes I have to prepare horrifically long and interminably dull reports that take forever to compile and are probably read by no-one. But this is the first time I am going to consider myself a writer. For the first time I am dipping my toes into the cold and foreboding waters of ‘doing it properly’, for no other reason than my own gratification.
Consequently I have built this website where I can post my various ramblings for the world to see (it perhaps says a little about my confidence in what I am attempting to do, that I set about constructing the website before I had actually written anything to be included). I will write and post short pieces, articles, reviews and sometimes I will just grab the keyboard and rant. Maybe the world won’t look at them. But I will try.
It is scary. Exciting, but scary. Writing in this way certainly carries comparison to playing the guitar in public. You are exposing yourself (stop sniggering) for the world to see. For a quarter of a century I was very well aware of my skills (or more precisely, lack of them) as a musician. I was extremely lucky to share the stage with a number of extraordinarily talented people. My job was to keep it simple, stay in time and tune and try not to let the audience know that in truth I wasn't the most gifted guitarist or, for that matter, keyboard player. Many that I played with were artists. My job was to simply give them a canvas to paint on. But nevertheless, at every gig that I have performed (a conservative estimate would be at least fifteen hundred) I have stood in front of (in some cases, literally several) people and basically said: “Here I am, this is what I can do, judge me”. When you know that you are hiding behind the talents of others, that feeling can often be fairly disconcerting. I have already decided that writing is similar, but much, much worse. For the first time I have nobody to hide behind. If my writing goes ‘out of tune’, or I start thinking about what I plan to do at the weekend and suddenly I am writing a different piece entirely to what I was supposed to be doing, it can’t be 'turned down' and ‘lost in the mix’. As a musician I was exposed, but ultimately I had a safety net. I was naked, but with a reassuringly warm blanket around me that I could snuggle down into when things went wrong. Now I have no blanket. I have willingly positioned myself centre stage, butt-naked and tackle out, waiting for the whole world to point and laugh.
Writing doesn’t necessarily come particularly easy. I am not highly qualified. I have a friend (she knows who she is) that never misses a chance to remind me that I can’t spell. I don’t resent that and it is only fair anyway since I take every opportunity to mention that she is unable to tell the time. Regardless, I have no argument, I know I can’t spell. Without the assistance of the mighty autocorrect this little project simply wouldn’t be happening.
But here’s the thing. I do have autocorrect. I have a bucket full of opinions and a still half-full, lukewarm mug of tea. And perhaps, most importantly and despite my limitations, I have the willingness to give this writing thing a go. So this is the new me; Grapes the writer, naked and exposed, waiting for the world to judge me.