Wednesday 25 January 2012

Why I Write - Part 3 of 3

So, is writing an escape for me? I don’t think so. I have a nice life. Apart from a dull day job, the rest of my existence is packed with blessings. I have a supportive wife who I still love very much. Then there are my three children: Mya (age 7), Jack (age 5) and Oscar (age 1). Those kids fuel and exhaust me in equal measure and they are three very different examples of pure brilliance. We also have a puppy that is so cute and fluffy that I can only walk him when it’s dark enough to hide my blushes. I’m broke most of the time, but make just enough money to provide my family with the essentials and the occasional extravagance. So, what’s to escape?

Is it a psychological impulse? Possibly. Though I have other impulses that can be acted upon as and when I decide. For instance, no mater how stressed I am, I rarely drink before the kids go to bed. Certainly never enough to get drunk. When I’ve been cut off on the M1 by some tube in a BMW 3 Series, I don’t drive my Nissan Micra into the back of his wank-mobile to teach the impudent prick a lesson. And when I pop a tube of Pringles, I often stop just to feel that little bit superior to the lost souls who make up the company’s marketing department. So, if I decided it was inconvenient, I’m confident I could quash the urge to write.

So, what is it?

Here’s a theory.

I am descended from a clan of highwaymen and bank robbers. And I am unhealthily fascinated with criminals. In fact, I believe that I have a criminal mind. However, I lack a criminal’s stomach. I simply do not have what it takes to actually commit a legal transgression. So, is the skill for figuring out inventive ways to break into a house or rob a high street shop wasted on this yellow-bellied man? Well, I usually write crime fiction, so maybe not.

Crime fiction has become my legal means of experiencing the joy of law-breaking. I want to be an outlaw but don’t want to risk a criminal record. The idea of a prison sentence captures my imagination, but I have no intention of spending any time in a cell. There are times when my temper gets the better of me and I threaten violence (from a safe distance) yet in my adult years I have yet to throw a punch that wasn’t in self defence. But in my mind, I’ve gone that extra mile so many times. Robbed, shot, stabbed. Danced, kissed, shagged. Lived, fought, died. Vicariously, I have had the most colourful lifetime I could imagine thousands of times and have infinite potential to live many more.

Surely the question is not, ‘Why do I write?’ but, ‘Why the fuck wouldn’t I write?’

That’d be a nice line to finish up on, but I haven’t addressed my skill for listening (remember I mentioned that in Part 1?), so humour me for a further paragraph or two.

I am a listener with an armoury of questions that draw conversation from others. This is useful in social situations that I can’t avoid. It is also essential for my writing inspiration. Other people have stories and I collect them, melt them down and reform them to suit my vision of a character in a story or novel. By listening to others, I refill my inkwells.

And when I can do so without it becoming too obvious to those concerned, I eavesdrop. It’s a little creepy and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I have heard some fantastic conversations on buses and in restaurant. It’s fuel to the creative fire, and a wonderful way to pass the time. But with all that information filling my brain it’d be a real shame to do nothing with it. So what do I do?

I choose to write.

Actually, that’s not a bad line to end this on either, is it?


Michael Stone said...

Just letting you know, I really enjoyed this three-part essay. Nice one, mate.

Gerard Brennan said...

Cheers, Mike!


JamTheCat said...

Interesting observations on yourself, Gerard. It's got me to asking myself why I do it, too. And I can't begin to really explain it, yet.

Keep it up, mate. You're doing fine.