Writers are supposed to like being on their own for long periods of time. So that they can write. Writing is not a group activity. Doing the writing is supposed to be like picking your nose or going to the toilet. Other people are supposed to put you off. I like that comparison, because there is something a bit embarrassing about sitting in at night and making things up. Should have grown out of it, and if you do insist on doing it, do us all a favour and keep it to yourself, will you?
It’s fair enough. I am not keen on other people being in the bathroom with me. The charm of being stared at by a toddler while I wee has waned. I prefer shopping for clothes and shoes on my own, because I hate shopping for clothes and shoes and it is better if there is no-one with me to shout at, throw carrier bags at and say things like, ‘just pick something! Size eight! I’m past caring!’ I like going to cafes on my own because then I can take as long as I like over my coffee and look out of the window and read and scowl and feel superior. I do need to feel superior every now and again and I need to be on my own to do that – not possible when someone else is there. Even my cat gets on my nerves. I don’t really like people being in my house unless I know them very well.
And I can understand, a little bit, maybe, what it might be like for people who can’t write unless they are perfectly alone, in perfect silence. It isn’t, usually, a collaborative effort. I tried writing something for an exercise at a writers’ circle. It reminded me of every exam I’ve ever taken, looking around the tables and trying to decide who is going to ask for more paper first. Is it better just to stick your hand up, get the sheets, and cope with everyone hating you later, or should I just learn to write smaller, and stop double-spacing?
But for the writing, I need an audience. I like a person there to read things out to. I don’t mind if he wants to sleep or read or whatever. Someone breathing in the same room, who would notice if I started skiving on the Internet, wandering the house, or choking. The cat does well for this, but when I type fast he gets excited and chases my fingers over the key-board and deletes the genius.
When I am on my own doing the writing, which is more often than not, I have to do the audience as well as the writing. I’ve got to mutter. ‘Good writing now Jenn, you’re cracking on tonight. Ace. Ten more minutes and you can check the word count and get a cup of tea. Good work, champ!’
I am considering buying one of those real-dolls. Not for sex, but to sit on the end of my bed. I’d made it nod and smile and every time I looked away from the monitor, over my shoulder, it would be clapping its little plastic hands and saying, ‘read me some more, great dialogue, don’t leave me hanging, check out those apostrophes, top banana!’
I just remembered something I read in Marilyn Manson’s autobiography (what? I read it eight years ago). He said teenagers who have friends form bands and those who don’t, write. People want to watch bands, don’t they? I don’t like music much myself, but I’ve still been to see bands. People want other people to see them watching bands. There are no videos of dishevelled, friendless liars tediously redrafting their paragraphs on you-tube. Are there?
It should have occured to me before now, but there is one other very good reason why people who do writing mainly have to do it on their own. No choice.