You will all have discovered the joys of IPlayer eons ago, but I'm just catching on - and one of the things I stumbled across recently was a series of talks by Alan Bennett, including one on Writing. My heart sank as I heard him say, in that inimitable voice, the following:
"A writer only feels he or she is a writer at the point of performance, the moment of writing. Do anything else, even related activities like research or background reading and the claim seems fradulent. A writer is only a writer when writing. The rest is marking time. And your published books and plays don't count. They only prove you were a writer yesterday ..."
We all believe this, in spite of what we say to ourselves (and what others, in increasingly weary tones, tell us too) when we are not, in fact, writing. The need for fallow times, curing our ideas in the smoke of experience, letting our words lie in the dark, in oak casks, simmering gently, maturing like cheese - all the analogies we apply to our fear that we aren't really writers at all. Not anymore. Not this time. He says, "Put down the pen or abandon the keys and a writer is always on the brink of fraud." Talk about cold comfort.
It's the voice, I guess. Alan Bennett is just so believable when he speaks. I'd as soon quibble with David Attenborough. But since no one can write constantly, and all those fallow times will happen whether we need them or not, and feeling like a fake is not a good basis for a life, this is not a helpful definition of what we do. A little too bleak. A little too like a northern winter afternoon, about 3:30, in the rain.
Maybe I should forget about IPlayer, and just get on with my writing ...
Joan Lennon's website