I’m having a coffee with my friend Ed. He’s just got home, and we have a lot of catching up to do.
“So - how did the writing go?” I ask. Ed’s been away for a few years: his wife was posted overseas, and of course the family went too. Although there was no problem about Ed and the kids going with her, he wasn’t covered by the work permit, so he’d planned to do some writing while the children were at school.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, I think, was the hope that perhaps it would provide a means of escape: whilst he loved teaching, there were too many times when the culture of tick-boxes and targets got in the way of the job. The idea of being able to choose to not return to his career when he returned to the UK was an appealing one.
Clearly, it didn’t work out. “I didn’t really get any done,” he admits. “I mean - I did some. I sat down and tried. And I kept trying. But whatever I wrote, when I read it back... I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like how it read. I never got the voice right...”
He shrugs; takes another sip of his coffee, warming his hands on the cup.
“When I look at your books,” he says; “well, your characters don’t all sound like the same person. Even the narrative voices: they’re different from each other, and they just... fit the story somehow. But mine?” He trails off for a moment, then suddenly becomes animated. “There’s no problem with ideas. I’ve got ideas. Loads of ideas. And I always thought that if I just had the chance - if I had the time - then I could write. But... well, I learned something.”
He looks at me. His expression is open, and genuine, and once again I’m reminded of why I like him so much, and why I’m glad he’s back.
“What I learned,” he says thoughtfully, “is that writing is hard.”
John's website is at www.visitingauthor.com