Saturday, 1 December 2012

Endings and Beginnings

It's been a time of endings for me recently. On Tuesday I taught the last class in the six-week course I've been leading for Curtis Brown Creative on Fiction for Children. It's amazing how quickly such things can so quickly become what feels like an integral part of your life. After a couple of weeks (the course ran on consecutive Tuesdays) it almost seemed as if we'd always known each other. Personalities emerged, a dynamic was created, and I like to think we had a lot of fun. I hope the students learned something from me about the slightly mad and obsessive business of creating characters and stories and trying to make a living out of such an unlikely activity. I know I learned a lot from them, and from having to think hard about what I do when I write my own stories. Apart from anything else, it's always refreshing for us jaded, tired old writers who have 'been around the block a few times' (to use the sort of cliché I warned my students to steer clear of) to meet those at a much earlier stage who are still in love with the whole idea of just writing. By the time I was halfway through teaching the course I was flipping through my ideas notebooks, wondering why I didn't just sit down and write a couple of the things I've always wanted to. And then – just like that (#clicksfingers) the course was over.

I've also reached the end of my second term as a director at The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), which means I have to stand down from the board after six years. I've also been chairing the Finance and Audit Committee, so for several days of board and committee meetings and at the AGM last night I've been in farewell-it's-great-to-have-worked-with-you-let's-keep-in-touch-mode. I'm still going to be involved in several ways, and I'd like to stage a return at some time in the future (lots of people must have got very bored of listening to my Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation – ‘I’ll be back’ – I know I did), but it was a definite ending. It’s been an amazing six years. ALCS is a great company staffed by a great bunch of people, and I think the writing community should be very grateful to them. In my time as a director ALCS has collected something like £150 million for writers, and we all benefit from their work every day. They’ve been lobbying the government tirelessly about PLR and the threats to copyright we’re facing, and those struggles go on.

And last but not least, I said goodbye to my old study a couple of weeks ago, and now find myself in a brand new one right at the top of our 1960s-built town house. That had meant several months of sorting through old papers and files and a mass cull of books (more evidence of an obsessive tendency). Decisions had to be made – why was I still keeping the 40-year-old Penguin editions of my A level texts when they were actually falling apart? But they’re still on the shelf, along with the other books I love. The books that await transportation to the local National Heart Foundation shop (nine boxes-full in the garage) are all those I didn’t love or was indifferent to or simply never got around to reading.

Now I sit at my tidy desk in my tidy, clean still dust-free minimalist study looking through my window at the slightly wild park behind our house (yes, such things do exist in the wonderland that is South London). The leaves on the trees have gone, blown away by the gales we’ve had in the last week. The grass was frosted this morning, and the dog walkers looked cold. As soon as I finish writing this post I’m going to push the laptop back, crack open a new notebook and start scribbling away with one of the new pens my wife bought me. I have a new story to write, and beginnings are always tough.

But good. Definitely good.


Emma Barnes said...

I'm sure great times lie ahead! And I'm envying your view - and your tidy new office.

Penny Grubb - crime writer said...

You're right, ALCS is a great company. And you will be missed!