Saturday 4 May 2019

Taking the time to smell the flowers - Ciaran Murtagh

The world is a whirl. Not just for writers, for everybody. If you’re self-employed – as a lot of us are – we’re usually on the hustle. As soon as we’ve finished one thing we’re onto the next. We’ve always got one eye on where the next gig is coming from, sometimes to the detriment of the one we’re actually doing!

I don’t know about you, but I’m often so busy working on the thing I’m currently working on that I completely forget when something I might have worked on 18 months ago finally sees the light of day. The lead in time to the release of a book or a TV show can be so long that by the time it arrives you might have forgotten even writing the thing, let alone take the time to celebrate it.

It’s not unique to writers, but it happens to us more than most. We are so absorbed by the project we’re currently doing, or the project we might do next, that by the time the project we did way back in 2018 finally sees the light of day we’ve moved on. Who cares about that? That was last year – wait until you see what I’m writing NOW!

It doesn’t help that writers are often backwards in coming forwards. Not all of us crave the limelight or want to chat about our achievements no matter how remarkable they may be. We very often like to let the work speak for itself rather than speak for the work. I’m not saying that’s bad, far from it, but it does mean that when something great happens to us we are often reticent to take a moment to celebrate or even reflect on it properly for fear of seeming conceited or boastful.

I’m not advocating shouting from the rooftops every time something happens, but I am saying that in our rush to seem self-effacing, or simply to get on with the next thing, we shouldn’t forget to take the time smell the flowers. To take a break. To mark an occasion in our own way and reflect on the achievement of getting something done.

I was forced into this place last week. I was invited to speak at Bafta to mark the release of the new series of Mr Bean. Now I’ve written over 800 episodes of TV -  40 odd episodes of Mr Bean. When you work at that rate it’s hard to keep track of when your work finally makes it to the screen. The Bafta screening gave me the chance to take a moment, to sit and watch a couple of episodes with an audience without worrying about the work I wasn’t doing, and to enjoy the effect my stories had on them. It was rare, but it was invigorating and empowering.

This bank holiday weekend I urge you all to take a moment to smell the flowers. Rather than being concerned with what you haven’t done or are yet to do, take a moment to mark all the great things you’ve done already.

1 comment:

Penny Dolan said...

Wise advice, Ciaran,

The work you've done in the past and the work now do exist in such different time zones.

I am very impressed by the sheer quantity of your scripts! (As well as the quality, I'm sure.) And congratulations for the honour of that talk at BAFTA.