I’m not much of a night-owl when I’m in company. While other musicians head for the late-night jam, I head for bed. I’m the guy asleep in the corner of the sofa at parties.
So it’s strange, perhaps, that I love the night. Yet I do.
As darkness falls, the visual world is stripped of its third dimension. A stand of eucalypts becomes a flat silhouette in black paper. Is that pinprick of light a few feet away, or half a mile?
Conversely, sound gains depth as the white noise of daytime fades. The dog barking to its fellows over at the next farmhouse; the insistent chirp of crickets in the brush; the squeal of tyres as bored teenagers run the gauntlet out on the highway. Noises that tell of goings-on beyond my vision and my knowing.
I’m not a person to rush into new things, but I’m easily led into them by more intrepid souls.
It was the beginning of the Nineties, and I was already in my late twenties, when my friend Nikki introduced me to music festivals. I was a shy young editor: a single, bookish, southern English fish-out-of-water in northern, family-oriented, no-nonsense Wigan.
Her programme of education for me was eclectic, including the Llangollen Jazz Festival and the London Fleadh in Finsbury Park.
We drove down to London in her battered old car, parked in one of the terrace-lined side streets and joined the stream of pedestrians heading in the direction of the music.
The Fleadh was a beery, cheery, Irish-dominated revelation. A tide of happy people washed from one musical experience to another, surging to the beat of the music, breaking on the shores of the front-of-stage barriers, eddying around the beer tent. It was a day of being carefree, gregarious, entranced by music and humanity. One glorious, euphoric day!
As I mentioned in last week’s post, ‘An Odd Sort of a Job’, I write fiction as part of my work as an educational writer. It’s mostly basic stuff: little stories and dialogues, as a vehicle for teaching English or German.
It follows that I’m not inhibited about sharing my creative writing or getting short imaginative pieces published. Still, writing a novel, a novella or even a substantial short story is, as they say, a different kettle of fish.
Over the years, I’ve had a few goes at writing a novel, and I don’t think any of them have got past a single chapter. Probably just as well: they would have been desperately dull.
You see, I was following the standard advice about planning a novel. You’ve read the kind of thing:
First, decide what story you want to tell. Next, envisage your reader … Write a short synopsis / cover blurb … List your major and minor characters … Do background research … Structure your story … Write a chapter plan … etc etc etc
That might work for some writers, but it sure as hell wasn’t working for me.
Here’s my alternative recipe. It seems to be working out (early days!) – maybe you’ll find it helpful too?
Often when I write an answer on Quora, it’s out of irritation. I’m a sucker for a trollish question. Usually, I end up wondering ‘Why, Steve? Why??’ as my impassioned answer languishes in a dusty corner of Quora with 0 upvotes.
More rarely, Quora can be a lot of fun. Just often enough to keep me hooked.
Thus I enjoyed answering ‘By describing it badly, what is your job?’ a while back:
One family member I was close to, particularly as a troubled teenager (is there any other kind?) was my paternal grandmother, Elsie May Williams, née Bent, known to me as Nan.
Elsie was an interesting, intelligent woman. She had led a somewhat colourful life in interwar London. She often used to tell me of her exploits with my grandfather Percy, whom I never got to meet, as he died of cancer in the late 1950s.
Percy was a solicitor’s clerk, a short, dapper, dark-haired, barrel-chested man and well … a very naughty boy, to put the most favourable slant on it.
It has been another busy couple of months for me on Medium. I’m continuing to learn a lot, engaging with other writers, exploring links with publications and pushing my creative writing in different directions. Here’s a little glimpse of what I’ve been up to.
Music has been a big part of my life for the last six years. It has been a wild and bumpy ride – and not just for me.
I’ve never been a particularly family-oriented person. Don’t get me wrong: I love my family and think of them affectionately. However, I was taught to be independent and self-reliant as a child, and well, I took the lesson to heart.
Dad later apologised to my newly-wed wife for that. The seed of independence was sown in fertile ground, Dad. Don’t give yourself too much credit.
So … it was a bit of a surprise to everyone, including myself, when I embarked on extensive family research on Ancestry several years ago. Probably Dad’s sudden death in 2012 prompted it. I realised that my family, particularly its senior members, wasn’t going to be around for ever, and that there was a lot that I wanted to know.
Writing for fun may seem a ‘busman’s holiday’ for a professional writer. In fact, I’m finding it refreshing – and educational. Which may be ironic, as I’m an educational writer.
In my ‘day job’, I write English coursebooks for 14–19-year-old Austrians and Germans. These are bright kids, interested in the world, and creating content for them gives me occasional scope for literary self-expression. More often it allows me to explore ideas in an essayistic (if that’s even a word) or journalistic manner.