Books are sexy. Books are cheap. Books are a love affair that lasts a lifetime. These are just some of the reasons while every other shop in town was empty today, the book store Waterstones was heaving. When you decide to go for it with your writing and take that financial hit, you're prepared to give up a lot (time, sleep, haircuts, holidays, clothes, eating out - all the normal things you take for granted when you have two responsible grown ups bringing home the bacon). If you're juggling family with earning a living and writing you have to give up other stuff (as Joanne Harris said you learn to live with dust). The people you love also give up a lot - perhaps as Isabel Allende wrote 'writers are hard to live with', (I officially 'owe' the pilot a lightweight Land Rover ...) But the one thing I haven't given up is buying books.
Every time I've wobbled over the last year and thought (especially with two small children depending on us), I should have stuck with a 'proper' career, taken that job in Dubai setting up the auction house, I remember careers day back at school. They were encouraging all the girls to become engineers - my eyes were glazing over rapidly - then Wendy Cope stepped onto the stage. It was an epiphany. She was vibrant, smart, funny - her poetry was accessible but moving and well observed. Unlike all the engineers they had rolled out to talk to us, she looked like she loved her work.
To write and be paid well for it is the Holy Grail. DJ Taylor is quoted in the 'Writer's Handbook': 'It tends to be forgotten ... that Johnson wrote Rasselas to defray the expenses of his mother's funeral or that Dumas's terse, interrogative dialogue was the result of being paid so many centimes a line. If there is a single factor linking Joyce, Woolf and Conrad it is that they all at one time or another in the literary career submitted work to Titbits'. Even Dostoyevsky finally started writing only once the baliffs were at the door. Everybody starts somewhere.
The summer before university, one of my temp contracts was working at a paper mill. I spent a week in payroll with a chain-smoking Harley riding Hells Angel (she kept her lunchtime cider under her desk), before being spirited upstairs to be PA to the MD for the rest of the contract. It was probably more entertaining in payroll, but at least I saw the paper being manufactured - it was like going through the round window in Playschool, huge rolls of virgin white paper whizzing round, machines the size of houses. As a leaving gift the MD gave me as much paper as I could carry, (even then I was scribbling during lunch breaks). The scribbles were mostly rubbish no doubt - but the first story I ever sold was typed on that paper.
Maybe you're like me - I not only love writing, but I love books, paper, pens, the swoosh of ink when the words are flowing well. If you see a blank sheet of paper (let alone vast whirling reams of the stuff), don't you just want to write on it? A love of books, of words, is a love that will last a lifetime. From all the comments yesterday, everyone is feeling a bit humbugish about Valentine's Day so today why don't we celebrate true love? Single, married, partnered up - every one of us can enjoy curling up tonight by the fire or in bed with something satisfying that makes us think, laugh, cry or escape ... a relationship with a book is one of life's simple pleasures. And hey, if it doesn't work out, there's always the next one on the stack waiting to be read.
TODAY'S PROMPT: I love books because ...
- they are the great escape
- they are always there when you need them
- they last for days, weeks, and often when you get back together years later they're just as much fun as you remember
- they go where you go - and take you places you've never (or always) dreamt of
- they are a great date - better value than the cinema or eating out
- they are the only thing you can consume in quantity and not feel guilty
- ... (what else can you come up with?) x