Amongst the questions I am most often asked by journalists and small children (along with “Do you like Eastenders, miss?” and “Can I be in a book, miss?” and once “Was you in Les Miserables, miss?”) is the million-dollar “What do you do when you get writer’s block?” To which I smile, and sigh, and say with a “sorry”: “I don’t.”
Maybe it’s because I’ve never had it. Like trying to give up smoking, how could I possibly understand something I’ve never had to go through? But that is kind of the point. I never smoked because I couldn’t afford to, financially, health-wise, or shout-wise (Mrs Nadin snr is forensic in her ability to sniff out a Benson & Hedges). Likewise I have never had writer’s block because I have never been able to afford to.
Writer’s block seems to be a luxury enjoyed or endured only by those who can spend months on end being bankrolled by their partners or parents. Try being a broadcast journalist, or a political writer – when someone asks you for a piece they don’t mean maybe in a few weeks if you can muster up the creative energy, they mean in half an hour.
So you write, even if you know it’s not Faulkner or Hemingway. Even if you know it’s not the best you’ve ever done. Even if you know that if you wrote the same thing tomorrow it might be actually good rather than good enough. That bit is what second drafts are for. And editors.
I write because I love it. I write because I don’t want to do anything else. But I also write because it’s a job, and you don’t not do your job just because you’re having an off day. At least, not if you have council tax to pay. Or a rather splendid sixties coat that is begging you to try it on every time you walk past the window.
I know that’s possibly not helpful. I know it’s a bit ranty and holier than thou. But if you will ask…