Friday, 27 July 2018

Doom, Gloom and Choices.

Rain over the Loch by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2018.

Here in Wirral, we've been basking under a fierce summer. England's seen high temperatures in the past, of course, and the news is full of excitable fluff about today possibly becoming the hottest day on record - remembering that British weather records date back to 1659 in the form of diaries kept by amateurs, which are now known as the Central England Temperature series. The method of recording the weather only became more standardised in 1914, however, and so it's from this more recent date that the Met Office measures its statistics.


 
Life drawing by Adele Cosgrove-Bray.
Prattling about sunshine gives the media something to talk about other than the looming disaster of Brexit. As the countdown to the current government's B-Day (pun intended) looms ever closer, they're still batting ideas around in increasingly desperate attempts to sort out the mess their own party colleagues, and their far right buddies, helped to create.

Maybe not enough people took the proposed split from Europe seriously, trusting that no-one would be daft enough to vote in favour of the culturally retrogressive, financially self-mutilating, and xenophobic myth of Little Britain, All Alone in the Night. Oh wait, wasn't that last bit from the intro of Babylon 5...?

Fun was had when the drawing group I attend couldn't use its usual room due to a community event. Instead, we were invited to draw inside Christ Church, and our model was to be the vicar! Allan volunteered several poses, and even stood as if preaching from the heavily carved, towering lectern which, he said, he rarely uses during services as it feels too grandiose.

Allan Goode of Christ Church, Oxton.
I've just finished reading Girl, Balancing & Other Stories, a collection of previously unpublished writing by the late Helen Dunmore, whose books I've blogged about several times. It's a admirable testament to her skills as a story-teller, and comes in a week when I've seen several social media posts by other writers who are on the point of stopping writing due to poor sales.

Historically, unless a person had independent wealth or a partner who was willing and able to pay most of the household bills, it has been usual for mid-list writers to have a conventional job in addition to their writing career.

Some years ago, I was genuinely surprised to discover that a writer whose work I'd admired for over a decade still worked as a postman as this, he told me, is what paid the bills. Now there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a postman, or with holding down any other kind of constructive employment, yet this myth of writers penning a few books then living solely off the fat of their ink still prevails to the extent that when a person is faced with the reality behind the myth, they believe they've failed.

Lighthouse at the Point of Ayr by Adele Cosgrove-Bray;
watercolour; 2018
Writers across the world have experienced a steady decline in book sales. There is so much free reading available online, including free books by the thousands just waiting to be downloaded. People buy less new paperbacks and browse free social media instead. The market for second-hand books, such as via eBay or Amazon, is of no help as the author earns nothing from these sales.

Compounding this issue is the shrinking variety of high street book shops. Here in Britain, we have Waterstones and WH Smith, and little else. Independent bookshops are teetering on extinction, and so unless an author already has a big name, like Stephen King or Laurell K Hamilton for example, it can be difficult for a reader browsing for something new to find their way to a relative unknown. Online there is a much wider market, of course, but there a 'small' name is like a bit a straw in a planet-sized haystack.

But who said success was easy? Nobody has to write. No-one is forced to patter away on a keyboard for hours on end, month-in, month-out till a year or so ticks by and another book's done. To write is a choice. To stop writing is a choice. To write only when you feel like it...well, it will take a month of Sundays several times over to get the MS finished, but again, it's a choice.

If you fail to keep going out of a fear of failure, then a self-fulfilling prophesy has been created.

And you could always do something else. Paint, for example...

What does success mean to you?

 
Would success mean more money, a bigger house, a better job, fame? Would it mean improved health, a longer life - an immortal life? Does success to you mean having good friends, being able to tour the world, try new things? Does success mean paying bills as they arrive and having enough food in the cupboards?
 
If you imagine yourself as being more successful than you currently are, what form(s) would it take?
 

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