There are plenty of things to complain about when you’re a writer. Not being shortlisted for the Booker (yet again, damn it!), sales figures that don’t allow the purchase of houses in the south of France or being woken every morning by a full-body massage, which, I’m sorry to admit, has always been my fantasy. The fact that writing is pretty much a 24-hour pursuit can be wearing, especially for my family, as no one gets full attention when the book is rattling around in my brain.
But the compensations are manifold. Going back to bed after my daughter has gone to school, getting to daydream and read books and pretend it’s work, having to think about life and death and love and family and relationships for a living, and even sometimes getting paid for it. I’ve never seen anyone reading one of my books on the tube, but I live in hope. I don’t have a boss. I have an agent and editor you wouldn’t mind being shipwrecked with.
I might go so far as to say, however, that the best thing about being a writer is that even the worst, most gruesome experiences can be filed under “this might be useful someday.” Arguments, horrible journeys (cf, the hilarious bus ride at the end of Lucky Jim), concussion, illness, birth, death — everything provides grist for the mill. Life can even be improved sometimes by the thought that experiencing, observing, making sense of joy and loss and pain is part of the process.
I paid £160 for four theatre tickets last night at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, and have been looking forward to seeing Into The Woods all summer. It was supposed to be sort of an end of summer holiday treat for my daughter. And it poured. Bucketed down. We sat soaked and shivering, wrapped tightly in our clingfilm plastic raincoats (£3) for the better part of ninety minutes (‘so this is what half a pound of mince at Sainsbury’s feels like,’ Sally Gardner muttered), riveted by an absolutely stunning production before they called it off.
And I giggled all the way home. Where else but in London could you sit huddled in a downpour watching some of the world’s most gripping theatre. If nothing from last evening ever proves useful, I’m no writer at all.