The Blurb Offence

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with The Daily Post

Disclaimer: Things written in the heat of the moment may unintentionally cause offence to the reader. In such cases the reaction may range from minor irritation to shock and severe disapproval. If read on an empty stomach, possible side effects include a scarlet face, foot tapping and finger drumming. To minimise any lasting damage, please take with a pinch of salt.  Contact the author immediately if symptoms persist. 

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I’m not one to get hot under the collar, not even when I’m wearing one, but today’s Daily Prompt managed to get me there. I felt skin prickle uncomfortably and fingers itching to have their say. Admittedly, the fact that I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a while and things are stalling on all fronts did not help, but still. Here it is:

“Write the blurb for the book jacket of the book you’d write, if only you had the time and inclination.” Daily Prompt: BYOB(ookworm)

After reading and re-reading it several times, I had to consider the following options.

  1. Get upset and do nothing. Since smiling is infectious, I can’t be sure that the opposite is not. Do I really want to risk being ground zero for a writer-fueled rage-binge on WordPress?
  2. Assume that Michelle W’s choice of phrase “if only you had the time and inclination” is indicative of a broader problem and attempt to address it (at least in part) by writing an article on the subject.
  3. Let it go. Choose to believe that Michelle’s prompt comes with a wink to those ‘in the know’; something along the lines of: “How many times did you hear that one, hey? Watcha-gonna-do…”

So here we are.

Now I hope that you are not staring blankly at this point wondering what on earth could have gotten me irate about this prompt. It’s straightforward enough. What kind of problem could I possibly have with it?

Let me explain.

There is a reason why when a stranger asks what it is that I do, I tend to waiver. More often than not I will say that I’m a postgraduate research student. Why? Well… Because on the few occasions that I was asked and said that I am a writer, I got one of the following reactions:

— Oh, yes. I’d write a book myself if only I had the time, but you know… Got more important things on my plate at the moment.

— It’s nice that you have the time to do it. I’m too swamped with work, kids and everything else to indulge.

— Aha. Everyone’s at it these days. God knows where people find the time.

You see? It’s the daily prompt in a nutshell: anyone would write a novel “if only they had the time and inclination.”

I don’t imagine that people in other professions get that line. Imagine being at a party, the conversation flows as well as the [insert beverage of choice here]. You go to the counter for a refill and can’t help overhearing the following snippet of a conversation:

“So what is it that you do, Gill?”

“Oh. I’m a paediatrician.”

“You know, I’d try my hand at it too, but I just never get the time. Busy-busy-busy,” said no guest ever.

When it comes to most professions, the assumption is that one would require to put in years of work in order to become proficient. When it comes to writing on the other hand…

It is true that writing a novel takes time. I won’t dispute it. Many an hour that could be spent raising children, shopping, doing the housework, meeting up with friends, making money and what have you, will have to be sacrificed if one is to be a writer. 

What I take issue with is the idea that writers have magicked up spare time for themselves in which to do the work, time that others occupy doing things that are far more important. I don’t write because I have time that others lack. It is not an inclination that I choose to indulge. I write because this is my vocation, and I trust that this is the case with all writers.

Do I believe that there is a book in everyone? Absolutely. We are all story-tellers. Can anyone be a writer? Sure. Anyone can be anything they want to be if they have passion and determination, and if they are willing to put in the necessary work and learn the nuts and bolts of it. This is the case with writing as much as it is with anything else.

The art of writing is more than the sum of free time plus inclination  It is the exhilarating ambiguity of a world yet to be created. It is about finding your original voice as a writer. It is the arduous task of plotting and characterisation, learning the art of description and dialogue, building the story scene by scene until at last the first draft is ready. It is a matter of constantly working at improving one’s craft so that the words we sent into the world may not ring false or empty. 

Writing is fun – yes – but it is also a lot of hard work. We write, rewrite, revise and then rewrite some more. In the words of Kingsley Amis: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of one’s trousers to the seat of one’s chair.”

I’ve said my peace.

There was of course a fourth option in reply to the Daily Prompt. That is, I could have simply added my blurb and be done with it. Alright then. Glove taken.

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FINDING SWIFT

September 7th 2011. Jane Swift wakes up to a shocking reality: she has no memory of who she is, where she is, or what brought her there. He was her only visitor, this man who brought her to the hospital after her collapse, yet Jane cannot shake off the feeling that Cedric Stewart is hiding something from her. And then there is Gray… Where do you start when you’ve lost your past?

Armed with an iPhone and little else, Jane begins her journey into the unknown. The more she delves into her past life, the less sure she is whether it’s worth burrowing further.

She feels haunted by the life of a woman she is getting to know, but not like. 

Should she allow her past to dictate her future?

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