Writing about writing is all well and good, but it doesn’t beat just writing. So a few weeks ago I entered a flash fiction competition run by Faber, called “quickfic”. It’s just a bit of fun – 250 words to be written and submitted in a few hours, based on a photo prompt, hence “quick fiction”. And I came second! Which won me a lovely book of short stories.
Shuffle closer, dear reader, and prepare to benefit from the wisdom of my experience.
We all understand experience, don’t we? Experience is the product of what you’ve done in your past. Paths trodden, people met, hurdles leapt and trials passed. But wait! Experience is also the now. You can buy an experience to experience today!
It all started with Google. Almost inevitably it took an American company to really bring the idea of employee values to the mass market. “Don’t be evil”, they said. Whatever you think about the nefarious tax avoidance Google indulges in, it was at least a clear message to people working there. They’re thinking of changing it now, apparently. So just as the market leaders move out of the space, British companies are stepping in.
Someone has stolen the English language and I think we should ask for it back.
Fear not, this isn’t some pseudo-Faragian rant about how it’s every man’s right to use abusive language towards women without some hysterical harpy leaping up and burning her bra. Or indeed a paean to the good old days when casual racism was treated with the levity it deserves. No, it’s much more serious than that. It’s about what companies are doing to English and how they must be stopped.
Two things to tell you. One, I’m writing a book (you might know this already). Two, I suffer from depression. As things stand right now, managing the first is harder than the second. I’ve toyed with the idea of discussing depression on this blog for a long time, but it was difficult for all kinds of reasons. Primarily, I was embarrassed. No matter how many times you’re told that “you wouldn’t be ashamed of breaking your leg”, there’s a stigma around mental health which doesn’t exist for most other illnesses or injuries (unless you get a hoover stuck up your arse, or similar).
So, rather than give you a long explanation of what happened to me, I thought I’d share a very short extract from my book (likely publication date – never). Most of the novel is entirely fictional, but because it addresses a main character with depression, I’ve obviously drawn on some of my experiences.
In January I started a course with Faber & Faber on writing a novel. My application consisted of 1000 words of a book I’ve been working on for years. It wasn’t really going anywhere until I had something of a revelation and changed my approach. The “new” story apparently had enough about it and I was accepted.
Ed Miliband was on Desert Island Discs this week, which prompted the usual deconstruction of his choices as either a) proof he’s boring, b) proof he’s “a normal person”, or c) proof he let advisors choose for him. What’s striking about the show is that for decades, it’s demonstrated that music can reveal something about a person that words alone never can. It’s interesting that you’re allowed one book on the island and eight records. I can’t see the programme working if the numbers were reversed. Even the very best of other people’s words don’t convey as much about an individual as music does.
So, apropos of Ed choosing his favourites, I thought I’d do mine. Continue reading