Friday, 5 July 2013

Writing - Are all writers weird?

I watched a film about Edgar Alan Poe the other night and he came across as 'weird' and that got me to thinking about writers and why they come across as a bit strange. I'm not just thinking about the plethora of methods, compulsions and superstitions they employ when about to write - there are a couple of examples below.

CS Lewis

 CS Lewis's approach to writing was to micro-manage worse than any overweight, middle-aged, desperately unhappy sadist you've ever endured in a menial office job anywhere. Writing, walking, eating and socialising was planned in advance down to the exact hour every day - right down to when the first pint of beer should be enjoyed. 

Philip Pullman 
A bit like that other great children's writer, Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman writes all his books in a specially-designed shed. It includes a desk decorated with an old klim rug and an expensive orthopedic chair for his back. The difference is that Pullman is highly superstitious - he will only write in ballpoint on lined A4 paper that has two holes in it (not four) and refused to tidy up until the book he is working on is finished.

No I'm talking about the world's impression that writer's are a sandwich short of a full picnic, not the full shilling, as mad as a box of frogs and so on. In fact it's quite a dangerous activity linked closely with depression and suicide. Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway killed themselves and many other writers died in strange circumstances E A Poe for one. He was found delirious on Baltimore Street wearing clothes that weren't his and died a few days later in hospital.

W S Gilbert (1836 - 1911)

One of my favourite writers, who is more famous as being a librettist, was WS Gilbert of the Gilbert & Sullivan partnership. I find his words truly years ahead of their time but he, like many of us was 'difficult' to get on with. He was notoriously thin skinned - sensitive - and described as 'quick tempered, gruff and disagreeable'. He was also renowned for acts of great kindness. 
In his writing he often turned social order on its head and played around with ideas which his partner Arthur Sullivan found difficult to work with and subsequently ended the collaboration.
He died in the lake at his home Grim's Dyke, while trying to save a young woman who had fallen into the water. He'd suffered a heart attack.
I re-print a section of his poem 'Gentle Alice Brown' as an example of his clever wit. 

The poem is quite long but the section below gives a flavour of the wicked wit of the man. Alice is described as the daughter of a robber.

The worthy pastor heaved a sigh, and dropped a silent tear--
And said, "You mustn't judge yourself too heavily, my dear--
It's wrong to murder babies, little corals for to fleece;
But sins like these one expiates at half-a-crown apiece.
"Girls will be girls--you're very young, and flighty in your mind;
Old heads upon young shoulders we must not expect to find:
We mustn't be too hard upon these little girlish tricks--
Let's see--five crimes at half-a-crown--exactly twelve-and-six."
"Oh, father," little Alice cried, "your kindness makes me weep,
You do these little things for me so singularly cheap--
Your thoughtful liberality I never can forget;
But O there is another crime I haven't mentioned yet!
"A pleasant-looking gentleman, with pretty purple eyes,
I've noticed at my window, as I've sat a-catching flies;
He passes by it every day as certain as can be--
I blush to say I've winked at him and he has winked at me!"

I think that I've answered my own initial question. If you have been infected with the Author Virus (range A to G) then you will be a thinker about life then in your more manic moments will take that view of life and cut it up like a jigsaw. Then you will throw away the 'box lid' and try to put it all back together again trimming the pieces with your little scissors until you have created a new view. The bits and pieces left over you will cobble together in a poem!

Weird or what?

God Bless