What part does personality play in writing?

There are so many facets to the question I’m posing myself that I can’t even begin to pretend that I could answer them all, or even that I’d want to, but at the moment I can’t stop thinking of the ways your personality affects your career rather than your writing itself.

I know a lot of writers and artists who have massive personalities – some of these I like better than others but you can’t deny that a lot of them grab attention. I’m not the shyest person in the world or anything, but I certainly don’t have one of those larger than life personalities and I can’t help wondering if that’s going to end up being to my detriment when it comes to writing.

You need to shout your corner at some point and without at least a little self promotion you can be pretty assured no one is ever going to get around to reading your stuff, but it doesn’t come easy for plenty of people. I just hope those aren’t the same people that don’t see their work in print in the end! I guess that’s what makes an agent vital for many writers, thing is you still have to sell yourself to an agent at the outset. Maybe I need lessons in creating an alter ego, one with plenty of moxy!

What edits looks like

a manuscriptI moaned about people blogging/imposing rules/setting deadlines on their writing goals the last time I posted. Sour grapes maybe? I don’t know. But I figured that seeing as I can’t beat them and I can’t join them I’d appropriate some kind of halfway house.

No deadlines for me, no rules, instead a picture of the wip in it’s current state. Right now I’m editing. This may take some time. On the plus side, I’ve not spent 24 whole hours away from the red pen in the two and a half weeks since I let myself pick it up again. Maybe I’ll end up with one grawing out of my fingers. That might be kind of sweet actually…

Sign language deserves status shift

As someone that plies words as her trade, I’m forever disappointed that I’ve never managed to properly pick up another language (a big sorry to my high school French teacher for that one, she tried). But if I were to try and learn a new language these days I’ve often thought to myself that sign language would be the one I’d be most interested in.

While I’m all about acquiring new words, there’s something so alluring about a language that is motion based and couldn’t be more different from static text on a page. So I was really interested to see that today the beeb reported that Prof Graham Turner of Heriot-Watt uni is preparing to argue that sign language in Scotland is indigenous and developed naturally. He thinks the language should be awarded a minority status as one of the country’s lesser used languages.

So much of human communication is non-verbal that I find signing especially fascinating and I wonder how often people unfamiliar with the language unwittingly find themselves replicating accepted expressions as they try to get their point across. I hope that if anyone ever catches me doing so, I’m not saying anything too offensive!

Is addiction a matter of choice?

Gene Heyman, a lecturer in psychology at Harvard Medical School, seems to think so. His new book Addiction: A Disorder of Choice argues that addiction isn’t the untameable sea that sucks unsuspecting individuals under; instead he proclaims that it’s a matter of personal choice

Addiction can be horrific thing, and you’d hate to say that a junkie almost destroyed by the lure of heroin or the like is simply making a personal choice. But by the same token, if addiction is a disease, how can some former addicts live clean and productive lives?

While his argument is interesting, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being seduced by it. Surely, as with many things, there is a turning point when an addiction becomes something more than flirting with disaster – maybe at that point it can be assumed to transmute into something more like the ‘disease’ tenant supported by the psychology community for all these years.

I gave up smoking last year, aside from that I think I’ve been pretty lucky as far as addictions go and I have to say that I’ve probably spent an equal amount of time feeling sorry for people with more serious addictive habits, and being frustrated with them. True some people are more susceptible to certain problems than others, whether this is due to a personality flaw, bad genes or bad personal choices could essentially boil down to the same basic problem couldn’t it?

Ambulance blocker sentenced

Sometimes people do stupid, awful things that make me want to roll my eyes. Other times they do stupid, awful things that make me want to smash them in the faces – even though I’ve not properly hit someone since I was around 7.

A 20 year old girl from Leicester was in the papers today as she was sentenced to five months in prison for blocking an ambulance. Don’t spare a second considering whether this could be overly harsh justice – according to reports the idiot laughed and made obscene gestures at the drivers. Meaning she was entirely aware of the gravity of the situation and chose to disregard the fact the siren was going.

The elderly patient in the ambulance subsequently died, although it seems not directly due to her actions. Nonetheless, this is even more depressing than the fact that bloody half of us apparently don’t know where our hearts are. Maybe that’s how this despicable child was able to behave so heartlessly?

I don’t know why I bother trying to make stuff up sometimes, when people are so ready to behave like the kind of characters I’d be ashamed to write.

Richard and Judy’s book group to return without them

Where would we be without the Richard and Judy book club here in the UK? While I scoffed at them in the beginning (ok, I still do) it has to be said that some of the books they’ve chosen over the years were wonderful and deserving of the attention – The Time Travellers’ Wife being one of my favourites.

Anyway, the two suddenly became hugely influential figures in the book world with the power to shoot a relatively unknown author to stardom and extensive sales. And so their reign continued gathering new subjects all the while, until they moved to digital channel Watch and found themselves dropped for dwindling viewing figures.

Now it looks like the book club is set to make a resurgence, however it will come sans the duo. Instead, the new Cactus TV show for More4 will feature some brand new presenters.

I find the whole thing rather heart-warming (sorry Rich, sorry Judy), as to me it indicates that it’s the format that’s popular. And that means that it’s books that are popular. Hurrah for reading! Who knows what the revamp will hold in store for the book club; a sexified style? A jazzed up culture show? Reading gently with more unthreatening middle classers? It doesn’t really matter to me too much because I won’t watch it anyway. But I absolutely won’t complain that books are getting a viewing on TV, even when I do disagree with some of the selections!

Kanye West: books are rubbish but buy mine anyway

Ok, someone tell me why I bother please? Rapper Kanye West – a self proclaimed ‘proud non-reader’ – has co-written a book. It may only be 52 pages long, most graced with only a few words and some with none at all, but that isn’t the point, the point is that someone published it.

According to Today, West said he put his thoughts in a book because “I get paraphrased and misquoted all the time.” He calls his wisdom “Kanye-isms.” Yuck yuck yuck. And I know the more cynical of you out there will be thinking “shut up and be grateful that the profits from something with an inflated profile like this could be channelled into funding serious literature, or at least good reads.”

But honestly, the man went onto say: “Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed. . . I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph.”

He can take the “childish purity” he claims that his failure to read has bequeathed on Thank You and You’re Welcome and shove it up his pretentious, self righteous ass. The hypocrisy is astounding, I wish I could think of a way to make money out of something while simultaneously rubbishing the whole art form.

Rejection, never bittersweet

So I had another rejection letter this weekend and the best and worst thing about it was the obvious thought that the magazine editor had put into it. Instead of the standard slip of fail, I had a letter with the first two paragraphs saying quite nice things but also helpfully pointing out exactly what it was about the short story that didn’t work for her. There was even a brief handwritten PS with a further suggestion.

This took the sting out of the general disappointment and, even though there was that little voice inside of me churlishly say ‘but you just don’t get it’, made me want to redraft it and see how the story looked her way.

Being told you just don’t cut it it never going to be awesome, but if all editors had the time and patience and general good will as well as obvious dedication to the written word as this one seems to I probably wouldn’t mind being told it quite so much.

Sun Online the biggest UK news site? On dear

ComScore has revealed that the Sun Online is the most popular UK newspaper site. I despair. I don’t even know what to say about this it depresses me so much. Thank goodness the Guardian was in a close second.

The report also said that UK news sites draw large audiences from outwith the UK, as well as lots of domestic readers, which I thought was pretty interesting. I guess I do often read the New York Times and a number of American tech news sites, but I never really thought about how global newspapers have become since the dawn of online news.

Spread the wealth of information (but not in the form of red top drivel like the Sun please)!

Career women told they have less chance of conceiving? Unconceivable

At work I spend a lot of time reading news headlines and checking out some of the stories that pop up in the press. Sometimes I think there can’t be many things more depressing. Quite aside from all the misery that humans are able to subject on each other and propagate in the form of war or persecution, are a whole bunch of other stories that seem designed to fill me with despair.

For example, a new study has apparently revealed to the Mail that being a career woman ‘could harm your chances of having a baby’. Fine then, shall I just stay at home? Maybe find a man to look after me? And all the babies I’ll find it so much easier to have of course.

The research itself is pretty interesting, Professor Elizabeth Cashdan of the University of Utah announced that she’d seen a shift in hormone patterns of women who worked in high powered jobs. This saw oestrogen being replaced by androgens – a group of hormones including testosterone, an occurrence assumed to be down to the levels of stress the work produces.

What bothers me is the way that knee jerk reactions are constantly given precedence in reports like this. It’s the body shape that can seriously affect fertility, and body shapes not only don’t change overnight, but a lot of people are born without the desirable hip-to-waist ratio perfect for mothering weans anyway. Also, they are talking specifically about high powered jobs – who says that to be a successful career woman you have to have a typically stressful job?

It’s headlines like the one found in the Mail that keep forcing a perception of a negative divide of the sexes, rather than the positive one we’re all trying so hard to establish these days.