Thursday, 15 March 2012

Writing and the modern media, by Jan Needle




Sitting at my keyboard, or terminal as we call it nowadays, I look at my watch (or little panel at the bottom of my screen, as we et cetera et cetera) and realise I’ve done nothing at all in two hours, maybe longer, except twiddle and fiddle and piddle about in the name of being up with the times. I’ve looked at Facebook, I’ve even posted something on my ‘wall,’ I’ve wondered as so often before why it didn’t behave exactly as I expected it to,  and why a link I typed in (inputted?) did not appear as it should have done. I—

Oh! New technology strikes again. My mobile phone, lying in front of me before the screen, has just given a couple of sickly buzzes. Why sickly? I set it up only yesterday to be loud and brash and insistent. Apparently it’s changed my mind for me – I deserve only a sickly buzz, and it’s just lucky it was lying in the open and not stashed in a pocket and inaudible. The message is interesting, and requires an answer. Unfortunately, the caller is ‘unnamed,’ for some unfathomable reason – but there is a phone number. Not one I recognise, so now what? Click and scroll and tap and curse my way through my in-phone-phone-book (or Contacts) at bills itself? And fail to remember it when I find the one, and have to scroll back and lose it and start all over again? No – it was only moderately interesting, on reflection. Sorreee…

Where was I? Oh that’s right, clicking and clacking away at the plastic button that the paint’s worn off of, thank God I’m a touch typist. (In the old days I had shorthand too, with my certificate for a hundred words a minute Pitman’s charmingly made out to Miss Jan Needle, oh those dear, dead sexist days!). Clicking and clacking away and wondering about Facebook, and why it keeps changing, and why my ‘wall’ or ‘newsfeed’ or whatever the hell it’s called has nothing on it now but a myriad rude notices about right-wing American politicians, some of which are bizarrely so interesting I waste yet more wodges of precious minutes reading them, and even replying, sometimes, to people three thousand miles away I’ll never meet or speak to in real life but who are, wait for it – my friends!

Earlier, it occurs to me, I did half an hour (why lie – it was nearer fifty minutes) looking at Twitter. Did you know that Charlie Farnsbarns had a boiled egg this morning but the dog ate his homework, or something, maybe? Did you want to know? Did you need to know? Were the people who persuaded me that Twitter is a vital promotional tool for an author 1, sensible, 2, bonkers, or 3, jealous rivals who want me to spend so much time on Twitter I never have time to write another book? Answers on an electronic postcard, please.

Dook is the one in the middle
Why half an hour (any advance on fifty minutes?) in the first place? Because, I’m told, that’s the minimum one should twitter in a day for people to register you and rush out and buy your books. What books? The ones I haven’t got round to writing yet? It’s now midday plus ten, and I switched on my machine (a Hewlett Packard, since you ask, and I used to have a Sony Vaio, if that’s how you spell it, it’s awful funny writing, not as good as Eric Gill sans trousers or whatever the dirty old fellow called it but my children tell me if I haven’t got a Mac I might as well give up and they’re unimpressed by the fact I got ny PC for fifty quid and theirs cost oodles of (my) money. Why should they be? I said my money. Ho bloody ho.) And now it’s twelve sixteen. Another six minutes I could have been tweeting. 12.17. Oo ’eck, I’ll never be a millionaire. 12.18.

The point is, I’m really very busy. I’m working on a manuscript which is long, and complex, and needs total concentration, and dedication, and all that old fashioned sort of stuff. Oh, the dog’s just barked outside near the barn. It’s a Great Dane called Duke (locally pronounced Dook) and it’s just been bought a friend called Pip, which is a Welsh collie (so I’m told; is there such a thing?). We took Pip out for a walk yesterday with granddaughter Izzy and grandson Fin (why does granddaughter get two ‘d’s but grandson only one? Blatant sexism.) and after we’d played near the stream for a while, I suggested letting Pip off her lead. There were no sheep around, and she’s very small, and I couldn’t see the harm. Izzy looked at me with scorn, and forbade it. ‘Why?’ said I. ‘She’d booger off,’ said Izz. This wasn’t wasting time, you see. This was gathering material for a children’s book.Except that most of Izzy’s language is a bit unsuitable for a children's book, if truth be told.

It’s 12.31. I expect there’s bread and cheese downstairs somewhere. Anyway I ought to do some tunes, or scales at least, on my mandola. Perhaps it’s not just all these modern bits of technical fripperie that stop a writer writing. Perhaps I’m just an idle toad.

But the truth remains, I find twiddling and twaddling so much more attractive than it used to be in the old days. Cleaning a typewriter was so much more boring, wasn’t it? Bring back the birch, I say!

On the other hand, clicking buttons is easy. Click on a few of these and make me rich. My children probably need a new computer. Dook eats more dog food in a day than I eat in a month. And that's the truth.

Kicking Off:

Killing Time at Catterick:


Albeson and the Germans:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0078W057G

LATE NEWSFLASH  late newsflash  LATE NEWSFLASH  late newsflash
Just read in the Guardian that Andrew Motion’s nicked my title. He's publishing a book called Silver: Return to Treasure Island tomorrow. My book, Return to Treasure Island – Silver and Blood, is about to go up as an ebook. Mine will only cost 99p and was started - and titled - well over four years ago. I wonder who'll get the most reviews....
 



19 comments:

JO said...

Great post - surely all of us can identify with this?

Kathleen Jones said...

Very funny Jan - It's my life exactly!

Jenny Alexander said...

Brilliant! I started tweeting and blogging last year as a career move but I completely love it. Only problem is, it fills up so much time, I feel continuously busy. This new writing life is an embarrassment of riches, for me.

Dan Holloway said...

This is pant-wettingly funny!

julia jones said...

Boooger Andrew Motion. I like him because he once re-created Keats's journey to Italy in a grand old Lowestoft sailing trawler called the Excelsior and wrote very honestly of his excruciating boredom when they were becalmed in the Bay of Biscay (no engine) but if I were going for blood and guts piracy it'd be Needle every time.
Might be forced to read his story (for research you understand) but SWEAR I will also read yours if you get on and get it up-loaded. (Just ask Matti)

Jan Needle said...

normally when i'm sailing i wet my pants, dan (or should i say, get them wet?), but as you can see from the pic of me in my fifteen-footer william shakesbill (yes, shakesbill - another son named her for me when he knew no better, saying 'that bloke what wrote plays in the olden days')i'm snoozing along in a more or less flat calm in tremadoc bay off the llyn peninsula. (llyn means picture; you can see why they called it that). as to andrew motion's book, i shall read it with great interest, obviously, but sequels always strike me as a wee bit odd. my silver and blood is a complete reimagining of the great, great, great original, and the pirates use high-speed launches and AK47's. i hope i've made as good a job of it as julia's made with arthur ransome's classics.
ps i did ask matti, and the work's been complete for some time. his cover's fabulous and it'll be up as soon as amazon extract their digit.

Susan Price said...

Wow, your updating of Stephenson (of whom I'm another great fan)sounds wonderful!

julia jones said...

want it want it

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Jan

Hilarious post - it could be me, most mornings!

Oh as a homesick Welsh exile, could I respectfully corect you on an item in your comment above though, Llyn actually means lake - 'llun' is picture, although I agree it makes a beautiful picture!

Jan Needle said...

bore da, hywela, a diolch yn fawr. i actually checked in my geiriadur bach and realised my mistake - but i couldn't be bothered to correct it, being an idle mochyn sais! it's a long-standing mistake of mine, and came from a welshman in abersoch from whom i bought some mooring ground tackle years ago. he said it meant picture, but perhaps he was just being nice, and it was a lovely day which he clearly wanted me to enjoy. but other native speaker friends of mine, who live in llanbedrog, don't think the peninsula name refers to lakes, they just think it's a name. it's surrouded by water, yes, but pretty short on lakes, you must admit. that's the great thing about ancient languages, innit? even those who speak them from birth can still argue! in my case, tho, i was simply wrong. the word for picture is llun, as you say. thanks again.

Dennis Hamley said...

Fantastic and instantly recognisable post, Jan. I read Motion's piece in the Guardian. What he said about TI struck me as being pretty good, but it also reminded me that I've done nothing about TI v Moonfleet. I will, I will, just as soon as I've finished ...

As for sequels, nobody's mentioned Bob Leeson's Silver's Revenge, published in the 80s. Great book. Should be reissued. Bob must be sitting in his house in Broxbourne seething with rage. Then yours and his could appear together with the combined title THESE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ANDREW MOTION.

When are you going to epublish Wild Wood? Best Wind/Willows sequel of them all. Beats Horwood any day. Great piece of social history too. I still treasure Boddington.

CallyPhillips said...

Been so busy twit/blog/fbooking and generally clicking around that I've come over late to this post. LOVE DOOK..... I wanted a Great Dane but house not big enough. Damn. Does one GD = 2x GSP's?
As re the update TI... get me a copy you muppet so I can review it for the site! THEN we'll take Andrew Motion to the cleaners on reviews...

Jan Needle said...

to dennis: not only bob leeson's silver's revenge - emma tennant also did a return to treasure island, if i remember right. but for me, in both of them, john silver was the problem. that's why you're wrong over moonfleet, see? john silver is so massive, so mysterious, so delightful and so vile that to take him on in a sequel is like climbing everest in gucci loafers (whatever they might be!)- he's insurmountable. in more general terms, what's with a sequel anyway? stevenson was abandoned as a baby in a paper bag by a drunken nanny, wasn't he? who else can understand john silver? what more do you want?

to cally: poor dook's so old now (in great dane terms) that he wouldn't survive the journey to scotland. he hardly survives a trip down stairs, his legs are so long and his co-ordination so shot. izzy and fin have a wild, rambunctious tomcat called gavin (they ARE children)as well as dook and pip, and the three of them together are wonderful. they use him as a sofa and his dewlaps as a place to hide under. three disparate creatures, comforably in love.
as to silver and blood - yes, i'll sort it out. thanks.

Jan Needle said...

it's the animals who use dook as a sofa, not the kids. and why do i keep dropping 't's out of my posts, i'm meant to be a touch typist. and wild wood in NOT a sequel, dennis. but an ebook version might be a good plan. i wonder who owns the picture rights now poor old willie's welcomed humph into the mornington crescent in the sky?

Enid Richemont said...

You live on DOGFOOD, Dan? Is this economising or what? Cuts out the cooking hssle, though, so you've more time to write.

Dennis Hamley said...

Jan, I distinctly remember a letter you wrote, probably to the Guardian, somewhere about the time that William Horwood's sequel was published pointing out that you'd written a sequela as well but nobody took any notice of it. I nearly wrote a letter myself saying that I'd taken a lot of notice of it and still do. So there.

Jan Needle said...

i can only hope you're wrong, dennis. you've read the book - snot a sequel, is it? you just hate me now because i've exposed you as an apologist for moonfleet!

dogfood point. if it's addressed to jan, not dan, i can only say it's 'ard oop north, enid. sometimes, if dogfood's short, we as to eat the dog. dook is already getting nervous...

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I dramatised Treasure Island for Radio 4! Think it's still available on a CD, or at least I get a small sum of money for it every year. I'll definitely buy yours. Love Stevenson. Lovely, funny post - with which I completely identify!

Jan Needle said...

thanks for all the comments. silver and blood has been up on amazon for a few days now, thanks to my son matti gardner. it's 99p and it's
http://amzn.to/wYlt7I