The World Divides: N M Browne

The World divides into people who bisect the world into categories and those who don’t. I have always belonged to the former category because I like the melodrama of it.
The world divides into those who love their coffee black and strong and those who don’t. Obviously, there is an implication that the only choice of any merit is that shared by the speaker or why else would they chose such an excessively self-important way of presenting what is nothing more than a mild preference for one food, book, life -style choice over another? Sometimes the divide is more useful as in Hollingdale’s [1]division of children’s critics into book people ( those concerned with literary quality) and children people, ( who prioritise its effect on the child) but in general I recognise my propensity to think this way as a failure, a reminder of the arrogant intellectual certainties of my youth, or worse, the totalitarian mindset of those who are not with us are against us.
   Writers are the worst kind of group to divide up in this way in any case. We can theoretically be divided into planners and non-planners/pantsers but so many of us part plan, part make it up as we go along/read the answer on the back of muesli packets/ get struck by inspiration on the District Line that any explanation of a person’s working method is a blogpost if not a substantial work of fiction in itself.
 I used to think that writers also divided into 'word people' or 'plot people' and, in those simple days, I placed myself firmly in the plot  category. My agent, rather brutally I thought, described me as a story teller and I was rather proud of this no-nonsense, workmanlike moniker. Not for me the angst of balanced sentences, the agony inherent in the pursuit of style, no, I rode my words as a workhorse, galloping through ideas for the glory of story alone. I’m not sure if that ever really characterised what I did, but it fulfilled the useful function of keeping the words flowing and self-doubt at bay.
  Then, a few years ago, I decided that my life and my writing would be improved by poetry. Well, that was my first mistake: my second was trying to write it.
  Change did not happen straight away, but gradually my story workhorse developed ideas above its station: Shrek’s mule has become a head-tossing show pony and I’m left tugging futilely at the reins. It has been a disaster.
  From this I derive two important lessons. First, stick to a metaphor which works for you and don’t change it. Second, if your world divides into the kind of people who like poetry or prose – stick to the prose.
Of course, if you are a writer, you will take no notice because there is no damn divide! There is just the empty page and the endless possibility of the words you have to find to fill it. The world divides into those who love that thought and those that hate it…

[1] Hollindale, Peter, Signs of Childness in Children’s Books (United Kingdom: Thimble Press, 1997)


Griselda Heppel said…
I"m still reeling from the word 'Childness' in Hollindale's book title. Almost as bad as Wellness which has now entered our language, via Alpine spas. I can only deduce that Hollindale is not a word person.
I reckon you underestimate the quality of your writing style - after all, if your agent described you as a storyteller (high praise!), then your words must convey naturally and gracefully the story you're telling, or the reader will bump into them as they go along. Poetry schmoetry, as my daughter would put it. Keep writing the way you do, you're obviously doing it right!
Nicky said…
Thanks! It's actually quite interesting to be made more aware of the words. And in spite of what I suggest, I love the poetry!!

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