More Daisy than Jessica -- Ruth Leigh
When I was a little girl, the answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was always the same. “I’m going to be a writer.” As I’ve written about elsewhere, life got in the way and it’s only now, in my mid-fifties, that I am a proper author, with a book or two what I wrote.
Sitting at my laptop, with all the time in the world, the words didn’t flow. Not even a bit. I wrote several paragraphs then edited them heavily, sighing as I did so. Where had my creative spark gone? Why wasn’t I racing along, creating characters and writing scenes like a good ‘un?
Reading other AE blogs, it seems I’m not alone. Maybe it’s something to do with January, traditionally a long and dreary month which stretches into the future like a length of lumpy grey cloth contrasting with the glitter and sparkle of December.
Who remembers “Murder, She Wrote”? With the unlikely premise of an insanely successful writer living in a picture-perfect seaside town and stumbling over corpses wherever she goes, it was a huge hit and still gets shown today. Back in 2003 when I had my first baby, they used to run it at lunchtime, just in time for the 1.00 feed. My fellow newbie mums and I dubbed it “BFTV” (breast feeding TV) along with other corkers like “Diagnosis Murder” and “The Father Dowling Mysteries.”
You knew that Jessica Fletcher, the writer in question, did actually write as the opening credits showed her toiling away at a typewriter, covering sheet after sheet with deathless prose. Everyone knew her books. Everyone. She must have spent years knocking out a huge back catalogue as she always had time to poke her nose into every mystery and murder on the Eastern Seaboard.
I’d love to be as productive as her. Imagine sitting down at your Olivetti and knocking out six chapters before lunchtime, leaving plenty of time to solve a murder or two and cycle around town in pastel leisurewear waving randomly at strangers.
Like most of us, I suspect, I am more of a Daisy Steiner than a Jessica Fletcher. I loved Spaced, a two series sitcom following the adventures of two slacker flat mates in North London. Daisy called herself a writer, but spent far more time procrastinating than putting pen to paper. She talked about writing, she gazed at her typewriter, she complained that she couldn’t find inspiration but it was rare to see her actually knuckling down to any work. She was the total opposite of Jessica.
In one episode, she finally gets her mojo back and types furiously while the theme from “Murder, She Wrote” plays in the background. It’s very funny. Check it out on YouTube when you get a second.
As writers, we probably all dream of being divinely inspired, spending hours at our laptops and producing award-winning, life-changing books. Imagine being recognised at the Co-op. “Why, Mrs Fletcher, I thought it was you!” Shredding personal papers instead of hurling them into the recycling bin because your obsessive fans go through them in search of memorabilia as you sleep. Having an entourage everywhere you go.
For now, though, I’ll content myself with carrying on with my book, learning how to do Tik Tok and finding out as much as I can about the art of writing.
I may be more Daisy than Jessica, but at least I don’t have solve murders on the side.
Ruth is a novelist and freelance writer. She is married with three children, one husband, assorted poultry and a kitten. She is the author of “The Diary of Isabella M Smugge”, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge” and is currently writing “The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge”. She writes for a number of small businesses and charities, reviews books for Reading Between the Lines and blogs at ruthleighwrites.co.uk. Ruth has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok at @ruthleighwrites and at her website, www.ruthleighwrites.co.uk.