Thursday, October 02, 2008

Inspirations #4: Perspiration

Is this a cheat? Can I use "perspiration" as an inspiration?

It's my blog, so I will.

I studied Computer Science at Manchester University, I loved every second of it. Computers were and always have been "my thing". I fell in love and out again a couple of times (with girls, not computers). Had my own band performing stuff I and the keyboardist wrote, and also gigged performing my own poetry in the Student Union (okay, I did it once ... to a very small audience ... of friends ... but I've done it more recently to bigger audiences, not at MUSU).

After Uni I refused to join the merry throngs of Comp Sci graduates heading into businesses to rewrite accounting software. In fact I ended, for a long time, without a job in a market that was desperate for people like me.

But in the end I found what I was looking for, I worked for the Open University on a project involving computers and the blind. We did some ground-breaking stuff. These were the days of the Sinclair Spectrum and the BBC Micro, I worked on the latter mainly. And I wrote a space adventure game for which a magazine company paid me £100, all rights, and put on a compilation of simple games. (I was young and innocent and £100 seemed like a lot of money.)

My OU project came to an end. But almost instantly I had a call from the company that bought my game asking if I wanted to join their magazine editorial team. An odd way to recruit, but it suited me.

So I became an editorial assistant. Within five years I was editor. And I stayed that way for another 10 years at least, I lose track to be honest.

But here's the perspiration: I wrote my first article for that magazine, and had it ripped (metaphorically) to shreds by the editor-in-chief - it came back covered in red. So I tried again, and again, and eventually it was considered passable and printed.

I edited other people's work, I wrote articles, more importantly for however many years it was I wrote articles to deadline. When I became editor I instigated the "editor's comment", every 4 weeks (and I don't mean month, we had 13 issues per year) I sat with a blank screen in front of me and conjured 500 words out of nothing.

Whether it was 500 or 5000 words, writing became merely a function, like eating. I did it when I had to.

There have been bloggers recently commenting on whether writing is "just a job" or a "must do or I'd die" activity. For me it is neither. I can take writing or leave it. True, I have stories to tell and I want people to experience them in one form or another. But it's neither a job nor a compulsion: It is something I can do, if I want to.

So is it an inspiration? I have no idea, but 20 years of magazine journalism (I did more than just computers in the end) was sufficient perspiration to mean that a blank page holds no terror and, unfortunately, makes me unsympathetic to people who complain of writers' block, a luxury I've never been permitted. (Sorry. But not much.)

Other inspirations
  1. The Art of Words
  2. "It's a tragedy!"
  3. Haiku
  4. Inspirational addendum
  5. Perspiration (this one)

What's on the turntable? Nowt.

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