If you’ve hopped onto this blog expecting to find a photograph of me actually standing naked at a bus stop, sorry. You should feel relieved, really, as such a sight could put you off your dinner.
Do you ever, have you ever, had a naked dream? I’m not being smutty, I swear. I mean a dream where you find yourself suddenly starkers in an otherwise ordinary, humdrum, every-day situation? Like, say, doing the shopping, putting petrol in the car, attending a PTA meeting – that kind of thing? I used to get them, frequently, when I was younger and even though I never told another living soul, the mortifying embarrassment would last for days. I haven’t had one for a long time now, but in recent years the phenomenon has morphed into a vivid, fully conscious, terrifying vision of me standing naked at a bus stop. It’s horrible and completely unremitting. And it only ever happens when I let someone read my work.
So you can imagine what I’m feeling right now. Only it’s worse, because for some reason today there’s a very long queue at the bus stop. (Ah, that’s obviously my inner macho ego, who I don’t get along with very well, whispering in my ear that a huge amount of people will no doubt be reading this blog. There. Queue back to one. Me. Still, the odd car is whizzing by.)
I’ve been writing fiction for quite a while now (I’ll get back to that in a minute) but the ridiculous thing is that I actually write for a living. I’m a freelance copy writer, and, I’m led to believe, quite a good one too (there goes macho-miss again, demanding to be heard). And in all the years I’ve been writing words for other people, and there have been many – both words and years – I’ve never, ever had the naked thing with a client. Thank God. I do have a tendency to start every new job with an “oh crap, I’m not going to be able to do this one” moment, but thankfully the moments are always fleeting.
But, fiction…well, writing fiction is an entirely different beast altogether; one I’ve been having a rather passionate affair with for several years. Like all affairs (at least I imagine so, I have to state for the record that I’ve never actually had a bona-fide illicit affair) it’s a rollercoaster ride. Sometimes it’s all flowers and harmony and la-de-dah loveliness. Sometimes it’s swearing and tantrums and door-slamming tears. The thing is, I love it. And I’m pretty sure it loves me too. But I want to be it’s One. I want us to be official. I want our relationship to be endorsed, legitimised, approved. I want to be able to tell people when they ask me what I do that I’m a writer, without having to precede it with ‘copy’. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a copywriter, you understand me. It’s a fine profession which has served me well over the years, but it doesn’t have my heart.)
I began this affair with WF (writing fiction) after nervously enrolling on a creative writing course. I wanted to see if there was something more out there for my words, if I could twist them, tease them into pieces of writing that weren’t commissioned by corporate clients. To my surprise this new way of writing seemed attracted to me, and I to it. It swept me off my feet. It courted me with flourishes of success which led to ripples of confidence. A story was shortlisted for the Orange NI Short Story prize and published in an anthology. A novel was started, and eventually completed. An agent was acquired. ‘The Call’ came. The champagne flowed and we dared to go public with our relationship, WF and I. Oh how bright our future suddenly appeared. Oh how happy we would be. The naked bus stop business, which lunged at me in Technicolor clarity the very first day of the writing course and had persisted throughout, would finally be over. Surely?
Then came another call, and, just like that, it was over. I’d been jilted. The Call and The Other Call is a story in itself, one for another time, but suffice to say I was left somewhat battered and bruised. I hated that bugger WF. Nothing but angst and heartbreak had it brought me. It could sod off, for good. But I missed it, of course. And then it started creeping around me again. Tantalising me with ideas for this story, or that one. So I finally relented and agreed to a reunion.
And once again we’ve had highs: an Arts Council Grant; a bursary to attend a writers retreat, and lows: weeks of procrastination; a botched grant application (my fault entirely); the return of the flaming proverbial bus stop. But a second novel was conceived and is burrowing away, sometimes merrily, sometimes not. We’re just past the halfway mark, I think, and it’s been a different experience this time around. With novel number one, although it generally pained me due to the naked thing, I had several readers on board thanks to various writers groups, and their input was invaluable. Number two has been a much more solitary process, but I don’t really like going it all alone. I need some buddies, writing chums I can gurn at when things aren’t going well with WF and rejoice with when they are. I’ve been thinking about joining the cyber writing gang for a while now, but of course the you-know-what has been holding me back. But then I had a light-bulb moment. What if, I thought, there are lots of other writers just like me standing naked, or in various states of undress, at bus stops all over the land. We could wave to each other.
So, hello. Hi. Nice to meet you. My name is Lesley and I’m a writer. Now, I’m away to put some clothes on.