The grit in the oyster

I was having a chat with a friend last week. We’ve both written novels and he was explaining to me that he feels the biggest impetus to write when he’s pissed off with his job. He looks at how much he’s making and what he has to do with his day and says, ‘Fuck this, I’m going to do something else with my life. But if I want to do that I’m going to have to get writing’.

I replied that I did the same (kind of). At first it was not conscious, but at the time I started writing novels I hated coming to work, genuinely dreading it and getting into a right old state on the walk in. So for me it was a kind of escape route, every thousand words another dig of the shovel as I tunnelled to freedom. Later I wasn’t so unhappy, but there were times when the briefs were fewer and further between, and rather than do the proactive stuff that might land me a Creative Circle Bronze, I chose to get on with a kind of creativity that felt more fulfilling. Was that the right decision? Maybe. Of course, you can spend every waking hour devoted either to the briefs you’ve been given or others that you’ve made up yourself, but you’re under no obligation to spend every minute of every day on your day job; a few hours on other creative pursuits would surely be just as good to get the juices flowing when it comes time to do the ads.

Anyway, I’m kind of getting off the subject.

For a huge number of successful people, the pursuit of that success is an attempt to fill a hole of unhappiness. Did Daddy miss your school play? Did Louise Blenkinsop dump you and go out with your best mate? Are you going to show those fuckers who’s boss? Of course you are! But is it going to make you happy? Nope. Andre Agassi famously hated tennis, and was quite keen on crystal meth. Did eight Grand Slams cheer him up? Of course not, but the extent to which he hated his father made him a winner. And I’ve just finished the autobiographies of Rob Delaney and Sarah Silverman. Both were bed-wetting depressives. Is that partly why they’re successful comedians?

A CD of my acquaintance was asked what drove him to produce his extra-curricular writings. He said that ultimately it was the desire to get laid, suggesting that the extent to which he otherwise got laid was not enough. He had achieved so much, and yet the hole continued to drive him Pardon the pun).

So is that aching gap worth having because it makes you put in the extra hours to bring a version of success? Or are people who fail at writing novels and winning Grand Slams in a better position because they go through life untroubled by whatever would otherwise propel them to those victories?

For the record, I feel pretty happy right now, and haven’t written substantially this year. Are the two related? Should I cheat on my wife to fuel my fire? Maybe, as Bono once said, I should kill my inspiration and sing about the grief.

Decisions, decisions…