Sunday, 14 October 2012

Playing unsafe

I saw some of the Man Booker shortlisted authors talking about their work on TV this week. I haven't read any of them, and would like to. The extracts they read were all strikingly accomplished (which should be no surprise!) and my response was complicated.

There's that envy which is never far from the surface when I read something wonderful, and admiration too.  I had to examine my own ambition, too. Was this ever something I could do - write that well? Would I want to? One or two of the extracts, beautiful as they were, sounded dull.

There's always that struggle between literary and popular (and I'm judging without, as I said, having read any of the titles in question), and I considered that one or two of those books might stand the test of time, and be fodder for Eng Lit students for years to come, but not reach (or give as much pleasure) as many people as a Jodie Picoult or Katie Fforde.

I came to a comfortable sort of conclusion: I doubt I could ever be Man Booker material, and I don't mind. I want to write a different sort of book. But on my mission to do that, I don't want to close myself off, either, to improving my writing, and making it the best it can be. I needn't aspire to a prize; just to improve what I do, for myself. And that includes doing something I find tricky - scouring my imagination for original ideas; taking risks and making sure I'm not just sticking to a storyline because it feels 'safe'.

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