The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Slight Return


I’ve been a bad blogger. I’ve let myself down, and let my blog gather dust, letting it resemble one of those un-updated pop group websites that has ‘New album due in 2008’ as the latest item in the ‘News’ section. So I’m sorry about that, it’s been a cause of constant, but very mild, and very ignorable, irritation for me over the past few months too.


My excuse is, of course, that I’ve been busy. I’ve written and re-written about seven or eight hours’* worth of scripts over the past three months, plus a 10,000 word article for Doctor Who Magazine, so it’s not as if I’ve been lounging on a chaise longue waiting for inspiration to strike. The thing is, it’s very difficult to justify the time to write a blog if you have somebody who has paid you money to write something waiting for you to hand it in. It just doesn’t look professional if, rather than working on the thing that you’re meant to be working on, which has a deadline stampeding towards you and studios booked and actors pencilled, instead you’re writing a blog on your top ten favourite twist endings in Brotherhood of Man songs or doing something utterly superfluous like reviewing the latest James Bond film.

So that’s the reason. Because it looks bad, and I don’t want the people who I’m supposed to be writing for to see me frittering away my creative-typing time rather than giving paid work priority. I don’t want to give them cause to wonder what it is they are paying me for. I want them to have the (entirely correct) impression that I am working hard on whatever it is I have been contracted to do, slaving away into the evenings, nights and early mornings, burning candles at both ends and not going out to the pub, cinema or theatre or playing endless Killer Sudokus. Which I am not doing.

Oddly, this rule doesn’t seem to apply to twitter, which has been an outlet for the ever-growing stockpile of marginally amusing trivia that fills my brain. And if you have one safety-valve outlet, you don’t get the pressure build-up that requires another. It’s all a question of plumbing. And while, yes, I should be too busy to tweet (and sometimes, thankfully, get so into The Writing Zone that  I don’t) I’d defend it in two ways.

Firstly, that it’s not really writing as such, but more the equivalent of telling a joke to the bloke sitting opposite you at the office based on what you’ve just heard on the radio. As a freelancer, thankfully I am spared the social rigmarole of office life – the relentless bloody birthday cards - and I can’t write if I can hear a squirrel clearing its throat in the back garden, never mind cope with music or a prattling DJ, so for radio read ‘the BBC news website, the Media Guardian website and, at a push, Chortle’. But nevertheless there is that need to discuss, to feel connected, and to have a social outlet for the fruitless guff that would otherwise clog up the cogs of the mental machinery.

Following on from that, reason two, is that it’s a useful reminder that when you’re writing, you’re writing for an audience, a throng of punters, and it’s good to have that pressure, that feeling that there’s a thousand people sitting in the auditorium with their arms folded and ‘I’ve had a shit day, amuse me’ expressions on their faces. It’s good to be conscious that what you’re writing will have readers, listeners or viewers, because sometimes it can feel like the only people you’re writing for are the producers or script editors of the project.

That’s why it’s so important to write with the hope (if not the certainty) that what you’re writing will get seen, heard or read, that it will get published in some form, because it’s bloody hard to motivate yourself to spend days, weeks, months on a script if you think that the only person in the world who will ever read it will be one producer who will take six months to get around to it and won’t be giving it their full attention when they do and who will only be reading it to look for reasons to reject it. I’m not bemoaning the state of the world – I’ll save that for another day – just saying how difficult it is to motivate yourself to go through that process when you have other people offering you money to write stuff that will actually be read, heard or seen. ‘Get paid and get made’ always has to take priority.

* This sounds vague. I’m not vague about how much I’m written, I’m just vague on how many hours and minutes it will turn out to be.

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