“Have you written that book yet?”

Well, no. No I haven’t. Clearly I haven’t.

Or, at least, I haven’t written it down.

It was the question my brother asked me last time I spoke to him. Later, it got me talking to my nephew about why I hadn’t yet written that book. My answer was that I had nothing really to say. I was pretty sure I probably could write that book, if pushed, but that the fact I felt I needed to be pushed probably meant it wouldn’t be worth writing. And if I couldn’t be sure it would be worth writing I sure as hell (and at some point I may have to come back to how sure that is) wasn’t going to go to all the trouble of writing it, just on the off-chance that it might turn out to have been worth it.

So I haven’t written it. Or, at least, I haven’t written it down. Which, means, of course (I have to be honest), that no, I haven’t written it. Indeed, I haven’t written very much over the years for someone who has signed up for Creative Writing MA. As I’ve reflected on this, though, it occurred to me that in a sense I am almost continuously ‘writing’, if only by some rather tortured definition of that term. I mean, I’m continually and consciously composing thoughts using what appears to me to be language. I wonder if all of us are doing that, all the time? However, I think there is something about how, and perhaps why (or why, and perhaps how) I do this that is a little distinctive from the norm (if it is a norm) and which I have done as long as I have been conscious, and which perhaps allows me, finally, to begin to say to myself that I am — or could be — a writer.

I have a memory of being a young child that, had I become a writer before, I’m sure I would have reflected on when interviewed about ‘that book’. The memory, if that is really what it is, takes the form, at first, of an image of my infant classroom at Kelbrook County Primary School with its high ceiling and huge arced window; I am wearing a cream arran pullover; I am doing something on the floor with, I think, mathematical apparatus. Someone (in some versions of the memory it is Mrs Thornton, in others, one of my classmates, though never a particular one) remarks on the fact that my mouth is moving but I am not saying anything. I am also reasonably sure that one or more of my siblings would comment on the fact that after I had said something aloud, I would appear to repeat it to myself, silently, or in a low whisper.

Sometimes, I think I was testing out what I had said, outside of the immediate context of the exchange, weighing the words I had chosen to check their value, sometimes redistributing them, or substituting them to see how I might have said what I had said better. Sometimes, I think, I was forming the beginnings of a narrative from whatever communication had just occurred. Not a narrative in the sense of some exciting or fantastic alternative; just something with a little more shape, a little more control, a little more style.

(And that, I suppose, is what I want from committing myself to the MA: to venture, at last, to let those sotto voce words be not just mouthed, but written.


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