PLAYING THE SAGE(11/02/2007)
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On being asked for advice by an aspiring writer
(CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE FOURTEEN)
Last week I was in Sant Pere de Ribes doing what writers here optimistically call a bolo ('gig'): that is to say, a round table or an informal talk, as if our literary witterings before small audiences containing disporportionate amounts of sleepy senior citizens, could possibly be compared, excitement-wise, with even the most modest of rock concerts.
Anyway, after the talk was over, I was approached by a teenage girl who wouldn't have looked at all out of place in a rock concert, as it happened. She lingered at my podium table in what a nineteenth century author might have described as a charmingly hesitant manner.
She explained she wanted to be a writer, and needed some advice.
I felt a certain responsibility. Should I talk to her about imaginative integrity? Or about fighting against self-censorship? In short, about a few purely literary aspects of the trade?
Then I remembered what writing had really meant for me, roughly from her age on, for nigh on two decades: rejection. Novels rejected by publishers, stories rejected by magazines, month after month, year after year. At twenty-five, I managed to cover every square inch of the door to my room in London with rejection slips.
To her surprise, I blurted out: 'Stubbornness! Don't stop writing, no matter what! Be stubborn!'
She thanked me politely and left, looking a mite disorientated. She would have looked more so, perhaps, if I'd added that even when you're published and the rejection slips are just a memory, you can't help feeling you're never going to be as good as you would like to be and will always therefore, consider yourself something of a failure. Then again, I thought, she'd find all that out herself in due time, assuming she was stubborn enough to last so long.