Monday, November 26, 2012

The long game

I joined the NUJ just before regional
journalists nationwide went on strike
in 1978 - we were off for weeks. 
Sheila and I agreed, on the train back to Brighton picking over our day, that there were worse things to be doing. We'd had a day of free cake and sandwiches, cups of tea and generally inspiring speakers. I'm a lifelong member of the National Union of Journalists and this event, organised by London Freelance Branch, was on new ways of making journalism pay.

In the spirit of my dear friend Jane, who has continually reinvented herself and kept up to date, I booked and whether or not work emerges, was glad I did just to be around a sense of innovation and energy, younger writers who are not yet cynical and tired. And I now have a use for those long dark winter nights knowing writers can take publishing into their own hands (seize the means of production!) and use technologies to regain control of our work. The day was a series of solutions to a writer's gripes and moans, actually.

There were many women, like me with grey hair, experience and more time now. I felt perhaps I could do something in this great shift away from a monolithic publishing industry. It struck me how many of us cross-subsidise. A photographer will pay for a trip to a war zone with commercial work. A writer will subsidise an investigative project writing corporate reports. What I've learned by this continual interplay of buying myself time is how different areas of my work influence one another.

Writing is a long game shaped by experiment and persistence, by learning. How reassuring to read in the Observer yesterday, 77 year old Albie Sachs talk of his screenwriting mentor. His excitement at finishing the latest draft. I am excited by having time for the union. By the ebook I have on the go and what else it will lead to.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The gathering past

In the Hartington pub last night with Ludlow Jane and Deborah, Deborah mentioned the old mistakes pushing themselves forward, occupying space in her mind. Old mistakes, remembered with a wince, sometimes a cold sweat. It's no good pushing them out - they come back knocking on the door like the phone 'surveys' from remote call centres.

Old friends, though, are always welcome. They turn the past into a sunnier place. They come from a secure, known world where there were no student loans, less screens, where there was a lot still to experience. Yesterday, at Goldsmiths, two groups of students raised my spirits with their sense of the future. Both groups are doing life writing. It's emotional, sometimes painful. But they respect one another.

The train driver on the way home was a virtuoso performer, a delightful eccentric.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A sort of working week

This week, a workshop in academic writing for students at West Dean college in Chichester, former home of Edward James, the corridors once walked by Salvador Dali....his lips sofas are covered up against moths but the lobster telephone's on view, behind glass.

Then Goldsmiths where I'm doing half a day a week on life writing with undergraduate students.

A review for Warwick Review, sent off.

An NUJ training conference tomorrow on making the most of digital opportunities.

Some extra Open University marking for a tutor who's unwell. Checking the students' forum, my second online tutorial. Only one student's posted anything - three have sent apologies. Does that mean they won't be participating at all? Ever?

Admin, admin and more admin. An invoice. A cheque because the bank messed up a direct debit. Making dates for meetings. Research into residencies.

Trying to write but failing to write anything worth looking back on. Resisted ripping out the pages. Wondering how people write so beautifully and sparely. Wondering what drives people to write. What love means.

Walking in the fog this morning, Roxy disturbed two pheasants. That reminded me of the start of the West Dean workshop - a line of people on a slope opposite the house, a volley of gun shots. Another. Guns pointing in to the woods. Realising I need to get out more.

At last I have a card to get into Goldsmiths library where I teach one of the groups. Walking to the old town hall where my other group meets, I saw two speakers pointing out of the window of a flat onto the road, broadcasting a man's voice. Later I met Jacky Hyams, an old friend who I reconnected with after hearing her interviewed about writing a history of women Spitfire pilots. More emails today. Now out. Back into the fog.