Where the magic happens for Bill Condon

So, as promised, the first post of the series, on the day it was promised. That bodes well … 

I am so happy it’s Bill Condon, and this be why. I once (yes, only once) won an award as an unpublished writer, and part of the deal was that I got to attend a big industry dinner. I was eight months pregnant, heartily regretting my decision to wear sequins – especially when I had to stand in front of everybody to receive the award – and got very shy and said no when asked if I wanted to be introduced to the “Authors”, seated around the back tables in a loud and noisy pack. (I know now that in fact they are not scary, and can also say with some certainty that they were all probably half-cut ;))

Anyway, one person went out of his way to come and have a chat, ask me about my writing, and just generally be really encouraging and welcoming, and I have never forgotten that act of kindness. Yes, it was Bill, and I bet a lot of people have got similar stories about his kindness. He is also, as it turns out, world champion of dad jokes, and can be found along with his wife, Di Bates, over at Enterprising Words.

Here’s a photo of Bill taken by Di (she says that’s what the inside of his head looks like): 

Bill & abstract

And here’s Bill, responding to what was a very vague and half formed request from me: 

I’ve just taken lots of photos of my desk and my book shelf and the view outside my window. I wish you could see them but they’re trapped inside my phone and I don’t know how to get them out.

‘Help! Help!’

That’s them.

I know there must be some old blokes around who understand cameras and mobile phones and the mysteries of the computer, but I’m not one of them. So you’ll just have to take my word for it. They are very good photos. Brilliant! Amazing!

Well, to be honest, you’re not missing out on a lot. My desk looks like it’s been ransacked by Hagar the Horrible. I clean it up without fail every year or so but Hagar just slips back and ransacks it again. I figure I’m okay if I can find the computer, and most days I can.

Now to the purpose of this blog, which, I think, is for writers to talk about the things that make the magic happen.

Oh how I wish there were such nifty creatures. All I have to inspire me is my wife Di standing over me with a cow prod. That’s usually enough.

Let’s see . . . what else spurs me on to write? Hmm, I’d say the fear of death has to be right up there. When I was young I used to look at the dates when writers wrote their great books. I’d giggle as I looked at the numbers – Forty! Fifty! – and tell myself I had oodles of time to write my biggie. Now I’m sixty-five and I’ve stopped looking at the numbers.

I do have lots of writing-ish books on my shelf which at times provide solace, if not actually a recipe for magic-making. One of my favourites to dip into is Silences, by Tillie Olsen. What writer couldn’t feel better about their own sorry plight after reading these words from Herman Melville?

‘I sit down religiously every morning. I sit down for eight hours and the sitting down is all. In the course of that working day of eight hours I write three sentences which I erase before leaving the table in despair. Sometimes it takes all my resolution and power of self control to refrain from butting my head against the wall . . . ’

I know where you’re coming from Hermy.

Another huge writing helper was my dog Sassy. For nearly 14 years she sat under my desk and looked up at me with big brown eyes that said, ‘Hurry up and write something so we can do something REALLY important, like go for a walk!’Sassy

Yes, Sassy had talking eyes. Without their influence I wouldn’t have written nearly as much as I have.

When I look over my right shoulder I glimpse a handful of framed writing awards. I put them there to show off (off course) and also to remind myself when in the depths of Melville-like despair, that once upon a time I did write something that was okay. Alas, I don’t look at them much anymore because if I do I’ll see that I won them a long, long time ago. They’re becoming more mirage-like with every passing day. But with or without awards, I know I’ve been very lucky and I’m grateful. I’ve had a dream run.

So now you know all my writing secrets, except plagiarism, and I’m not going to mention that in case someone out there steals my idea.

Finally, I think that one day some clever person will invent a writing stimulant that could be put in a cup of tea and swigged by the gallon load all day. Perhaps there could be different flavours for various genres. If you were after a scary story that also had a comic effect you could jiggle a Tony Abbot Tea Bag. (I’m pretty sure it would also do wonders for your funny walk.) Or you might care to bung in a drop of everything if you were writing something experimental.

The only problem I foresee is that writing would become like horse racing. Writers would all have to be whipped by jockeys . . . no, that’s not it . . . when you get old your mind sometimes wanders . . . ah, I’ve got it! Before you could win a race – i.e. – have your work accepted – you’d need to pass a drug test. This would entail writers queuing up at publisher’s offices in order to pee in a cup. But what if the publishers were in a meeting or out to lunch? The writers could be waiting for years. Or – as has happened to me – what if the publisher recognised the writer and hid under their desk, or just ran away screaming?

Hmm . . . the old faithful cattle prod is looking better by the second.

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Thank you Bill!