Monday, 4 October 2010

A blot on the CV

A few years ago I was sitting in a pub with a fellow author, doing what authors almost always do when gathered together, bemoaning our lot. Specifically, we were both complaining that after a few years of freelance writing as a profession, we seemed to have become all but unemployable in any other line.

I'd better clarify that quickly, not least in case this is ever read by a potential employer!

The problem isn't that writing books and short stories isn't a real job, involving a range of what I think are called "transferable skills". Leave aside the business of stringing a sentence together repeatedly for hours on end, day in day out, it usually involves self-discipline, research, a certain amount of imagination, and some sort of feel for things like promotion and marketing.

The problem is that despite all this, being a writer sometimes feel almost like a blot on the old CV, simply because of the kind of person people think you are: a surly loner who spends his days hunched in a garret, and probably drunk (maybe I shouldn't have started by mentioning the pub!) Not the image to have in an era when collaboration and teamwork are the fashion.

Actually there are days when I wouldn't mind being a surly loner etc., but the reality isn't like that at all. What brought it to mind today was another conversation (in an office this time, with nothing stronger than a cup of tea)in which I was trying to get across the kind of teamwork that is involved in publishing a book. I was moved to make a list of the people I've had to work with, which included agents, publishers, editors and editorial assistants, publicists, copy editors, proofreaders, artists, booksellers, convention organisers, fellow authors and I'm sure many others that I could think of if I put my mind to it.

I sometimes think it's a bit like being a racing driver (well, apart from the adrenaline and the risk of dying in a horrendous fireball, of course) - the author may be at the centre of the whole process but if you can't work well with your pit crew you aren't going to get anywhere.

And the point of all this...? Well, yes, as it happens I am looking for a job at the moment... but the point is that while the idea of a writer isolating himself in a lighthouse or a remote cottage somewhere may sound terribly romantic, it's almost never really like that, and my life would be a lot easier if this were more widely known!