I read the report below in one of the book trade online publications:
“New YouGov research reveals that the most desired jobs in Britain are not what you might expect; they are not even the most reliably well paid ones. Instead of actors and musicians, it seems that an aura of prestige still surrounds the quiet, intellectual life enjoyed by authors, librarians and academics.
Being an author is the number one most desired job in Britain. Not only would the most people like to be one (60%), the smallest percentage would not like to be one (32%). The only other jobs preferred by a majority are equally as bookish: librarian (54%) and academic (51%). Although there is a slight tendency to not want a career in law, it is the fourth most desired profession.
Men are far more likely to want to be train drivers, Formula 1 drivers, astronauts and MPs, while women are far more likely to want to be interior designers and librarians.”
I’m astonished by this. Can it be true that 60% of people in this country want my job? Anecdotally I’m aware that most people do look beyond the wafting-about-with-a-notebook and lots-of-time-for-coffee idea of authorship to glimpse the murky reality of deadlines, reduced marketing spend, fear of exposure as a total fraud, silent envy of others’ bestseller listings or literary prizes, yoked to the constant gnawing loneliness of the professional writer’s life. I think it’s more likely that the weird statistic (Lies, damned lies etc) actually reflects a widespread and wholly natural yearning to express our inner emotions, to give shape to our dreams, and to share the fruits of that creative drive via what seems the most accessible route. To have a creative as well as a functional outlet, and maybe get rich at the same time. (Not many authors actually do get rich, by the way. I think the average earnings of a writer, as published by the Society of Authors, is in the region of £12,000 pa.) For myself, I would love to be able to paint or sculpt, or to play the violin. But I know I can’t and never will. Writing, though. Why not? We can all physically do it, whereas the vast majority of us couldn’t pick our way through Für Elise or draw a shoe box in perspective. I’m not saying this relative facility isn’t all to the good. Letters (once upon a time), diaries, blogs, stories, pieces for the parish mag, novels of adolescence or retirement and everything in between – it’s somehow satisfying to think of all those accretions of human experience and imagination laid out for others to share. But actually being an author is another condition, altogether uneasy. I know lots of writers, and the real, true ones exist in a constant state of pain. Whoever would want that?
Sebastian Faulks, excellent novelist and successful writer, declared last week in a magazine column that he’s had enough of the author’s life and is looking for a day job. He misses the water cooler chat, the team work, the sociability and the PAYE packet. He writes that 25 years alone in a garret has driven him a bit mad. Ah, how that does resonate.
I have just finished the final work on DAUGHTER OF THE HOUSE, which will be published on July 30. It’s been a long haul, and I am so happy with the book that has finally emerged. I’ve also helped to plan a big wedding and that’s now over… so I feel this week as if I have suddenly popped up into a big bright world that’s full of things to do. And what have I done so far? Well, I’ve watched telly. Indian Summers, for non-UK readers, is the current big drama series, set in Simla in the heyday of the British Raj. The story pace is a bit hectic for me, but I’m loving the long shots of green hill station scenery and distant white Himalayan peaks. Simla is not Srinagar – to me not so beautiful or exotic – but the atmosphere does take me straight back to gorgeous Kashmir, where I spent some time researching THE KASHMIR SHAWL. I’d go out there again tomorrow… if I didn’t have to look into violin lessons and enrolling in train driver school, that is. But the one I am really looking forward to is a film, Desert Queen, about my heroine Gertrude Bell. She is played by Nicole Kidman, with Robert Pattinson as T. E. Lawrence (double hmmmm). Bell’s life story is fascinating, and there’s a really good biography by Georgina Howell. It’s not so well known that in her young womanhood she was a pioneering mountaineer, and a very daring one. There’s even a Swiss Alpine peak named for her, the Gertrudspitze, and the next door one is the Ulrichspitze, after her mountain guide. I’d really like to go out and climb these, and I think they are just within my envelope. Now, there’s a project. But what about my hands, my violinist’s fingers, on that jagged granite?