Friday, February 26, 2010

Why I Write (Bill Kirton)

This post begins a new series of writers talking about writing...and why they feel compelled to do what they do. This week, mystery author Bill Kirton tells us what compels him.

Why I Write
By Bill Kirton

I write because I can. I love words, what they do, how they sound, how they fit together. I find their rhythms comforting. They’re the only way to make sense of the world. OK, we can enjoy beautiful things, intense experiences in the abstract, but if we ever want to share them, words are the only way there is of doing so. I consider myself lucky to have received, in my genetic make-up, an ability with words. That’s not a boast. In fact, I always quote something an artist friend of mine once said. We sometimes sat at meetings together and, instead of doodling, he’d draw wonderful pencil sketches of the people round the table. One day, I looked at one and said ‘Vic, I don’t know how you can do that.’ His reply was ‘Bill, I don’t know how you can’t.’ It’s such a simple way of saying that having a specific talent isn’t a cause for self-congratulation; it’s something that comes as naturally as breathing. And we’re lucky to have been dealt such a hand.

There’s also the fact that writing (even the boring stuff, the stuff that earns the money) keeps on being challenging. For example, a while back, I was commissioned to write a promotional DVD by a client for his product (which we’ll call Acmeclad). I asked him to send me its details. The reply I got (and I promise you this is absolutely verbatim) was ‘Acmeclad is of a monocoque construction comprising a polymeric textile reinforcement encapsulated within a neoprene outer layer complete with integral neoprene strakes, bonded to a polypropylene penetration-resistant felt impregnated with a corrosion inhibitor or biocide contained within a water resistant thixotropic gel as dictated by the application for which the system will be supplied.’ Turning that into an 8 minute DVD was a satisfying triumph of order over chaos.

It hurts as a writer to wander through a world where highly paid civil servants produce ‘explanations’ such as ‘In times of trend productivity growth, it is very difficult to detect changes in a trend, because productivity is a volatile variable, reflected in the cyclical position’. Life is already confusing enough without the guardians of our social structures turning them into impenetrable mazes. And we writers are the ones with the tools to counteract this. We can build realities more persuasive than the daily one we all live in. The thought of a total stranger somewhere on a different continent opening the pages of one of my books and recreating the reality of my fiction for him or herself is magical.

I just love writing and, as I said, I feel privileged to be able to do it.

Bill Kirton has been a university lecturer, actor, director and TV presenter. He took early retirement to concentrate on writing and has written many stage and radio plays, short stories, crime novels and songs and sketches for revues. Recent books include: Material Evidence, Rough Justice, The Darkness, and The Figurehead.

Bookmark and Share

1 comment:

  1. Very open, and insightful talk. Thanks for opening this topic.
    Yes, sometimes writing doesn’t pay much, or not at all for that matter, but does it really mean the “highly paid civil servants” do less to “build realities more persuasive” than we, writers, do? Just wonder :) I think, writers write because they have this internal call to do so, in general, and the “highly paid civil servants” are indeed civil servants doing whatever they do due to the same reason – internal call. Yes, money, power, circumstances-the whole bouquet-is playing its role here as well, but above all is the same thing-this internal call. Who’s better or more powerful? Does it matter? As long as we like what we do, we are lucky. You’re right – we are privileged to be able to do what we love doing
    Erin Aslin