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Friday, 5 February 2016

I Can't Get No....by Janey Clamp

We've just about come to the end of panto season. (Oh yes we have!) I wonder if you managed to catch a production of Snow White? The Disney version is unsurpassed, of course, with Dopey being my personal favourite and Doc a close second. If our family were the dwarves we would have Sneezy (son #2), Grumpy (Mr C) and Trying-desperately-to-be-Happy-in-the-face-of-Everything (Me).


The Meeting Room before
To illustrate, I was recently project-managing a week-long effort to decorate a large meeting room at a Christian conference centre near my home. The task in hand was a huge one and staffed in the main by keen volunteers who had been chosen, I suspect, for their availability rather than their skill. By the end of the week, paint was spread liberally over all surfaces, including the carpet. At one stage, on about day 3, I was asked, "Are you happy with how it's going?" (this, by a man wielding a painty roller on a pole; I would have to pick my words carefully). I heard myself say, "I don't do happy, but I am satisfied."

The Meeting Room after (yes, I'm satisfied with that!)

For those that know me, I'm confident that you don't think I permeate misery on a regular basis. In fact, I love a good laugh and often find humour in the most inappropriate of moments; but, if I'm honest, I really don't do happy very well. What I do best is satisfaction, which is a better substitute than, say, Quorn is for meat. The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes - surely the perfect casting choice for Grumpy? - goes so far as to say, "Laughter is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?" (2:2 NIV) In his bah-humbug exploration of the world around him, he concludes, "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work." (2:24 NIV)

How does this apply to us writers? Well, how many of us are truly happy with what we have produced? There is always that nagging sense that we could have written it better: a better idea in the first place, a better development, a better use of words. We read what others have written and compare our own efforts, in my case usually unfavourably! But I suspect that even after multiple re-writes that particular author we admire may not have been entirely happy with the final draft.

I read quite recently a quote attributed to the great cellist Pablo Casals. When asked why he continued to practise at the age of 90, he replied, "Because I think I'm making progress." You see, we're never going to be perfect, but we can still find great satisfaction in giving it a go. Some days we may feel like the writer of Ecclesiastes that it's all meaningless and what's the point; but let's bash on anyway and be content with Satisfied if not entirely Happy.




Janey is the Creative Writer in Residence on the BBC Radio Norfolk Sunday Breakfast Show and a member of Premier Radio's Thought for the Day team. She blogs for ACW and other organisations and is a regular contributor to an online daily devotional. Her WiP is a novel birthed during NaNoWriMo 2015. She is leader of the ACW small group Brecks, Fens and Pens in West Norfolk. When not writing she works as a musician and interior designer.



6 comments:

  1. Very well said. I agree that as writers we are often only satisfied with the work we produce.

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  2. Very helpful post Jane. I think we can push ourselves too much sometimes and are too critical of ourselves. Being satisfied with what we do rather than happy is a good way to look at it. Thank you.

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  3. Good post. I think A A Milne must have read Ecclesiastes before creating the character of Eeyore.

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  4. Well I don't know .. I am perfectionist and never realised it so much until writing novels! However ... how is satisfied/happy different?! Sometimes - and others may also feel this - one is incredibly happy with a scene, or a blog, only to discover later that it is really not as good as it could be ... ! Now book sales - those make me happy! :-) (PS Excuse my use of 'one': I'm not posh, it's just, how do you say 'you' meaning 'me and maybe you'all as well' in an un-'posh', totally equality-minded, way??)

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  5. I love that quote from Casals - shame my pupils don't get it!

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