Television and other minor irritations (2)

A few weeks ago, the List Magazine wrote a piece about me, because I had a play on in Glasgow. One of the questions they asked was 'when did you first realise you were famous?' to which I answered that I didn't think I was famous. With one or two celebrated exceptions, writers are slightly famous for a bit, and then sink into obscurity again.

I don't think I realised just how true that might turn out to be, until it was forcibly brought home to me by a couple of subsequent encounters . First, a person who has known me for many years, turned to me on a certain social occasion and said 'you've written one or two radio plays, haven't you?' To which I replied, well, more than two hundred hours, actually! But I could understand it, because nobody really listens to the writer's name, even when they listen to a radio play, or dramatisation. I don't do it all that often myself.

A few days after this, I had occasion to express my own realisation that I didn't want to write for television at all. I think I said something to the effect that, in spite of a few past opportunities (outlined in the previous post) I had never really made a go of it, but now regretted nothing except the money. Cue a number of kindly reassurances that of course it wasn't 'too late'. It was though I had suggested giving up writing - which, of course, I hadn't! I was just pointing out that some years previously, I had made a conscious decision that writing for television wasn't for me, in the way that - for instance - a doctor might decide that geriatrics was not an area he or she felt any interest in. This is perfectly true. Which is not, of course, to say that I would turn down any offers to exploit my other work, so long as somebody else would do the actual TV dramatisation, pay me a reasonable amount of cash, and leave me to get on with the kind of writing I do best.

So what was all that about?

Well, I said it myself, didn't I? Most writers are slightly famous for a very short while. The newspapers come calling, take photographs, print articles. And then, dear reader, we all sink into obscurity again, until somebody comes along and - with the best will in the world - assumes that we are absolute beginners. It has happened to me on more occasions that I care to recall.

Which is not, of course, to say that certain kinds of advice aren't very welcome indeed. Oddly enough, some of the most helpful advice I have had, in recent weeks, has been from much younger editors, directors, actors, agents. So many young people seem to have a certain wisdom and insight that we ignore at our peril. And it's very refreshing to tap into this youthful perspective. It helps to keep an older and perhaps overly cynical writer on her toes!

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