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Wednesday, 10 June 2009


Sometimes I bring you stories of the things that happen to me as a writer. Sometimes these stories are funny. Sometimes they are not. This one is not.

Yesterday, I was happy until approximately 4.15pm. From 4.15pm onwards, I was not.

Until 4.15pm, I had been doing some lovely events in Dyce Academy near Aberdeen (yay for Dyce Academy, home to many people of taste and intelligence and general excellence in education). Then I got on my train at about 4pm, satisfied with a good day's work. After I had moved from my designated seat in order not to spend the journey sitting next to two men each with a six-pack of Special Brew (for transatlantic readers, this is not tea, but strong lager), I ensconced myself in a carriage the peace of which was spoiled only briefly by the extraordinarily loud voice of a man from Yorkshire (like Porlock but further north and with fewer palm trees), who felt it necessary that everyone in the carriage should hear him phone his secretary to ask how many loads of shingle they had sold that day and whether his wife had phoned to say that the plumber had come to fix the leaking tap yet.

Then, at 4.15, I opened an email. From a school which I was supposed to be visiting with a free visit.

The school has suggested cancelling because they feel the event is "commercial". If losing money is commercial, remind me not to apply for The Apprentice. Why have they decided it's commercial? Because book-buying is (always was) on offer - with fun activities provided for those who don't want to buy books. Fun activities with prizes paid for by me. Because I can't stand the thought that anyone should feel left out if they don't buy a book. I could weep. Actually, I pretty nearly did.

I cannot express how much of my time, effort and money has gone into this series of events. But I was enjoying the whole idea until 4.15 yesterday and saw no downside, except that I'll be exhausted. But exhausted and happy, I thought.

You know me well enough to know that there will be a learning point to this. Indeed. The clue is in the mysterious heading to this post.

That phrase about editing destroying the cathartic blah blah refers to an oft-derided (by me and others) view held by misguided vanity publishers and some self-publishers - anyone in fact who hasn't got the knowledge, wisdom or literary insight to understand the utter essentiality of a good editor for EVERY writer.

Well, you know, they're right after all: editing does wreck the cathartic creativity and all that stuff. I know. Because after I'd spent some time feeling upset and being completely unable to concentrate on the thing that I was supposed to be doing on that train journey, and knowing that it would be a bad idea to reply to the email immediately (not least because I can't type on my horrible little netbook), I took pen and paper and spewed it all out into the written word. My letter was eloquent and beautiful and free-flowing and incredibly cathartic and creative. Unedited. Yay! But completely unpublishable. And unsendable. And needing to be kept private. Frankly, the equivalent of bulimia for writers?

Anyway, it cleared my head and I was then able to focus on the thing that I was supposed to be doing instead. Which is the point of catharsis.

The point being that yes, editing does impede catharsis etc, and so thank goodness for editing. Because without it it's all just spew.