Notes from the trenches — Unfriendified Flying Pigs

James Garside by Stijn Swinnen

A successful published writer, whose work I adore, made an off-handed remark about nanowrimo on a social media site.

Out of respect for the writer, let’s refer to them as ‘a writer’, and in deference to the IT Crowd, let’s call the social media site FriendFace. And in the interest of upsetting lawyers by avoiding lawsuits, lets say that this incident was ‘inspired by real events’ and therefore never happened.

I was delighted to have been mutually friendified by the writer on FriendFace as they are witty and intelligent, and as I’ve already said, I like their work. So when I saw their comment, I decided to josh with them about it, only to get myself unfriendified on FriendFace as a result. Sad face!

To paraphrase, they said that if it was possible to write a novel in a month, then they’d have done it by now themselves, thank you very much, and that pigs might fly.

As they’re a keen gardener, as well as a writer, I playfully suggested that although they might not see nanowrimo novels as ‘real novels’, that writing ‘50,000 words of complete shit’ was at least excellent compost for such a novel. I also pointed out that some nanowrimo participants do indeed go on to get their novels published by ‘real publishers’ as ‘real novels’ and therefore counted as ‘real writers.’

I then said something rude about their shed getting covered in pig poo courtesy of the flying pigs overhead. In fact, I may have even suggested that as penance for being wrong about nanowrimo, to the tune of raindrops keep falling on my head, they should sing, “pig poo keeps raining on my shed.”

I was of course unfriendified, ostensibly for being pro-nanowrimo, but far more likely owing to my being rude and sarcastic. Which is a shame, as I like this writer a lot, and was aiming for witty and charming. But as ‘rude and sarcastic’ is my modus operandi, I probably just came across like a bit of a prat.

I’d wanted to spark a debate about the importance of nanowrimo, pointing to the many professional writers who participate in nanowrimo just for kicks; to remind people that nanowrimo is supposed to be FUN; and that there are a lot of young wannabe writers out there who aspired to being a professional writer just like they were, for whom nanowrimo is their first taste of the real thing.

I’d also wanted to mention that Jack Kerouac famously wrote ‘On the Road’ in two weeks, but less famously spent the next two years editing it, as it was an unpublishable pile of poop. But that we wouldn’t have the masterpiece that is ‘On the Road’ today, if it wasn’t for that first mad headlong dash.

But, hey, stuff happens. And no doubt the writer doesn’t need a lecture from a snotty little upstart like me. They write novels for a living.

I’ve several published short stories and other writing credits under my belt, I’m a postgraduate in creative writing, and one of my stories was turned into a short film — but I’ve never ‘made it’ as a writer in terms of getting paid lots for my work, and I’ve yet to complete a novel that anyone would regard as anything other than a pile of poop.

I tend to be quite scathing about my work. So much that one of my former students once remarked, “You’re not the most talentless piece of crap in the world — you stupid blond man!” For which, I will be forever grateful. And, as every gardener knows, with the right compost, you eventually get great results.

So, I was unfriendified on FriendFace, and to save face, I wrote this. For the record, I did send out an immediate apology to the writer via FriendFace. I’m quick to apologise at having caused offence, even if that wasn’t my intention.

I also don’t mind having being removed, I’m just sad that my remarks were taken personally by someone that I admire.

Note to self: If it’s funny in your head, then that’s probably the best place to keep it. And if someone is a keen gardener, NEVER be rude about their shed.

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NCTJ-qualified British independent journalist, author and travel writer.


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