I am suspicious of lists. I can only feel suspicious about definitive lists of essential knowledge. I would not, for instance, post Ten Things Every Writer Should Think About here. I would put it, say, elsewhere.
In truth, I would rather stay close to this end of the professional spectrum. The still-getting-the-hang end. It’s kind of warmer and more sociable here than out there where the stars hang in a winter sky and the plank you’re standing on is kind of fragile and public. So I am not going to take on the responsibility of declaring what (today) I think is essential. I have no idea. Tomorrow it will be different. There will be so much I haven’t thought of.
I am considering a pen name. Is that short-sighted? Cowardly? Missing the point? It’s like coming up with the name of a band. Fun but who cares?
Literary-wise, it’s all been a bit of a ride lately but the most exciting thing that has happened by far has been my son’s new obsession with reading. Under covers when he should be asleep. Legs crossed, reclining on the sofa. Splashing milk over his open book at breakfast. Getting dressed in a hurry so he can go back to his book. Always with a slight frown.
I ask him: “Do you understand all the words?”
“What do you do when you don’t understand a word?”
“I make it up.” (He is slightly irritated – well? What else would you do?)
When bits are boring he skips chapters.
When he’s really enjoying it he goes straight back to the first page when he reaches the last.
When he doesn’t quite get what’s going on he reads on until he does. He thinks this is all obvious.
I do not think any of this is obvious. I carry an (electronic) dictionary with me at all times. I compulsively make lists of the books I have read and choose them by their relevance to – well – me. Obscurity makes me feel inadequate. On some level I am still trying to get it all right.
The same son also speaks French. (No, I don’t.) He has a few words and has watched some French language dvds. He knows what it sounds like (his voice becomes slightly quavery as though he is on the edge of a song.) How hard can it be? Of course he can speak French. Looks fun. Listen to this.