Thursday, 14 January 2016


Talking to my daughter first thing this morning we started discussing how people often don't understand how much work goes into a project, especially when you have to do do it all by yourself. As somebody who feels she has been holding up the world single handedly forever I agreed that nobody understands the sweat, hours, solitude, boredom, sheer bloody hell of doing what my writing friend, Leah Fleming calls, 'turning up at the page.  The terror of the computer screen, those nights when you wait for an idea to end up with sleeplessness. That morning when you know that you may have 80,000 words but as James Joyce said 'I have no idea which order they should be in.'  He was talking about a single sentence but you get the drift.
My daughter was organising a huge party at work and in typical family fashion she wanted it to be perfect and had knocked her socks off for it. This on top of her usual work.
And people won't appreciate or even see the effort and then I realised that that is the point. You don't want to watch Andy Murray practising.  What you want is the performance, not even to think how easy it was for the person involved, you want to see the shine and the polish, when it is so well done that it's a treat to watch, to listen to, to read, to view, that every polished performance is those years and years of sheer unadulterated work brought to a fine hone has nothing to do with you.
I always admired the effortless performance of Jimmy Connors, or watching McEnroe serve, seeing Stephen Hendry or Ronnie O'Sullivan making snooker look like a child's game.
It's for all of us to strive, to want to be the best, to dazzle with our brilliance or as my agent says, 'to write the book that only you can write.'
It's the only way to perfect performance though we are all very slightly short of perfection and even though we know that Shakespeare is the most brilliant writer who ever lived he didn't always get it right. i.e.  at the end of The Winter's Tale everything appears to be all jolly hockey sticks but you can't think beyond the fact that the king had his young son murdered. I know Will used other people's plots but I think if he had looked at it again, beautiful though the language is and choice the characters, the plot doesn't quite work and even if the original story ended that way he could have changed it suit himself.
Is there another way to look at this?  It's nice to know that none of us is perfect, that even Will's work could be improved or is it that, like the monks who wrote the Lindisfarne Gospels and left a deliberate mistake on each page because only God is perfect, William Shakespeare deliberately did that sometimes so that forgetting the work and sweat we would be able to say afterwards, perhaps smugly, that even Shakespeare didn't get it right all the time, that even Ronnie O'Sullican has bad days and the joy of it is when you see him on a good day. That is when you marvel and rightly so at the performance.

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