The Conceit of the Writer

Some work in progress to show the conceit of the writer – when I say the writer I mean any person who considers themselves a writer, including myself, for you have to be conceited to believe that anything you write is of any interest to any other person. It’s no good saying you write only for yourself – what would be the point of that?

I suppose there’s a book in that – ‘The Conceit of the Writer’, it may have already been written, but this is not about that, this is about me. So, the following piece is the first few paragraphs of the first draft of the sort-of-autobiography I’m writing.

The sort-of-autobiography has the provisional title of:



It’s not just giants of the political world, or the literary world, or any giants of any world; it’s not just the so-called greats, like Nelson Mandela, or Bob Dylan, or Pablo Picasso, or Philip Roth, or Maya Angelou, or Julie Andrews, or Margaret Atwood, or the Mother Superior, or anyone else, who possess or possessed the utterly significant quality of being alive.

It’s also about you, yes you, you, and me, and all of us, and each of us. And all of us equally.

I used to think I was especially gifted at school – this is because in my immediate circle of family and friends I was tagged as the brightest and cleverest. It was never true, but I suppose I was usually just about quick enough to figure out almost anything, and if I couldn’t figure it out, I’d put it in a box marked ‘later’ – it wasn’t that I couldn’t solve it, it just wasn’t the right time.

I can’t remember how many of those ‘later’ issues I revisited and solved, or how many sunk to the dark bottom of that box and are still there now, silting up the foundations of my being. I’ve never found life easy but it thrills me to be alive. It scares me silly too.

And so, you see, I have as much right as any one of those greats to tell my story in my way. I won’t promise you an easy read, and you may not like many of the characters that feature, or many of the characteristics displayed by our man in the middle – the main protagonist – me!

The only thing I will guarantee is that this will only be about the truth. It will be completely true. You can count on that.

It was a dampish, coldish, Saturday in October when it all began – this looking back, and the looking forward, and the imagination. The imaginary man.

Yes, The Imaginary Man – that’s me, that’s who I am. I am the original imaginary man. I mean, if someone said to me who are you? I’d probably shrug. But if instead they asked me a series of questions such as: ‘how old are you?’, ‘what is your name?’, ‘are you male or female?’ – that sort of thing, then I would already know the answers, and from those answers it could easily be deduced that I am a man, born in the middle of the twentieth century, now living in the twenty-first and so on,

So, I do have an identity – a strong identity, the only identity I have ever known and probably will ever know – so, get this – I am fucking important. I am as important as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and The Queen, The fucking Queen. I am as important as the Pope, the fucking Pope. I’m not sure about people like the Buddha, or Jesus, or Muhammad, or Guru Nanak, or Krishna, or any other ancient or current inspiration for a religion – or some spiritual leader with a direct connection to the idea of God – like a conduit to the eternal love. No, I’m not sure about them – they may not even be or have been human beings in the same way as the rest of us – they may be or have been like angels or messiahs or prophets or something that are on a different plane than human existence.

But I’m just as fucking important as any of your other ponces or plebs – and of course to me, I am the most important. (did you notice that then – I’m writing a strong sentence – telling the world, the universe even, that I am as important as any other human being (with the possible exception etc), and then softening it by saying it was only in my humble opinion of course – what a piece of chicken-shite eh! No wonder I’ve never been successful. I don’t need anyone else to put me down; I’m an expert at putting myself fucking down.

The only reason I’m writing this by the way is to draw a line between that old sucker me and to kickstart the new wiser tougher me.

So where do I begin?

So, this is a kind of autobiography. It really all began in 1951 three days before the winter solstice. December 19th – that was the day I was born. According to a quick search on the internet it was a Wednesday, which confirms what my mother used to tell me – Wednesday’s child is full of woe. I don’t know whether I was or if I am full of woe, and if I was or am then I don’t know whether that is because I was born on a Wednesday or if it’s because it was hammered into my psyche as a toddler – ‘You’re full of woe you are’, ‘You’re a proper miserable little sod’, and all the rest of it. The seemingly small and amusing barbs buried in the language and the culture, waiting to be winkled out and used against anyone who challenges the dreadful consensus.

I remember dreaming a lot when I was a kid. They were very scary dreams – many of them verging on nightmares. I wrote a novel about one of those recurring dreams and published it about ten years ago – it’s called The Three Bears and it’s had some very positive comments and reviews and one particularly nasty negative one – but I suppose it made the twat who left it feel better about himself.

I think I remember my first dream, but it may be a construct that I’ve built since. In the dream, if you can call it that, I am in an endless void, balancing on a very thin formless wall. I look down, there is no bottom; I know that if I fall I will never stop falling.

I fall.

I am born.

It is Wednesday December 19th, 1951.

I’m still falling. It’s now Sunday October 11th, 2015. Before the next winter solstice I will, if I’m lucky, celebrate my sixty-fourth birthday.

So, what I’m saying is that I existed before I was born and I will exist after I die. I have always existed and I will always exist. I’m not sure if this collection of experiences and genetics is me as such, so I’m not talking about this person, the person who I present to the world outside my own immediate brooding existence.

I don’t really know who I am. I don’t think anyone knows who anyone is.

But it doesn’t matter.

Nothing matters.

Everything matters.

The rest of this story may or may not be constructed out of bits and pieces of writing, memoirs, poems, short stories and probably/possibly many other random snippets. Some or none or all of it may or may not be true – but it will be the truth.

And so, off we go.


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