Am I a Novelist?

So…now I have completed the first draft of my third novel. Hmmm…yes…indeed.
I did this through ‘NaNoWriMo’ (National Novel Writing Month) where you are challenged to write fifty thousand words in one month (November). For the second year running I am a winner and have miraculously completed that many words and my novel has a start, a middle and an end (round of applause please!).
If you had asked me whether I was capable of such a thing a year and a half ago I probably would have laughed at you in the way that we often laugh off things that might challenge us. The kind of laughter born of disbelief and fear.
Of course there is still lots of work to do with editing my novel and rewriting. I now have two novels that require such extended work. Only the novel that I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2011 is in any kind of finished state.
Despite the work ahead it should still be a gratifying feeling to accomplish such a creative feat, and I do feel proud of myself. In a way…
But then, being the miserable bugger that I can sometimes be, I wonder about what it all means. And, yet again, I find myself wondering why I am doing it? The writing I mean…
The first thing, and this is a hard thing to admit, is that it is a bit self-indulgent. If writers (or artists of any kind) are honest, they are often creating to entertain others, and thereby seeking to gain approval from others. We all want to be adored after all? Don’t we?
Although, I have to admit that there is a certain terror when someone I know actually reads something I have written. This is always a difficult thing. If a friend or family member reads your work then aren’t they obliged to tell you they like it, even if they don’t? So you can’t always trust what they say…
Praise from strangers is better. It is a bit like when I play gigs. Singing to strangers is always easier and less precious than singing to friends.
I guess I am just rambling now. My real question is this. Do I dare now call myself a ‘novelist’ simply because I have written some novels? Am I a novelist if no one has ever read my work?
Franz Kafka never had a novel published in his life. He only ever published short stories in magazines (like ‘Metamorphosis’). He later instructed his friend Max Brod to burn all his manuscripts before he died. We have Brod to thank because he ignored Kafka’s request and published works like ‘The Trial’ and ‘The Castle’ posthumously anyway.
Would we call Kafka a novelist if Brod hadn’t published his work and burnt it instead? If we knew he had written novels but no one had ever read them?
I am not sure what I think about this. I suppose if you write a novel (however good or bad?) that makes you a novelist…even if you aren’t published or make a living from it…
Perhaps I will challenge myself over the Christmas period. Often when we meet new people, perhaps at parties, they ask us “What are you?” to which I sometimes reply “I am a human being, what are you?” Or they ask “What do you do?” to which I sometimes reply “I like to lie on the sofa, what do you do?”
Flippant and silly I know, but maybe, just maybe, this Christmas I will be brave and when somebody asks me one of those questions I will answer “I am a novelist…”
Do you think I will dare?
What do you think?

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Franz Kafka…very Kafkaesque don’t you know…

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Self-portrait of the artist as a ‘Novelist’…
© 2012 Simon Poore

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Naked Bodies, Creativity and Losing Yourself…

For the last few months, I have been going to look at someone naked every Thursday night. I sit in a room with about fifteen other people and stare at one naked person for about two hours. With a coffee break in the middle. One week it might be a tall, angular man that we look at, the next it might be a curvaceous ‘womanly’ woman. And I have to say that this activity has been a thoroughly delightful experience.
One that takes place in a Church Hall…
It is not what some of you might be thinking. I have been attending a Life Drawing class. Now I am not someone who would consider themselves an ‘artist’ in any shape or form. Most of the other members of the class are what I would describe as real artists; they can translate the human form so beautifully with one or two strokes of a humble stick of charcoal. Their work often puts me to shame. Yes, I would describe myself as a creative person, I have written songs and played music since I was about fifteen and in the last year or so I have discovered the hidden writer within me, which has been a joy.
So why, one might ask, do I attempt to create ‘art’ in another way? I have thought about this a lot over the last few months, and often failed to encapsulate the feeling. It has a number of levels to it but I think sometimes it is simply about ‘contentment’.
For those who have never been to a life drawing class it is amazing how there is very little embarrassment or awkwardness there is, both from the pupils and the models. Within ten seconds of the model de-robing and posing you forget that they are naked and are lost in studying their amazing form and shape. Attempting to recreate the curves and lines and angles of each part of the body. There is nothing remotely sexual about it, but it is a sensual experience. Realising what your eye really actually ‘sees’ can be a revelation. All are beautiful, no matter their size and shape.
In those short two hours I can lose myself, I am at one, in the moment. And most of all I feel content. All the worries and imagined problems of an ordinary life are lost. This is one of the reasons I create. I have the same feeling when I am writing, lost in the imaginary worlds I am weaving.
By the way, I have surprised myself there too – I am well into the second chapter of my second novel as I await replies from agents for the first one.
Some might think that ‘losing yourself’ in this way is some form of unreal escape from reality, and maybe it is. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, we all need to escape from time to time. The bonus with this type of escape is that occasionally you have an end product, a picture or a song or a piece or writing that you can feel proud of. A sense of achievement can be found. One that isn’t measured through money, or possessions or jobs, one that you did for yourself.
Maybe that’s why I go and stare at a naked person every Thursday…

What do you think?

This is my art class: Norwich Life Drawing – see if you can spot me, lost in concentration. If you live nearby why not give it a try, or maybe consider a class like it wherever you are in the world…

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This is the only picture I have felt was good enough to show! (If you want a print of it, or maybe the original – go ahead make me an offer!)

© 2012 Simon Poore