Outside The Box

Regular readers will be aware that this blog covers all types of writing from short stories and poetry to screenplays and rap music. I believe there’s a lot we can learn from all these forms. Even watching Made in Chelsea is a great lesson in improv.

However, on moving into a new place last month, I took the decision not to own a TV. This was something I’d considered for a long time as I would either rarely watch it, or it would become a distraction when I could be doing something productive. Either way, it would more than counteract the benefits of having one.

The other factor swaying my decision is the matter of the TV licence. In the UK, you need to pay an annual fee if you have equipment that receives television broadcasts, if you watch live TV online, or if you use BBC iPlayer for any purpose. The money goes towards funding the BBC and there are heavy fines if you aren’t correctly licensed.

While it’s a difficult field to police, that’s enough of a disincentive for me not to have a telly. If there’s something I really want to see, I have other options. You can watch DVDs or most catch-up services without a licence, and you can also own a radio without charge. Even better, I’m fortunate enough to be within easy reach of two cinemas: one mainstream, the other independent.

With not having a TV, it’s an obvious question to ask what I have in its place. The answer:

 

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The Other 75%.

Just before I begin, a couple of an announcements for people in and around Dundee. Hotchpotch, the writers’ open-mike, is next Monday, 4 August between 7pm and 9pm at The Burgh in Commercial Street. I’m afraid I can’t make that meeting, but there’s a similar event for poets between 12pm and 4pm in Baxter Park on Sunday 10 August, to which I plan to go.

In an interview with the BBC, literary agent Johnny Geller stated that in a survey of self-published authors, 75% of those asked said it was a hobby and that he was interested in the other 25%. I think that’s a fair comment from an agent, as he needs his authors to make a full-time commitment. But I wonder how many of the other 75% would be willing to turn that hobby into a career if they were offered the right publishing deal? It can be a big step to give up the fabled day-job.

For me, it’s a trade-off between a permanent office job with a regular income versus handing in my notice and freeing up those 37 hours per week to write. There would need to be a compelling offer to give it up because if a book deal didn’t materialise, the organisation isn’t replacing lost workers so I would need to look elsewhere for another regular income.

The other consideration is how long to continue trying before finding another regular income. Six months? Two years? Until I feel as though I’m suffering for my art?

It is possible to combine the two. Oscar Wilde and Philip Larkin both worked other jobs throughout their writing careers, and I know an author who is currently employed by a major bookstore chain. The next time I have the opportunity, I’ll ask him whether he considers it a help or hindrance.

Hey hey, I wanna be a rock, er, film star

Finally, I took part in a low-budget film on Saturday as an extra. It’s called Shooting Clerks, about the making of the 1994 Kevin Smith movie Clerks. We were asked to dress in fashions of the period, so I wore a T-shirt, jeans, and a backwards baseball cap. By good fortune, I was meant to attend an open-air Grease singalong later that day. It was cancelled due to the weather, but I could have become John Travolta simply by removing my headgear.

There was no script available to have a nosy through so I don’t know too many specifics. We were simply given instructions when to laugh and applaud as if we were at a film premiere. But keep an eye out around its scheduled release date of 13 April 2015.