Mr Paul Arden. He once gave a speech to an auditorium of publishers accompanied by a naked man.
Once gave a speech without a word.
Always struck me as one of those wonderful creatures of hideous ego that you would duck and cower from if ever you chanced to be in his path, but he leaves gold in his wake, true gold for the curious, breadcrumbs of genius, endless stories and scenarios, I could sit and picture in my head and never lose the wonder of them.
But I’m not just enjoying him, I’m referencing those breadcrumbs.
There is a storm brewing. A wee storm, but it blows the edges of my wee world, that of indies and wannabes, might bes and just hobby be’s.
An idea has been pinched, perhaps more, the details are uncertain but a man’s narrative territory has been infringed upon. And trust in the big bad internet and the big bad publishing world alike, has been severely worn down.
Should we put our stuff out there? Can our bloodsweat be replaced for a few hundred quid and a writer for hire? Are we not so much a slush pile but a cauldron of ideas? And if we happen to get boiled up in the process…eh…
Can someone steal your story? Yip. They can steal your car and your shoes, your favourite joke at a party and they might get more laughs. It happens every day and rarely ends in court.
As a kid I surrendered nights and sleep to thoughts. Words I thought I had to capture, like a rare nocturnal species, I was sure if I didn’t pin them down, then and there, they would be gone. And I was right, but my fear, really, was that there would be no more. Every thought I had might be the one, the only one that was worth giving out and if I didn’t catch them all I might miss it.
It’s the writers misconception – a common affliction that doesn’t necessarily pass. Maybe it’s built into the profession. We are all knobbling for room on narrow ground. We share a common language, sup from a common culture, parcelling out the meagre seven stories that have had to do us since the very beginning and we’re all afraid we might miss our chance to stake our corner. Maybe it’s built into being human.
There is a greater truth as we huddle hoarding those thoughts with aching fingers, fearing that they might dry up, wondering which one – is it this one? – might be our golden ticket, they were never ours to begin with. We’re all thieves. Be honest ask yourself, who has inspired you? In voice whose tone have you sought to emulate, did that alpha male construct himself (does he really resemble your snoring other half?) Can you say you took nothing of what they gave so willingly? As long as there is discourse there is theft and great art. As soon as we shut it down we shut down ourselves.
“Give away everything you know and more will come back to you”
The only way to extend that narrow ground is to lay more ideas down. And no matter how terrifying it seems, the truth is until you stick your foot out into the abyss you run far more risk of having your toes tread on.
It was my fondness for sleep that taught me. So now, unless its the solution to a particularly thorny problem, I let the nocturnal thoughts fly free. I still have more thoughts, ideas and stories than I can wade through, the incoming flow a tidal wave I’m quite happy to watch from the observation platform, spraying all and sundry. Now my fear is that I will miss my chance, too busy holding back afraid I am not good enough.. I wonder what Paul had to say about that?
“Being right may be like walking backwards proving where you’ve been.
Being wrong isn’t in the future, or in the past.
Being wrong isn’t anywhere but being here.”
Not immediately obvious as the answer I am looking for, nor the answer to should we just throw our ideas out there, but it all returns to risk. Taking the chance, throwing caution and experience and wiser words to the wind. You can never really know you’re doing the right thing, living the right moment, writing the right story, until you do it.
So do it..
And if someone steals it, well they don’t steal lada’s do they?