You’ll never guess what I found a few days ago. Go on, have a guess. You probably think that I found myself living in a bin, perhaps even turned to your partner and said, “Haha, bet he found himself living in a bin,” through a mouthful of toast before clicking on to the Guardian website.
But you’d be wrong. I haven’t found myself living in a bin. Not yet at least. No, I found this little beauty:
Life-wrecking equipment, earlier.
Whoops, what do we have here? Well, what we have here is the 2010 edition of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. I bought it in September 2009. My plan was simple: (1) Pitch all of the 642 magazines listed in there with ideas for features, (2) write features, (3) make money, (4) write book, (5) make more money, (6) sell film rights to book, (7) make yet more money, (8) live on an island.
Regular readers will know that it hasn’t quite worked out like that. Very, very close, granted, but not quite. It worked out a bit more like this: (1) Pitch hardly any of the 642 magazines listed in there with features ideas, (2) write very few features, (3) make no money, (4) write no book, (5) make less money, (6) sell everything of value I own, (7) make even less money, (8) live in an office.
Admittedly it was a very thrilling and heartfelt attempt at the whole thing, but I fell ever-so-slightly short. I think I know why. Here’s why:
Aeroplane Monthly and friends, earlier.
This is the first page of the section, “Magazines UK and Ireland.” See what a spirited and industrious start I made? I’ve scribbled all over it – have made all kinds of notes. I’ve written “FLYING DOCS” next to the entry for Aeroplane Monthly, presumably because a month or so earlier I had visited the Flying Doctors museum in Alice Springs, Australia, and I thought that would make a good feature. Me visiting a museum. That the editor of Aeroplane Monthly perhaps wasn’t even aware of the Flying Doctors and it was down to me, a hard-nosed go-getting journalist who had visited a museum in Australia but left after about ten minutes because he was bored to highlight their fine work to both him and his readership. Underneath “FLYING DOCS” I’ve written “BRYSON GUY” but I have no idea what this means.
Elsewhere on the page I’ve written “Tax?” next to Accountancy and also “Stress?” I know, another pair of mind-blowers. Next to Acumen Literary Journal, a publication focussing on “Poetry, literary and critical articles, reviews etc.” I’ve written “Poem?” Clearly, I was on fire in early September 2009.
Rather unbelievably however, it only gets worse. There are oceans of empty space where I’ve written nothing at all. Six years I’ve had that book. Six years. I look at the F’s. The F’s aren’t good. Please don’t look at the F’s. Oh come on then, let’s have a good old look at the F’s. On one page I’ve written one thing. It’s a page containing magazines I could actually write for: FHM (I’ve written at least eight features for the current editor), Film Ireland (I’ve been paid to write film reviews before), Film Review (I’ve written features – features for god’s sake – about films), I could have even potentially have written for The Field, focussing on “The British countryside and country pursuits,” if I had sat down and thought about it for a bit.
But no. No, I seem to have bypassed all of that and made one note in this section, adjacent to Family Tree Magazine. Next to Family Tree Magazine, I’ve written “OUR FAMILY TREE?”
Nothing for FHM. Nothing for any of the film publications. Nothing for any magazines that might have paid me reasonable money. Nope, instead I’ve plumped for Family Tree Magazine, despite having practically zero interest in my own or anyone else’s family tree.
And not only that, it’s not even an idea. I don’t know what it is, but it’s certainly not an idea. Really? “OUR FAMILY TREE?” I’ve even gone an underlined the “OUR” as if to stress what a precise, unusual and original idea this is, as if when the editor gets my pitch (which I imagine wouldn’t have been much more developed than, “Dear Editor, I’d like to write about MY family tree…”) she’s going to summon her co-workers and say, “You’re not going to believe this. You better all sit down. This is going to blow you away. I received an email this morning from a writer and he wants to write about HIS family tree. That’s right: HIS OWN FAMILY TREE. How could we have been so stupid? Why are we not running this sort of stuff? It’s been staring us right in our fucking faces all of these years but we’ve just not seen it…”
Wow, the editor of Family Tree magazine is certainly sweary and colourful. Maybe I should try and write for her. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should just get rid of the book, draw a line underneath it, much like the line that I drew underneath “OUR FAMILY TREE?” But how? The obvious answer, and one you are no doubt all thinking, is: “Ceremonially burn it. You know, as a sort of cathartic experience. Go on, burn the fucker. Burn its bastard brains out.”
Well, I hear you. I really do. I love the sacrificial burning of books as much as the next man. But I’d want it to be dramatic, would want to take the book down to the beach late at night in a metal flower pot and set fire to it whilst barking at the moon. I don’t have a metal flower pot though, and don’t really have the means to buy one. Plus I’d need a beard. It would take me two months to grow a good one. If you’re going to set fire to a book in a metal flower pot late at night on the beach whilst barking at the moon you have to have a beard. Anything less is amateurish.
Or I could leave it on, say, a bench in the park. But then it could fall into the wrong hands, it could fall into the hands of a writer and, well, I couldn’t live with the responsibility.
So I think I’ll just throw it away. Just let it go and move on. Yes, I think I’ll do that. Tomorrow though, after I’ve had a proper think about Family Tree magazine, Flying Doctors and poems.