I’m not planning on giving anything up or taking anything up for 2011. I’m not going to suddenly start long distance running or Bikram Yoga. I used to give up smoking every New Year for a couple of weeks, until it worked and I stopped smoking for 11 years. Easy peasy. But then I started again. How dumb is that? I’ve stopped again now, I don’t think about it because that’ll make me start again.
However, during the weird limbo between Christmas and New Year I do think about what I’m planning to do in the coming year.
I suppose I’m lucky in that I have a certain amount of choice in what I do, I’ve never had a ‘job’ but I’ve always worked.
My work diary is utterly empty after the middle of January. I have absolutely nothing confirmed, no jobs, no income, nothing. I’m really used to that, I’ve been in much the same position for the past 30 years. I have to believe something will happen, someone will say ‘yes’ to one of the numerous projects I have knocking around, but it’s just as possible that none of my plans will come to fruition and I’ll end up doing something I cannot imagine at the moment.
It’s been my ambition for many years to take some control of my destiny, to decide to say no to some things that are offered to me and concentrate on what I really want to do and believe in. That is the hardest thing to stick to.
I’m currently half way through writing two books, one a work of gentle science fiction, the other a kind of disjointed comic autobiography.
I have tried to plan out my year to give me enough time to finish both these books.
It’s not like I’ve just started them in a breeze of optimism and enthusiasm in the last week or two, I’ve been working on them intermittently for the last 3 or 4 years, so they’re not exactly new projects.
But books take a long time to write, the world is bristling with distractions, there’s always something else to do but I really enjoy writing. When I do focus and get down to it, I lose myself totally in the process.
I plan to experiment with one of the books, I want to bypass publishers altogether and self publish and promote the book. There are now print on demand services around that mean I don’t have to print 10,000 copies in the hope of selling them and then feeling guilty about the paper when I don’t. I also want to release them as e-books, audio books and even, possibly, a graphic novel version.
This makes the whole project much more exciting, I’ve always had the feeling that there was something slow, stodgy and immovable between myself and an audience since I started working in telly 25 years ago.
Before that I worked on stage, there was nothing other than fear between my writing and performing and any potential audience. It was a very direct, visceral form of communication; there was no producing or editing third party involved. Either it worked and it was great, or it bombed and it was terrible.
I’ve worked in the traditional media business for a long time now, I’ve done loads of old school telly work and published 12 books through old school publishers. It’s been a wonderful experience and I feel incredibly lucky to have had that experience, however I’ve always been driven to try and find a different and new way of doing what I do.
Although using the internet as a way of connecting to a potential audience is new and weird and unknown, it’s also very familiar. It reminds me of the first live shows I was involved in where we stuck up a screen printed poster and hoped people would turn up at a theatre.
I always lived in fear that no one would turn up so when people did it was incredibly fulfilling. Best example was at the Edinburgh festival in 1981, we only had 1 poster, the first night, 5 people, the second, 50, on the third night it was sold out. Now when I put a video up on YouTube and a lot of people watch it, I get the same buzz.
But what is exciting and revolutionary about the internet is the idea of collaborative creativity. This is something I’m diddling about with at the moment. I’m wondering about putting some bits of my book online now and asking for feedback, it’s a book about ideas and the future and I know a lot of people would have a lot of ideas in this area.
I don’t know how to do it, I don’t know if it’s a good idea, I don’t know if it’s fair to the people who suggest things or me trying not to get overwhelmed and confused.
It’s not something I did on stage, I didn’t say, ‘anyone got any feedback on how to make that last joke even remotely funny’ to a live audience. I can imagine the response if I did. Yes, it would have been a cruel and belittling torrent of criticism, all of which I would have deserved.
However, if the final product was better than I could do on my own, if instead of having one editor in a publishers office, I had 5,000 on the net, it could be incredible.
We are entering new territory and no one knows the route. I kind of like that.
Little update, had a few questions about this. Apparently on Wikipedia it only lists 8 books, this list is what I can recall being published.
The Reconstructed Heart
The Man in Rubber Mask
This He Was and Filthy Haired
The Man on Platform 5
Therapy and How to Avoid it. (with Nigel Planer)
The Scrapheap book
I originally said I’d published 12 books, I’ve checked again as I could have sworn that’s how many. It would be very embarrassing to admit you’d forgotten something you wrote but I’m pretty sure this list is right.