Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Writer's Life by Michael Crawley/Felix Baron

      Michael Crawley was born in London, England, and was brought up in one of the poorest districts, Canning Town.  He earned a scholarship to a Grammar School but the education was wasted on him.  He dropped out at fifteen.  A variety of jobs followed, from factory worker to street vendor to dancing teacher.  At eighteen he joined the British Army and was sent to the Middle East as a peace-keeper.  He was shot at twice; once by each side.  Both missed.  
      Back as a civilian, he pursued a number of careers and relationships, none of them successfully, until he emigrated to Canada, failed some more, but eventually took up writing and met Laurie Clayton, both of whom he has been happily faithful to ever since.  
      The highlights of his life so far have been his entire platoon standing up for him in defiance of a warrant officer, even under the threat of Court Martial, delivering his eldest daughter, Victoria, feeling a woman’s heart restart beating under his palm when he was giving her CPR, and Laurie Clayton.  
      Michael has been writing and teaching writing for over twenty years, so far.  He won the Mississauga Arts Council’s Award for Literature and has frequently been head juror for the same award, since.  About a score of his books have been published, not counting books he “ghosted,” plus several thousand short stories and articles.  
      He, with Laurie Clayton, has just completed writing a Course in Screenwriting for Winghill College, a correspondence school that he has worked with for almost two decades.  (WWW.WINGHILL.COM)

Michael’s latest novel, The Women’s Club, co-written with Laurie Clayton, is available from bookstores in the UK and on Amazon elsewhere. 

A Writer’s Life

      I’m going to start writing a new screenplay, I forgive You, today.  Writing scripts isn’t unusual for me.  If I’m not teaching, ghosting, or on a novel or a short story or an article, that’s what I do.  What’s unusual is that not only do I not have a market in mind for this one, but I’m pretty close to certain that I will never sell it.  In fact, I doubt that anyone but me will ever read it, including my partner, Laurie Clayton.  When it’s done, I’ll most likely save it on a memory stick and bury the stick somewhere in a bottom drawer.  The writing should take me about fourteen days.  That’s two weeks of my life that I plan to waste.  Crazy?
      H.L.Mencken admitted that he wrote for the same reason that a cow gives milk.  If he didn’t, it hurt.  I can sympathize.  It’s all about the writer’s subconscious mind.  I have a pretty good relationship with mine.  Whatever I work on by day, during the night my subconscious goes through it, looking for phrases that could be tweaked, dialogue that needs livening, and so on.  It then considers the text that I should be writing the next day.  When I get up in the morning, there’s a neat stack of mental notes waiting for me at my breakfast table, just to the right of the salt.  
      Most of the time, my subconscious is my unacknowledged collaborator.  The only recompense it demands, as a rule, is what I call my “3ams”  If I’m not really busy, once in a while my subconscious wakes me in the wee small hours and presents me with a completed short story.  As is only fair, considering the help I get from the same source,  I get up and type the tale as it’s dictated to me.  There’s never an immediate market for it; my subconscious doesn’t care about our income, but there have been a few instances when a market has shown up for a 3am, usually years later.  
      I can understand why, from my subconscious’ point of view, there’s always a degree of urgency.  My subconscious doesn’t have a subconscious.  It has very little storage capacity.  It’s like Mencken’s cow, with tiny udders.  Right now, it’s suffering.
      Almost a year ago, I managed to contract flu.  Within a few hours, it turned to pneumonia.  I spent ten days in hospital, nine of them on oxygen, eight of them delirious.  I was totally out of it.  My subconscious took full advantage.  It projected a movie onto the insides of my eyelids.  If my eyes were closed, the movie was playing, in full Technicolor.  When I opened my eyes, it paused and waited for me to close them again.  The problem is, both my superego and my ego were out of commission.  The movie was a collaboration between my subconscious and my id.

      It has to be a foul creature, my id.  All it seems to be interested in is sex and violence.  The movie was a cross between torture-porn and a bacchanalia.  Thank goodness my sense of humor woke and managed to inject a few gags – as in “jokes” not as in “vomiting.”  
      Even so, this damned thing is so extremely obscene that I wouldn’t even watch it, not by choice. 

      When I came out of hospital my subconscious fully expected me to sit down and write the script.  As it happened, I was busy with a ghosting job and right after that I was commissioned, with Laurie Clayton, to create a course on screenwriting for Winghill College.  I told my subconscious, “Sorry, I’m too busy.” 
      From time to time, that damned under-mind of mine reminded me that I owed it the script but for the most part, it left me alone.
      The Screenwriting Course is now written and delivered.  I’ve got a spec novel I’d like to be working on but my subconscious has lost all patience with me and I’ve run out of excuses.  Every night, without fail, I dream my way through that nightmarish script.  I’ve fought a good fight, I think, but a man has his limits.  
      I promise, O my subconscious, that I’ll get to FADE IN, right after lunch, okay?  Then will you let me sleep in peace?

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