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Gareth Crocker

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#STBooks: You’d Swear Authors Write in Their Sleep, by Gareth Crocker

By Gareth Crocker for The Sunday Times

KingNow that I’ve churned out a few novels, I’m often asked what it’s like to live the life of, quote, an ‘established author’. What are my routines? How long do I write for each day? Until recently, these questions were mostly accompanied by a smile and a polite air of curiosity.

But as I discovered during a panel interview at a book fair, that calm and tranquil air must have been carrying a storm on its back. A rather hefty woman with a face like thunder rose up from the audience – like a rapidly forming cumulonimbus, to offer a bad simile – and slapped a hand on her hip.

Stopping just of making bunny-finger quotes, she said, “I’m interested to know what life is like for authors on, say, an average Monday morning.”

What she was really asking was: “While the rest of us hard-working salt-of-the-earth folk have to get up at an ungodly hour to ride the corporate hamster wheel, what time do you eventually roll out of bed, you pampered and undeserving git?”

It was the unmistakable, bitter wheeze of a disgruntled and wannabe author with an axe to grind.

“Um… Normally my day begins with a light breakfast out on the pool deck, followed by a spirited session of Yoga or Pilates. I have 15 minutes in the sauna and then a long bath. At about 11 I shuffle to my studio where I write for about an hour before heading off to lunch with friends.”

Lightning flickered in her eyes. I had just confirmed her darkest suspicions. She nodded the way a mob boss might nod to his henchmen when it was time to start shooting people. I cleared my throat.

“Actually, I normally get up at around four-thirty. I go for a quick run before helping my wife get our daughters ready for school. After that, I shower and head off to work.”

This gave the woman pause. By work, you mean you start writing?” The threat of bunny fingers still lingered in the air.

“No. By work I mean I head off to my corporate job which normally keeps me very busy for 10 or 11 hours. After that, I fight my way home through the traffic, just in time to read my children a bedtime story.”

“And that’s when you start writing?”

“Er … no. There’s invariably a few important emails that need answering or a report that needs drafting.”

“So when do you write?” the cumulonimbus rumbled, running out of patience.

“On a good night, I start at nine-thirty or so and work until either I can’t keep my eyes open anymore or I’m crying so much at the sheer futility of it all that I can no longer see the screen.”

“B-But when do you sleep?”

“Well, given how much I’m worrying about poor sales, scathing reviews, looming deadlines and a world in which reading seems to be slipping farther and farther down the totem pole of things people do in their spare time… some nights I don’t sleep at all.”

It’s worth noting at this point that almost every South African author – indeed 95% of all authors around the world – do not enjoy the luxury of writing during the day, and cannot survive on the proceeds of their novels alone (unless, perhaps, they live in a tent, eat tree bark and drink their own urine). Indeed, most authors make little to no money out of their books and spend the best part of their days riding a 9-to-5 hamster wheel of one sort or another.

So what am I really on about here? What, you ask, is the single illuminating gold thread of this column? What infinitely and indisputably noble point am I making here?

Well, it’s quite simple really. Stop playing computer games and buy my bloody novels, please.

Gareth Crocker’s latest novel is King (Penguin). Before being published, Gareth estimates that he received enough rejection slips to wallpaper his entire house.

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    February 4th, 2014 @10:13 #
     
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    Love it!

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