Once upon a time i was, as usual, telling a student about the shitty working conditions at McLingua, the  minimum wage pay which forces you to work 12 hours a day to pay the rent. She asked if i wanted to get a real job for a real company, then said: “But I do not think you are the kind of person who wants to work for a company and stay there.” This was, and is, true. i’ve only had one non-temp job in my life, at the hospital in England. i liked working there as a temp, and as soon as i was permascum i felt trapped & desperate to escape.

The older i get the more i accept such things. My character is my fate (or daimon). It keeps me from making bad choices. Bad as were my temp jobs, doing a PhD would have been worse, as would have been a long-term office job. My nature prevented me securing a PhD post or a normal job. No matter how hard i try, i appear to have come from another planet. People usually find it alarming at first, then they mostly warm to me and find me amusingly elberry. But it takes a while, and hence i failed almost every interview, things not moving beyond the “alarming” stage. i don’t blame the interviewers really, as if i were an interviewer, for an entry-level job, i would want someone malleable & predictable and not too bright. And entry-level jobs were the only kind i could even apply for, lacking the experience and “track record” in whatever noxious bullshit was in fashion.

At present i work too much and don’t have the time to write as i wish. i seem to spend almost half the day traveling, which means i can read but feel overexposed to humanity, at the mercy of public transport, and unable to write. However, i think this is also part of my fate and it gives me plenty of time to think about Bitches & Trash (my new book).

i didn’t even think about publication until someone asked; i replied, vaguely, that i’ll probably just Lulu it like my short stories and essays, and sell a dozen copies at most. i no longer even consider the possibility of money (let alone fame). 8 odd years ago, i realised the world of publishing is totally inimical to my nature and imagination. ZMKC’s tale of rejection is similar to mine, except that i couldn’t even get an agent; most just returned my offerings with a form letter. Two or three, who actually read some of it, said that it seemed good but there was no market for it. And how could there be a market for books no publisher will publish?

This vexed me in my youth but now seems of no consequence. A decade ago i wanted fame and money; over time, i came to see fame as a poisoned chalice; and about 4 years ago i lost all interest in fame of any kind. Money, this i would like, but i haven’t seriously thought about making money from writing in about 5 or 6 years. When i fantasise, i fantasise about getting a highly-paid and stimulating job where i can get home before 1900 and have the weekend free; then it would be possible to write several times a week and there wouldn’t be the slightest motivation to write except because i like writing.

Bitches & Trash is very different to The Better Maker. i carefully plotted the latter and so rarely felt any surprises in the writing. With B & T i have only a vague idea of the next 10,000 words and will just have to be flexible and see what happens. If it fizzles out, so be it. Consequently, i am often surprised as i write; i feel i am discovering the book in the writing. Something of this seems to communicate itself in the work, so even as it’s presently a haphazard bodge it has a life TBM for the most part lacked.

Part of this is just experience; i wrote TBM over 2 years, and then spent another few years rewriting it. If nothing else, i learnt a lot about how to write a novel. However, i believe it’s also to do with my attitude – that i no longer think “this will win lots of prizes and i will be rich and be on telly in a waistcoat”. Instead, i think i’ll eventually do a final draft and put it on Lulu and a few people might read it, and maybe after i’m dead it might be taken up and exploited by the publishers who wouldn’t touch it now.

i’m reminded of Dan Pink’s theory of intrinstic motivation. It has, apparently, been shown that for mechanical tasks extrinsic motivation (e.g. money) increases productivity; and that the exact opposite happens with intellectual/creative tasks – that offering people money actually makes them less productive.

The ox is driven to pasture by blows; perhaps my years of constant rejection were a boon and without them i would not have my present indifference to extrinsic motivation. People sometimes accuse me of being arrogant or petulant (the Southron editors of the Dabbler accused me of “throwing a hissy fit” when i asked them to either format a review correctly or not use it at all – they chose to delete it; this after they’d ignored several relatively polite requests), of deliberately offending people, taking stupid risks, not taking care of myself, not being sufficiently diligent in my go-getting and apple polishing and fawning, acting like a retard, smelling like a dog, and so on. It’s not that i particularly want to offend people but that it really doesn’t seem to make any difference if i try to be nice or not; whatever i do, i can’t get a real job, can’t get my books published, can’t be a Volvo-owning success story. So, after years of rejection, i’ve just given up trying and am now largely disinterested. If people get upset that is their problem, as the Germans like to say.

i was similar in my last life. i liked to be respected (to an often ridiculous extent), but standard notions of fame revolted me, and i was also largely unaffected by financial concerns. In that case, it was because of my privileged background – i was raised to think myself above such things. In this life i’ve arrived at similar detachment through years of rejection & failure.

When i was younger i was more often suicidal, feeling i had no place in this world and shouldn’t exist (what should such poor fellows as I do crawling between heaven and earth). Comparing this to my last life i can see i have a certain basic character and it can manifest in many different ways. It is essentially apart from the world of Volvo-owning Southrons with their mortgages and savings and career plans, their many successes. They naturally look down at me. But i would say i’m not really in the same world as them. i feel closer to a dobermann or a stone than to such folk.

In our culture there don’t seem any convenient niches for those like myself – we are often wildly different and may even loathe each other, but we have one thing in common, that we are essentially disinterested. We do things because we like doing them and feel they are good things to do. We have a limited capacity for compromise (hence, we are often assholes). For a long time, one could take oneself off to a monastery, or even become a R.S. Thomas-style clergyman, terrifying the congregation. More recently, universities were a kind of lay monastery. i don’t think they are any longer. DG Myers writes of his father (also a teacher):

My father did not lack ambition, but he did not have what is conventionally thought of as ambition. He did not itch for career advancement. He avoided academic politics, stayed as silent as Clarence Thomas during faculty meetings, never sought an administrative appointment, and did not waste his time cozying up with the comers and climbers who could have taken him with them up the ladder.

[…]

Dad reached his intellectual maturity at exactly the right time—an expanding postwar economy, a massive population shift to the West, a sky-high confidence in education and a rising demand for scientific training. He could afford to neglect his professional image, to avoid the avoidance of risk, to fulfill his responsibilities and expect to be rewarded for nothing else.

This was all done away with in my lifetime. Had i been born 25 years earlier, i would probably have done a PhD in the 70s and would probably have lost my job in the 80s or 90s, as happened to a friend of mine – fired on a pretext by the University of Durham, because he opposed the increasing bureaucracy and all-round foolishness of the modern degree factory. However, i think the world will always have niches for people like me: i cannot expect the world to run to my desires, but nor do i think it wholly hostile and alien. In some sense, i feel the world – even the Volvo-driving world – requires those who go their own way; that die Einzelgänger determine the reality in which we all live. The influence is usually very discreet – so one could see DG Myers as a fairly obscure prof; but i think such people have in reality a great influence, occultly determined and difficult to understand, but real all the same. If, for example, Myers influences each student and some of these students then influence a hundred people, and some of those hundred influence others, then one could see Myers as being, in fact, quietly and extensively effective. And i feel that only die Einzelgänger, like Myers, can be such an influence; their detachment is their power.

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