How I Avoided the Allure of False Paths and Became a Writer
A guest post by Barbara Scott Emmett
Like most writers I scribbled from an early age – poems and stories, homemade magazines for which I was the sole contributor – you know the sort of thing. You would think therefore that I was set on a brilliant writing career before I was out of junior school. Alas, like all hero(in)es my journey was beset by obstacles. Many were the byways I lost myself in before I found my One True Path. The Trolls of Indecision and The Lure of Other Artistic Outlets had to be conquered before I could reach my goal.
It started with The Jezzebels – note the two zeds. This was a girl group I set up with a couple of schoolmates, Sylvia and Hazel. Sylvia changed her name to Cilla, I called myself Bob, or Apples, (don’t ask – it really isn’t worth it) and Hazel sensibly stuck to her own name.
Oh how we entertained the neighbours – Hazel plinking away at my mother’s piano, me on my ten bob guitar and Cilla doing a Mick Jagger impression with the maraccas my brother brought back from British Guiana. Occasionally the brass candlesticks would be deployed – makes a satisfying chink, does brass.
Growing up and other life experiences got in the way of our glittering career. The Jezzebels faded from memory.
Travel, education and some failed relationships later, I took up Art. With Art I could mooch around moodily in paint-spattered jeans and suffer. My blue period John and Yoko was extremely well thought of; almost everyone could guess who it was meant to be.
Copying photographs and album covers was all very well but it was never going to make me the next Hockney. Despite a steady hand and a prediliction for painting in different shades of the one colour, I had to admit the truth: I lacked the spark of originality necessary for greatness.
The battered paintbox was slung to the back of the cupboard with the ten bob guitar.
I met up with writing again. We flirted and dabbled. Created satisfying sentences, felicitous phrases, veracious vignettes. But the Troll of Music hadn’t finished with me yet.
When a singer-songwriter boyfriend upped and went to Germany to pursue his career I was devastated. I coped with this rejection by deciding to outdo him. (I think this is known as the I’ll-get-you-you-bastard form of therapy.) Despite an inability to distinguish a B flat from an A minor, I equipped myself with a Fender acoustic and a Play in a Day instruction booklet. I learned all the chords I hadn’t bothered with in my earlier musical interlude.
In no time at all I was strumming along with my Nigerian friend Bowale while he slapped his congas and shouted in Yoruba. It was a kind of Sprechgesang but a lot louder. Astonishingly, we got gigs in pubs. Some of them actually gave us money. Other friends, inspired by our bewildering overnight success, muscled in on the action. Before long I was a member of a seven piece combo called Nigerian Grass and had acquired an electric guitar and an amplifier. The band now featured at least three real musicians. (Who let them in?)
We played on the then burgeoning Alternative Comedy circuit. (Reader, I shared a dressingroom with Paul Merton!) I put our success down to the fact that African music was becoming popular at that time but no one yet knew enough about it to realise what it should sound like. The highlight of our career was a gig at the Rock Garden. Which just goes to show you can get away with anything if you have thick enough skin. And a good sound engineer.
Sadly, musical differences (the fact that some of us could actually play an instrument while some of us, ahem, couldn’t) eventually split us up.
There was nothing else for it. I returned to my first and most lasting love: writing.
And I’ve never looked back. Well, apart from a brief foray into amateur dramatics but I soon hacked the head off that Troll. (Actually, it was my head that was hacked off. I played Dr Crippen’s wife and was poisoned, shot, chopped up and boiled. I only appeared in the first act.)
So after many adventures, after finding myself lost in numerous dark woods, after fending off all the dragons that tried to steer me from my course, I finally killed the Grendel, found the Grail, and married the princess.
Writing and I have been together for nearly thirty years now. We’ve spawned a clutch of novels, a fistful of short stories and a bunch of miscellaneous other scribblings.
And we’re still very much in love.
Barbara Scott Emmett’s new novel Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion will be published in association with Triskele Books in October 2014. The ebook will be available from 1st August. Find out more about it here. (http://bit.ly/1rYqaDT )
Her other work is available from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online stores via Pentalpha Publishing Edinburgh. Find out more from her blog or website.
Check out An Erotic Conversation on this very blog, where Barbara and I discuss what constitutes hot writing.
My Blog http://barbarascottemmett.blogspot.co.uk/