“A scatter-gun trespassing on literary dirty washing”
Shrapnel from a Writing Life – Ian Gouge (1st January 2022)
Above all else, this is the story of a journey.
Over the last thirty-seven years or so, across a number of hand-written journals, I have been keeping what might be termed a record; although on reflection, even the word ‘record’ is something of a misnomer.
Relating to my ambition ‘to be a Writer’, the notebooks offer a compendium of thoughts, ideas, plans, ruminations, decisions (needed, taken, and not taken), aspirations, failings and disappointments. And the occasional success!
Their contents also represent a quest for that which always seemed just within reach – but more often than not remained entirely elusive.
“Shrapnel from a Writing Life” is not a conventional book. It is neither fiction nor poetry, though it contains elements of both; nor is it strictly autobiographical, though it does present a partial life seen through a very particular lens. Also, it is not a book which lends itself to be ‘read’ in a standard manner; there is no ‘normal’ narrative flow to permit such an experience.
The majority of the text concerns itself with the notes made during those thirty-seven years as the author attempted to work out not only what to write, but how to write; as he became absorbed in the minutiae of plot and character during the process of weighing-up or refining an idea. And it also lays bare the considerable angst which accompanies such struggle. Thus rough notes on an idea for a novel might be followed by more generic planning, consideration of the impact of paid work on his writing life, the nature of writing versus art, or the output from the kind of internal debates surely all writers must experience.
In its own way it is a remarkable endeavour – and a remarkably ambitious one. The tenacity of the author – in both keeping his notebooks alive for so many years, and then committing them to paper – requires equally tenacious readers; readers who can sift through these pages looking for nuggets as if they were panning for gold.