When I was five I wanted to be a policeman. Then I grew up to be incredibly pretty, and realised that the life of a grey-looking, slightly overweight middle-aged man (otherwise known as half the cast of The Bill, may it rest in peace) was not for me; not if I was to also spend half my time running about, at any rate. Soon after came an interest in writing, once I’d stopped pretending to my Dad, a Maths teacher, that Maths was my favourite subject. It’s because of that interest, specifically an interest in journalism, that I’m now doing English Literature at University, as well as writing an infrequent-but-regular column in Haywire Magazine, which you should totes check out.
Lately, my interest in this journalistic pursuit has begun to wane. I suppose in part that this could have something to do with it being a seemingly dying field – or at least one evolving far quicker than anyone involved with it can currently cope with – and I’d rather not pile my goals on a career path that’s got the potential to be, if you’ll excuse the phrasing, a financial shit hole. Not that I’d ever want to go into something, or refuse to go into something, because of the money involved, but… well, a man’s gotta dress.
More than that though, I’m pretty sure it has to do with my being surrounded with art students at my particularly arty University. When most of the people around you are paying £9000 a year to paint there does, oddly, begin to creep in a feeling of envy. Tearing other people’s work to shreds for at least three years might make me somewhat (emphasis on the ‘somewhat’) more broadly appealing to employers than someone who’s been brushing up (ho ho ho) on their oil painting, but I can’t deny that the desire to create something that people feel is noteworthy enough to tear apart in the first place is more alluring. I guess I’m suffering from a kind of intellectual penis envy, if you will. Most of those Fine Art folks will never produce anything deemed culturally valuable, but the aim far outweighs the reality: the highs of a creator sail above those of all but the most noteworthy of critics and journalists; hell, even the idea of being a struggling artist is the more romantic and enticing option.
What am I saying then? Well, I still want to be a writer. But what I really want is to be a writer-writer: a novelist, a playwright, a screenwriter. Something, and something that carries itself with some significance and weight. (Although I must say that poetry has never, and likely will never, appeal.) And whilst that’s not the most original nor interesting of aspirations, it bears a personal importance. Because for the first time, I actually have some form of higher aspiration that I feel particularly drawn to.
Perhaps I’m a glory-hunter, or even just a slightly more trumped-up product of a fame-obsessed generation, but I find myself staring down one unavoidable truth: a critic might command an adoring following, but I’d rather be one of the guys whose work they’ve spent their lives deconstructing and shitting on and praising to the high heavens; the esoteric, borderline-alcoholic creator-genius interviewee over the intelligent, chirpy interviewer. In short, I want to be a narcissist worthy of his own narcissism. Perhaps such a top-down, in-it-for-the-glory outlook means I’ll never get there, but at least I now I have a ‘there’ to hold on to as a distant focus.