FOREWORD FROM THE EDITOR
Charles Bukowski: I guess what I meant is that you are better off doing nothing than doing something badly. But the problem is that bad writers tend to have the self-confidence, while the good ones tend to have self-doubt. So the bad writers tend to go on and on writing crap and giving as many readings as possible to sparse audiences. These sparse audiences consist mostly of other bad writers waiting their turn to go on, to get up there and let it out in the next hour, the next week, the next month, the next sometime. The feeling at these readings is murderous, airless, anti-life. When failures gather together in an attempt at self-congratulation, it only leads to a deeper and more abiding failure. The crowd is the gathering place of the weakest; true creation is a solitary act.
Ed.: Well – anyone and everyone has a right to their opinion. And Bukowski would have saluted that notion too. Bukowski (1920-1994) remains something of literary beast. He was born in Europe and went to the United States at the age of three. His life had much pain and included ‘a long career as an alcoholic’. At 24 he wrote a short story Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip. He sets the mood of the writer who is alone with his own mind. One idea of his, which catches the burden a writer carries, is to see ‘blackness at the end of the tunnel’. The amateur writer, the writer for pleasure, the writer whose life does not depend on writing is a free spirit – anything and everything counts, is worthy. For the professional there is a different mode – crafting.
The amateur, perhaps, is much more the artist; the professional is the craftsman. There are thousands of writing groups across the country, and tens of thousands of professional writers of one kind, one genre, or another – be they copy writers for advertisements or top-line novelists. The essential difference is that the professional is constantly looking, not so much at the writing, but at what a reader wants. The professional writes for the market, or the next market. But the ‘market’ is as a meeting place of land and sea and thus ever shifting. If the sea is the writer then the sea can at times change a landscape so that, from time to time, something new, a book, a style of writing, a new genre arrives, breaking the mould of the market. Even so, were the writer to limit himself or herself to writing for personal pleasure a risk is taken that his pleasure is not shared. At this point the art of the personal has to be honed, by the crafting of the work in hand, for other persons to read. The notion of writing for the reader is something which, at times, is missing in the work of the amateur group member – who Bukowski dismisses so easily. There are few professionals who are happy with an initial draft. The professional is not self-satisfied, and more usually will go a lot further than mere dotting and crossing; he will consider the power of what is written. Quality. The amateur should do the same.
I do not count myself a professional because I am not bothered with cash returns, though my own writing has made me money, and continues to do so. Rather I see myself as an amateur given to searching out the dares and the limitations of crafting amateur writing. I am not alone.
I am pleased to belong to a group which, to a member, is prepared to alter and hone, be the item a poem or a novella. There is not so much a sense of self-congratulation in the group but more the sense of being in a den of dragons prepared to molest dreams. Woe to the faint-hearted not prepared to listen to a critique. The beauty of critique is to improve the work – but the author can still ignore the critique if the author is certain sure that what is there has the edge over other opinions.
What follows is a run of examples from Croydon Writers both active and attending, and members unable to attend or gone to other parts of the country, indeed the globe – our so-styled ‘country members’. Not a single piece is here by default; all items have been subject to, at the very least, editorial advice. The acid test of ‘does it work?’ has been applied, and then accepted or rejected at every stage of writing from the first draft until the final proofing.
The Anthology does not claim to be great writing which could change the market to a new need, but certainly we have applied a professional approach to what for us, all of us, is an enormous pleasure even if individual writing is a solitary act of unlimited possibility. For this reason we have also included some ‘article’ writing, an autobiographical sketch, together with a range of poems, short stories and extracts. Each author is introduced by a ‘mood’ illustration. Writing has no limit to range or pleasure. We hope to share our pleasure with you, our reader.