Trips and Tropes: the Writer, (Sub)Urban Myths

You’re at a party: some of the guests don’t know you: ‘Meet X: she’s a writer …’ 

Wannabe ...
Wannabe …

Others, friends from the past: ‘Are you still writing?’

So, a bit of doggerel verse: if you’re a writer, do you recognise anything here?

Writer’s Block? I’ve just read another writer’s blog: she tackles the trope,  then concludes ‘I’ve read enough to convince me that at best, it’s probably tiredness and at worst, a self-styled excuse to bunk off and not lose face. Plumbers don’t get plumbers’ block, I read, or heard, somewhere by someone …’ ( )  But it’s established, bedded deep into societal writerly myth, so it must have a basis in reality… mustn’t it? Did Tolkien suffer from WB? Did Shakespeare, JK Rowling, or Dickens? Does Philip Pullman? (Send me your references if you know the answer!)

Daffodils, Yorkshire Dales

The writer loves solitude

Wordsworth may’ve started this one, when he wrote of his Lakeland rambles: that  daffodil scene which would later flash upon that inward eye/Which is the bliss of solitude’. Though it seems that his wife, Mary, contributed what Wordsworth, later recalling the ‘tranquil restoration’ , called the two best lines in the poem,  (Wikipedia article

Quiet, yes. And  preferably away from the cats, who like to help by sitting on the computer. But solitude, beloved of writers, holds within its very sound, that hollow ‘o’ followed in the third syllable by that lugubrious ‘u’ , something empty, a feeling of isolation. Do any other writers find solitude actually a bit of scary concept? Solitary confinement, solitary child, sad associations with forced or unwelcome lack of society?

A welcome ‘solitude’ is to be alone but not alone, the family happy and busy son the other side of the door … not calling out or needing anything. A writerly FB friend, Carol Cooper, wrote a piece on her blog recently: ‘How to Annoy your Husband’ (7 March 2015, My kind of solitude is to be just far enough away that I won’t annoy mine by making a ratty response to being interrupted when  brought food or tea with a big friendly smile to match. It can be so rejecting to be married to a writer.

‘How lovely, you’re a writer!’

The third trope is a trip down Memory Lane, to what many writers describe from their childhood years: I escaped into books. (read about it here:

Teenage solitude 1920s style: down the garden with a book

Many children with solitary  childhoods, through illness, disability, or being the ‘only child’ became, or are, writers … Robert Louis Stevenson (frequent illness, and an only child) C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien (both lost parents at a young age), Alice Walker (shot in the eye at age 8: she lost all sight in that eye. Alice retreated from social interaction for some years, though used the time to observe the behaviours of those around her, ‘“really to see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out” (

Others may escape to avoid noisy younger siblings or a controlling parent: not a surprise that Max, in Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year isn’t a writer:  one of five children … father a fundamentalist pastor.  Or that Daze, abandoned at age five, and step sister to two sporty scientific girls, developed solitary pursuits: drawing and surfboarding.

‘How lovely, you’re a writer!’ Isn’t it great that children who escape into books turn into adults who provide more books, for more escaping … into more books?

Adventures parcelled for escapees

So, are you a writer?  Would you envy those of us who are? Did you escape into books as a child?

2 thoughts on “Trips and Tropes: the Writer, (Sub)Urban Myths

  1. Debbie Young March 12, 2015 / 1:51 pm

    What a lovely post, which I’m sure will comfort and encourage anyone who is flagging with their writing just now, as by chance several of my friends are. (And while I’m not flagging exactly, I’m frustrated by being increasingly preoccupied with other writerly things other than actually writing my first love: fiction). Fab photo, too – is that you, Mari, reading in the garden there?

    Looking forward to having you at the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival next month, when one of the topics we’ll be addressing is reasons to be a writer, and encouraging anyone who has always dreamed of being a writer to follow their dream. Am hoping we might persuade you to read your “Wannabe” poem as part of that discussion? (As well as reading extracts from the novels in the readings part of the programme). Will message you separately to chat about that.

    I certainly always dreamed of being a writer when I was a child, and am only sorry that it took me till middle-age to “come out” as one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. MariHoward March 13, 2015 / 1:52 pm

    Hi Debbie, Fine about the poem. NO, that’s my AUNT reading in the garden – my mother’s older sister! The date is probably in the 1920’s. My Aunt went on to do a degree at London University,but wrote of being disappointed with the teachers there who weren’t inspiring! (The garden wall was painted with storks or similar by my grandfather – totally eccentric family!!)


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