Simon Booker on the unexpected consequences of his lockdown project — searching for the truth about the father he never knew.
'E. L. Doctorow’s liberating idea that ‘writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ Whether you’re a plotter or a ‘pantser’, this is sound advice.'
'You know an idea has legs when it simply won’t go away. Sometimes it seems too good to be true. Surely this has been done before? The answer, invariably, is: ‘Well, yes, it has been done,’ (after all, what hasn’t?) ‘just not in this particular way...'
'Ghost-writing books and columns for celebrities; booking guests onto TV chat shows. There’s nothing wrong with those gigs – and the bills must be paid – but they won’t help you develop the skills to become a first-class screenwriter or novelist.'
'To write at all, but especially for the screen, is to court rejection. The huge sums of money needed to propel any project out of development hell and into production, mean the ratio of scripts commissioned, to scripts produced, is mortifyingly small.'
'The creative part of my brain, the part that had written countless scripts, configured myriad plots, conjured hundreds of characters, had simply seized up. It felt like a gear stick stuck in neutral, and I was powerless to move it.'
'To say that I was estranged from my father implies that I'd known him well at some point, and that one of us broke off contact. But that's not the case. In reality, I never knew him at all. My parents divorced while I was in nappies.'
Simon Booker describes how a stint as writer in residence at a therapeutic community prison changed his perceptions for good.