Writing As A Hobby
Every writer has projects that didn’t happen filed in his drawer. I have quite a few, and over Christmas, I threw out some that I knew would never get realised. But there were a few I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of. The funny thing is that most were written as hobbies, something I felt like doing without thought of recompense.
Among the film scripts I hung onto was the one for ‘Rainy Day Boys’, a story I wrote a few years back about a pair of slackers who accidentally kill someone. It was once filmed by a young director in Canada, although he somehow failed to capture the peculiarity of language in the script that made it funny. There are also scripts for ‘Disturbia’ , ‘Breathe’ and ‘Psychoville’, written for fun, and the latter nearly saw light of day, getting as far as pre-production and announcement posters before it was canned.
The ‘hobby script’ I regret losing most is ‘The Waiting Darkness’, a film developed from a novel by Margaret Bingley, about a woman’s search for the perfect family that became so obsessive that it ends up destroying her life. The book was rather old-fashioned (to be fair, it was written for an earlier time) but there was a brilliant idea in it that I felt could be modernised. I took the supernatural element and tried to imagine it in a new way, like a disease that sometimes goes into remission. It ended up being an incredibly dark and uncomfortable way of viewing the material. The ‘ghost’, such as it is, resurfaces in the family like a virus in the blood.
It quickly went from ‘hobby’ to ‘project’. I produced many, many versions for TV companies, and they always balked at the scenes in which an underage step-daughter seduced her new father. Now, given TV’s more sexualised content, this would not be such a problem, but I don’t think I could bear to revisit it, and the script is in a drawer where it will probably remain, a reminder of the pain I went through getting it right.
There are two early complete novels written for fun (typescripts – remember those?) which I can’t even bring myself to look at. I think they’re probably very bad indeed and hyperventilate at the thought of reading them. And now there’s a pile of short stories building up that simply have no home to go to, because the market for single-author collections has all but vanished. They were written for something to do on a rainy day.
Do writers still write for the pleasure of it, without the intention of ever finding an audience, in the same way that a schoolteacher will head down to a harbour with an easel and a box of paints? I’d like to think so, but with so much of a demand on our time, perhaps there no time left for a mere hobby.