For some years I'd wanted to write something about all the many jobs I took over the years before my writing career took off. Indeed, I'd written somewhere between fifteen and twenty vignettes, and tried to convert them into single stories. Some I liked; others seemed to hang like jelly-fish in a sea of time. I knew I wanted to incorporate the whole lot into a single narrative that 'said something' about the world of work - particularly in the 1960s and 70s, when the unions held sway, there was always another job waiting, wages weren't bad and life was a breeze. I produced several versions, none of them satisfactory. It was so hard not to wag the finger and preach - and respond to that impulse that dogs me, to rant about the current state of affairs in the workplace.
And then something clicked. After another long period of thinking over the past I came to see all those jobs - somewhere between forty and fifty - not as a series of false starts, rather as a young writer's attempt to get to know the world and accumulate material. I remember telling a friend, back in my early thirties, that although I was writing, and writing quite a lot, I wasn't particularly interested in sending it out to publishers. (a) I was only interested in writing to a very high standard, and I knew I had a long way to go before I reached the level I'd set myself, and (b) I didn't feel I had the authority to write about life until I'd lived it, gathered a breadth of experience and, to be blunt, grown up. (When does a person grow up? Well, at 68 I would say the process is going along nicely.)
So there I was, sifting through the various accounts I'd written of choice moments from my working life. I had them in chronological order, and I'd woven into those episodic stories a parallel account of my slow growth from aspiring to published writer, from sending out articles and stories on spec to writing whole books for money. Then the title appeared, out of a solitary brainstorming session. Writer: Must Have Experience. Once I had that, the entire thing seemed to gel. I went through it, editing, polishing and reorganising here and there. It's with my publisher now, and I await their verdict. I just hope they don't ask any questions about what genre it is.