Diary of a Booker Winner (in waiting) – 7

The Good, The Bad and The Fistful of Dollars

March 14th

Competitions Won: 0

Competition Results received: 1

Competition Deadlines missed: Didn’t even check

Literary Agents contacted as planned: 0

Clint Eastwood Mirrors purchased in the Charity Shop: 1

I got a sweary text from a writerly friend at midnight on Monday. It was informing me that she had not been long nor shortlisted for a competition I’d encouraged her to enter. I had been asleep but now I was awake and achingly curious. I quickly checked my own email. Then I sent a similarly sweary text to the aforementioned friend revealing my ‘in the same boat’ status and expressing similar expletive reaction. She sent me another sweary one back. With an emoji. A sad faced one.

It took me a while to get back to sleep.

Later in the week I debated the distasteful with a very talented poet. We discussed (again somewhat swearily) the difference between being an artist and being a business-type. And how we are beholden to the business types to burnish us with the contracts and support to enable our art to flourish. In effect we have to beg for crumbs off their table. Even though we’re the ones gathering the ingredients, moulding, kneading, creating and decorating the cakes. (I’d possibly been watching too much Bake Off.)

It led me on a path to thinking how it’s one thing being an artist and self-recognising as such, but another to be lauded as such by the industry. And you could argue we are nothing until we achieve such validation. Ha! Nonsense – I know that as well as you. But it didn’t stop me musing – were the industry validated somehow better than the not? And wasn’t all such wondering laced with so much irony and complexity. For example, are we are only validated when it is deemed that we may prove commercially viable?  Hence, we are then only being validated because of our deemed commercial appeal and not (necessarily) because of our artistic skill. The actual art is secondary. The craft less appreciated than the bottom line. And was the artist who knowing this deliberately bent their art so that it fit certain success criteria parameters the better artist or merely the more pragmatic? Was compromise cunning or reproachful?

It was a train of thought that could all become quite depressing. But not if you had recently purchased a Clint Eastwood mirror from the charity shop. Fortunately, I had. It was from his cowboy film phase. I imagined the photo was promoting The Good, The Bad and The Fistful of Dollars. In it he is wearing a poncho and holding a revolver in each hand. It cost me a pound. And it was well worth the price because now when I stared into it, I realised that all knockbacks should be treated as spurs. It was time to get back on the horse and grab the horn by the bulls.


I could would do this!

H. B. O'Neill

H. B. O’Neill is a London born writer inspired by the City and its myriad opportunity for comedy, pain, drama and adventure. He is a prize-winning poet and short story writer, a screenwriter, playwright and author. His much-anticipated novel According to Mark is due to be published soon.

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