Recently I’ve been trying to find a builder to carry out a small, but slightly awkward, job. Without any suitable direct recommendations from people I know, I found myself drawn into the online world of MyBuilder, RatedPeople and CheckaTrade, to track down someone both willing and able to carry out the work.
I had a bit of time, as I work as a freelance copywriter and was in the midst of whatever the copywriter’s equivalent of an Actor’s ‘resting’ phase is called – ‘Reading’?
After a succession of frustrating, confusing, and morale sapping conversations, (many of which involved apparently outrageous amounts of money), I found myself imagining a world that needed a CheckaTrade for writers and poets.
Now I’m not talking about marketing and advertising copy, ‘content’ writers or even those soul-sapping student essay-writing services – there are places you can find those.
What I mean is a world where there is a demand for poems to be repaired, plot holes fixed, unnecessary exposition removed, unfinished tales completed, or lost books and stories to be patched-up and rewritten. The literary equivalent of MyBuilder: let’s call it, Your writer.
Such a world might be a little brighter and better-informed, even less angry – of course there would still be arguments, but these would be over rhyme and meter, word-count and character – “You didn’t tell me you wanted four sets of trochees when I made the original estimate mate. I mean, having your characters talk in trochaic tetrameter is just going to sound weird! Don’t get me wrong I can do it, but it’ll cost you…”
I started to imagine writer as builder, or roofer as writer conversations with potential clients.
“Hello is that Modernist writing services? I wonder if you can help. I’ve got a mid-century kitchen-sink playlet that needs looking at. It’s just stopped working.”
“British? 50s or 60s?”
“Oh, 50s I think.”
“Hmm. If you’re talking an authentic 1950s drama of working class experience, you’re probably looking at an Angry Young Man. Could be tricky.
“Oh dear, why?”
“Regulations changed haven’t they. In the 50s some bloke with half-a-brain, a pen and the hump, could say what he wanted. There was a lot of that back then…Splenetic, fierce. Demotic. To the point. Revolutionary in some senses, but looked at now, your male writer would most likely be still wedded to an essentially patriarchal view of society.
He might have wanted the average man to get ahead, but women? His girlfriend, his sister? No chance. So, we might have to strip most of your structure back to the basics, then repair it. Now if only you were talking about a Rattigan…”
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure we’ll be able to help you with that I’m afraid…”
“Oh, why not? I thought you specialised in 19thcentury nature writing? One of your reviewers was delighted with what you’d done with her Jeffries.”
“Well Madam, that was only minor amendments and some slight foxing. If I understand correctly, you’re talking about a major reconstruction. Could be months of labour. And getting hold of the right vocabulary…well.”
“So you can’t do it?”
“The thing is her worldview was unique. We can probably approximate something close to her sensibility, but her prose style…I mean that technique isn’t something just anyone can replicate, even with years of experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’ll find someone who’ll say they can do it. But personally I think you’d be better off starting again with something original…”
That might be how some of those awkward calls would go, what about the reviews?
Practical Cats Poetics
We were very disappointed with Tom’s approach. We wanted some nice rhymes that guests could remember. Instead he kept banging on about this Fisher King and some river sweats. One afternoon my wife was most distressed to come home and find him Weilala leiaing in our bathroom. Unreal City indeed! NOT HAPPY.
Delighted with John Ronald’s work. He quickly understood what was needed and provided an estimate. You can really tell his imaginary work draws on a deep philological understanding. He did take a long time to finish, but we are so pleased with our Wilderland side-return and extension. FIVE STARS.
Really pleased with the high level of craft that went into Rebecca’s work. She not only made our walk more interesting, but changed our view of the garden path with a provocative and eclectic examination of its relation to the house, ourselves and the wider world. If you are planning a similar landscaping project, I would recommend this essayist every time.
Sadly, back in the real world, there isn’t currently the demand for such a literary construction and repair website. Though if there were, at least you could be certain that the writers hadn’t written all their own positive reviews…