I watched a documentary over the weekend about the writer, Sue Townsend. Sue was best known for her Adrian Mole books.
I remember reading The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ when I was in school. It’s one of the few books to have ever made me laugh out loud in a library.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ was published in 1982, and by the mid-1980’s it had sold 2 million copies. And it almost never came into existence.
Townsend began writing about Adrian Mole in 1962, but hid her early work. Frightened her first husband would discover her writing, she used to hide her notes in the sofa.
Sue Townsend wrote every day, and wrote everything out by hand. She never learnt to type. In her own words she ‘rejected herself’ for twenty years. Adrian Mole only came into publication because her notes were discovered by a friend.
I think there are two insights from this.
1. Time and practice are essential
If you’re a writer, it can take a long time for your voice to emerge. It can take a long time to find your way, and writing every day is what you must do.
I write every day for this reason. If you compare the emails I sent six months ago with the emails I’m sending today, you’ll notice a subtle change in voice.
(Although admittedly a similar number of typos!)
2. Mundane topics can be made interesting
If you’re looking for things to write about on a regular basis, you can write about mundane events. The Adrian Mole books all describe routine, everyday happenings, but they do so in an observant and politically biting way. The fact that Adrian Mole despises Margaret Thatcher is not a coincidence.
The Adrian Mole books are primarily for children, but there is a deeper satirical layer for adults too.
If you’re describing every day events in your emails, you have to get your readers to see whatever you are writing about in a new light.
Your emails become valuable when you can illuminate your subject from an observant, deeper perspective.