A Writer's Fan-Fare (or 500 + Words of Summer)

Oh, summer. Cruel, hot, possible globally catastrophic summer. Soon you will be gone, never to dark our barometers and shorts drawers again. No longer will people walk into a room and declare ‘oh, isn’t it hot in here’ or ‘oh, isn’t it cold in here’ like some demented, inbred thermometer parrot. No longer will people claim to love the heat but always o be the first to reach for the air conditioning, thus exposing themselves as a total fraud.

Yes, soon, you will have left us like so much unwanted coleslaw at a barbecue. Or like that woman called Summer in that movie about the perils of dating whilst trying to be hip. Much like her, I’m sure you will be fondly remembered and probably even get your own TV programme. Maybe you’ll release an album with some sort of clever pun in the title. Perhaps you’ll call it ‘Summer Scorchers’. Or there’s always ‘Let it Be (Summer)’. My personal favourite would be ‘The Court of Flipping Sweaty King’, but I bear the scars of being raised on a steady diet of prog rock and no irony.

So, before you leave us to the morning frosts, the endless rain and the inevitable tiny amounts of snow that will make us hate ourselves through to Spring, I think we should consider what we’ve learnt from you. I’ve learnt that the smell of a barbecue lit close by is a clear warning that someone’s intending to play some terrible music incredibly loudly in a aid to totally write off my evening. I’ve learnt that any sort of sunscreen or lotion can be fickle and will occasionally let the sunburn through, like some bored security guard or Thursday night bouncer. I’ve also learnt something about my writing from you.

Oh yes, this isn’t simply an Englishman complaining about the weather while his entire country tries to eat itself in front of the world. He’s going to pretentiously ruminate about his favourite hobby as well. Strap in, people.

You see, I’ve heard a lot of people trying to sum up what writing means to them over the years. They talk about excavating ideas from their heads and their pasts. They talk about characters making decisions for themselves, muses, drinking and their favourite little coffee shops to sit in and be seen writing. Some of them even harp about this absolute nonsense called research, but that can’t be right. Besides, I can never hear those people over their awards and five star reviews. However, I think this summer has kindly provided a damn near perfect way to look at the act of being a writer. It has to do with an electric fan. That’s right, you heard me. Well, read me. Unless you’re paying someone to read this out loud to you. Oh, to have that sort of money. I’d never need glasses again. Which would be another saving! Anyway, where was I (and your reading monkey). Ah, that’s right: an electric fan.

We own two fans in this house. Just like her majesty. We have a large fan, for upstairs. It’s a clever piece of engineering, that fan. For ten months of the year it refuses to be stored anywhere easily. For the other two months, it’s exactly the right size to sit at the end of the bed, whilst still making sure you can’t walk past it in the night without stubbing your toe on it. Truly ingenious. Then we have a smaller fan for downstairs. This one can perfectly blow cold air into one part of a room where absolutely nobody is sitting. No matter how much they move or try to direct the fan. It’s amazing. Not many home appliances are capable of displaying such passive aggressive tendencies. Still, it’s of this small fan that I came here to ruminate today.

I didn’t wake up that morning knowing I was going to have an epiphany. There was nothing about on my calendar. There was no mention of it in my horoscope. Which, let’s be honest, seems about right. I woke up, I got out of bed and showered. Being very careful to carry out those steps in the correct order. Then I went downstairs and sat in the lounge. As it got warmer, I set out about my usual routine: cursing the very existence of my skin and wishing temperature was something that happened to other people.

The TV was on and the fan was off. You’re welcome, polar ice caps. The fan was on the bench (well, the coffee table) waiting for its chance to shine (well, blow). The day hadn’t quite set itself to full and penetrating roast yet. We were still in the throws of another giddy round of Leave All the Blinds Closed or Open All the Windows. It’s like Russian Roulette, only all the guns are loaded and you spend most of your time trying to learn the Russian for ‘Who fancies Scrabble instead?’

The TV wasn’t being very interesting (golden age, my eye. Have you seen Carnival Row? That dialogue feels about as genuine as a seven leaf, glow in the dark, wish granting, hookah smoking clover with a limp, a speech impediment and a killer recipe for crispy duck).

I turned my attention to the fan instead. There it sat. Dormant. Plugged in. All it needed was a flick of a switch and we’d receive a very mild, mildly cool breeze. If we were lucky. Which got me thinking. Aren’t those roughly the stages of every idea you’re trying to write?

First you need to find the fan, but that isn’t enough. The fan is just the first seed of the idea. You need to lead that horse to water, so to speak. I believe they’re currently working on a horse camel hybrid, which would be a real time saver in the world of thirsty horses. Although I hear Mark Hamill is furious.

So, yes, first you have your idea. Or fan. Then you have to plug that idea in. You need to find a way to supply it with a jolt of power to get it moving. To bring it to life But then, even then, you can’t simply expect the fan (or idea) to work. No, because your idea (or fan) needs to be more than just power adjacent. The last, and very possibly trickiest part, of the process is to turn the power on.

Oh, I should probably mention that this metaphor is all done in the dark. Like all the best metaphors. And games of hide ‘n’ seek. Yes, you must find your idea fan in the dark. Then you must plug it in whilst in the dark. Before you switch it on, still in the dark. Meaning one thing is certain. You clearly opted to leave the blinds closed in this metaphor.

I wonder if that helped to keep your idea cool in the long run.