K is for Kafka and Kate


Yesterday, in J is for James and Julian, I revealed the names of two of my favourite authors, and today you get a third: Kate Atkinson. I won’t say much about her, though, except she’s one of those writers I only read when I’m confident I can resist. That I won’t rush off and delete my WIP in despair or (consciously or not) transform it into an imitation (minus the virtuosity) of Case Histories or When Will There Be Good News.

No, this is more about Kafka (the one on the shore, that is) and his creator, Murakami. Now, Haruki and I have a lot in common. He runs marathons; I also run. He writes brilliant novels; I also write. Furthermore, as I discovered reading his nonfiction What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, we’re both antisocial. This heartened me no end. No longer do I have to worry about shunning real people in order to be with my characters. Murakami does too. In fact, he says, it’s a precondition – he couldn’t produce what he does if he spent more time chatting to other people. This reminded me of Harold Pinter, who, as one of the leading lights in London’s literary set, regularly hosted dinner parties. But he rose from the table at 10 p.m. (leaving his guests in the capable hands of his wife, Antonia Fraser) to go to bed. So yes, writing and socializing are, on the whole, incompatible.

Which is fine if you come up with Kafka On The Shore or The Birthday Party. But what if it’s One Green Bottle? Have I sacrificed friendship, community, life, in order to produce a dud? Could it be that I’m not just antisocial but have nothing to show for it? Am I an impostor? Doubt. Can’t get away from it. Yet another writer’s affliction.

But doubt is only a problem if it stops me writing, which so far it never has. Maybe I’m wrong, pig-headed, blind to my own incompetence, but I keep going. And doubt is welcome. Of course it’s bothersome, a fly that won’t go away, buzzing around my head when I’m trying to think. But never would I want to be without it. Doubt is what keeps me on track, forces me to revise, only allows me to stop when I’ve done the best that I can.

And it could be worse. Think of the real Kafka. Nothing so paltry as Impostor Syndrome for him. He was into the hard stuff – Cockroach Condition. Strictly speaking, Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis isn’t a cockroach, but some undefined monstrous insect or vermin. Kafka was not just antisocial, introverted and solitary, he was crippled by insecurity and guilt. Understandable, given that he was obsessed with writing, but totally ignored as a writer. Not much wonder he turned himself into a giant, scuttling, repulsive creepy-crawly.

Fortunately, there’s no chance of that happening today. We can all be rich, famous and acclaimed by publishing our works on Amazon.


Posted in One Green Bottle, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , .


  1. First of all, LOVE Kate Atkinson. Life after life was one of my favourite books from last year.
    Second of all, One green bottle is not a dud! You just need to get it noticed by the mass market! Send a copy to a Kardashian and have them pictured reading it then it’ll get tons of attention! 🙂

    • Yes, Life after Life was excellent! Thanks for the OGB appreciation – with the positive feedback I’ve been getting from you and others, I’m actually pretty too sure it’s not a dud. Just a question of getting it noticed in a crowded market. But K is also for Kardashian indeed – great idea!

  2. Antisocial though you may be, Curtis, I love the way you think and write: “We can all be rich, famous and acclaimed by publishing our works on Amazon.” I’ve only read Kafka’s Metamorphosis (no other works by or about Kafka’s life), and I really enjoyed it. I can see why it’s a cornerstone work of speculative or weird fiction. And I have to ditto this. I think most authors—at least the very successful ones—are butt-in-chair types of introverts who work really hard at their craft and their gift. For me, I’m partly introverted, partly something in-between introvert and extrovert. I don’t like sitting for long periods of time (at least not in my home) and, while I’m misanthropic, I’m a positive, idealistic one (probably). Oh, and I didn’t know you ran, Curtis. Nice to know . . . Anyway, I was about to ramble more (self-censorship, the only good kind!). Happy writing!

    • Thanks, Leigh. You know, I can’t see you as misanthropic – far too kind and thoughtful, methinks! My running, btw, is very limited for the moment – ten minutes round the block. But it’s 32° here, so I have great (well, medium, say) hopes for when I get back to a more clement temperature.

      • That looks like my running these days, too, Curtis. It’s just getting warm here; so I might try to get more running (back) into my life.
        On writing, have you seen Molotov Cocktail’s “Flash felon” short story contest? You might like to check them out (https://themolotovcocktail.com/flash-felon/). They’re looking for weird crime-related short stories. There’s a small submission fee to help them fund the contest.
        Anyway, here’s to us exercising more. Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. ‘Doubt is what keeps me on track, forces me to revise, only allows me to stop when I’ve done the best that I can.’ – Was surprised and glad to read that. Always wracked by doubt and didn’t know there’s a positive to it.

  4. Oh, definitely! As long as it doesn’t actually stop you writing, which happens to some people, I believe. If you embrace your doubt, you keep it manageable – good luck!

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