Saturday, March 26, 2011

York Talk 2011 - David Nobbs

What better person to give the keynote address than David Nobbs, who says he has spent 48 years (years, people, not hours) writing about things that never happened and being paid for it?

David initially wrote 9 stage plays that were never performed.  What was the missing ingredient?  Turns out to be a subject close to my heart: he hadn't found his voice.  So how did he solve that?  By writing, of course, and simply by carrying on doing it. 

David began his working life as a journalist but in 1963 he sold an idea to the BBC, which eventually became That Was the Week That Was.  He then wrote material for comedians such as Tommy Cooper and Ken Dodd.  But he was still struggling to write a successful book and the problem was that his words were good, but he hadn't yet come up with a compelling story.

He was refreshingly frank about his failures. 
'Rejection,' he said, 'is depressing, but it's not a personal insult.' 
Reggie Perrin was originally written as a half hour drama.  No one was more surprised than David when the book morphed into 4 novels  and 6 TV series.  Now 76, he is still working full time and clearly loving it. 

So where do his ideas come from? 

'People,' he said.  'Listen to them.  They're wonderful and the source of so much inspiration.'

Some more nuggets of Nobbsian wisdom:
  •  If you are writing a lot, some of it will be good and some of it will be very bad.  And that's ok.
  • Be persistent and don't take rejection personally.  Fawlty Towers was originally rejected as being rubbish, having no potential and (can you believe?) not funny!
  • Put your work aside for a month or so and then come back to it with a fresh eye.
  • If inspiration is proving elusive, take a day off and do something completely different.
  • But don't do that for 2 days running!  Writers have to write!
  • When you write, make sure you enjoy it.  At least that way, you will have made one person happy.


Whisks said...

That's quite reassuring, Debi, and humble. Thanks for writing it up.

Sue Guiney said...

that final bullet point is my favourite!