Generally, there are only two reasons you should ever leave the house i) If you are likely to get off with someone ii) If you are likely to learn something. Other than that, if you want my advice, you should stay at home.
But, of course, advice is a gift - one gets so much more out of giving it than taking it. And so it was that I found myself away from home for a period of four days a couple of weeks ago, attending the Cheltenham Screenwriters' Festival. It was a well-organised, interesting event attended by big name speakers. But I kept asking myself - why am I here when I could be at home writing?
I made lots of new friends, which was great. But then, you don't need to travel all the way to Cheltenham for that these days - not now that we have the internet. My new friends found the week incredibly useful. Certainly the speakers were inspiring. The sessions didn't purport to teach anything and yet I learnt a lot from the people who came to share their knowledge and experience. But as the days went by I began to find it absurd that I was there. I've been thinking it over and now I know why - it's because I looked at the various successful screenwriters who came to speak at the conference and I didn't see myself in them. They were tenacious, determined, witty, clever, business-like people and I realised that I could no more be like them than a banana could one day be like a tomato.
I saw a TV programme a few weeks ago about Beryl Bainbridge called Beryl's Last Year - did you see it? She's a very successful novelist. In the programme, made by her Grandson, she went to a book launch and she got drunk because her best friend had just died, and then she fell over and had to be helped up while exclaiming 'I'm not drunk.' She was quite dotty and made her family gather at her house and sing 'Two Little Boys' (coincidentally Margaret Thatcher's favourite song) every year on her birthday.
Now, I haven't published so many novels as Beryl Bainbridge, I'm not so successful (she's actually a Dame) or so dotty, I don't smoke as much as she does. But I live in happy bohemian poverty untroubled by film producers. Beryl Bainbridge and I exist on different parts of the same spectrum of writers. We are both (if you'll indulge me in the metaphor just a little bit longer) bananas.
So that's the most important thing I got out of going to Cheltenham - I learnt that I don't want to be a screenwriter.