Notes from the Darkness by David Alexander

I don’t care who thinks I’ll fall on my face and I don’t care if I get lost on the way. I waited too long to do the thing I knew I wanted to do when I was ten.

I am lost. I’m walking through dark streets, streets I’ve never been down. There are road signs but I can’t see them until I cross the road to read them. Some turns lead to long avenues, others to an uphill climb and a dead end. This is the journey we must make into the literary scene as a member of the working class. There’s no guide, no one to hold your hand and definitely no map. You just keep on walking, hoping you make the right decisions and that no one in a fancy car knocks you out of the way.

Writing appealed to me at a young age. I’d confuse my teachers with bonkers stories about green, man-eating slime and a dog whose age constantly changed.

But, I was told, there was a problem, – you can’t be a writer if you don’t read. Well that, of course, was the end of it.

I didn’t have time for reading. Reading is what Dad did to the Daily Mirror. Reading is what they made you do at school. I had football to play and TV to watch. Why would I read about Narnia when the Starship Enterprise could take me to an alien world every teatime? And that was the first piece of confusing advice on my journey. Not terrible advice, but not very helpful.

Then came my twenties. I wrote. I read.

Kerouac’s On the Road feels like the first book I ever held because of how completely it gives itself over to the form, an actual novel, knocking anything I’d read at school out of the water.

Not a story or a series of ideas, a novel that cannot be replicated in any other form, a perfect moment that could only exist as it does. I wrote melodramas that were never to see the light of day (thank god), I read of Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley’s love affair. I wrote poems and quickly stopped writing poems, I learnt how to write by reading Interpreter of Maladies. But of course, none of this mattered. I had a full-time job. I was a worker. The few things I did write weren’t fit for the public. I’d tell myself, I wasn’t trained, I didn’t have the right connections. Nobody I knew wrote, or at least admitted to writing, so why would I be so arrogant as to think that I could be?

And that’s the problem with being a working-class writer. There is no obvious precedent, no light on the path or helpful road map.

The reason for that was because we had to keep writing a secret. To say that you wrote meant that you thought you weren’t an electrician or a clerical worker or a cleaner. You were getting above your station, telling your friends and family you thought you were bigger than this humdrum town (which is, of course, completely true). You have to be careful what you aspire to in working class life if you don’t want to be laughed at or chided.

Now, in my thirties, the only big change is that I no longer care.

I don’t care who knows that I’m a writer, I don’t care who thinks I’ll fall on my face and I don’t care if I get lost on the way. I waited too long to do the thing I knew I wanted to do when I was ten.

I’m not out of the dark yet but I’ve now had three stories published so far and I hope for many more to come. And that’s all I can say to any working-class writers that might read this; stop caring. Put all your anxiety and effort into your writing. You might get lost on that dark road that others in more privileged positions whistle down in their dad’s Bentley, but if you keep writing, when you do get there you’ll be better and thicker-skinned than you ever thought you could be. You may even feel comfortable enough to turn your great idea into your great novel – but you can’t have the confusing dog. That baby’s all mine.


David is a Creative Writing student at Newman University in his hometown of Birmingham, UK. He has stories published in (B)OINK, Glove and Ellipsis Zine and has recently started a group to share his love of short fiction.

Author: Carmen Marcus

As the daughter of a Yorkshire Fisherman and Irish Mother, my writing brings together the visceral and the magical. My debut novel #How Saints Die was published with Harvill Secker in 2017. It won New Writing North's Northern Promise Award as a work in progress and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2018. My poetry has been commissioned by BBC Radio, The Royal Festival Hall and Durham Book Festival. As a child of an 80s council estate I am an advocate for working class writers and stories. I’m currently working on my first poetry collection The Book of Godless Verse and my next novel. I try to live up to the words of my first critic and primary school teacher ‘weird minus one house point.’

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