ANYWAY, the notion that he poked my tiny brain with was a simple one, but one which I now think that I've been quietly avoiding.
The question was: do I have a message?
The immediate answer was: I don't know...well, yes I suppose so...sort of...maybe. Perhaps.
I've never considered myself to be on a crusade - the bulk of my writing is after all autobiographical, and intended to be entertaining in a humorous way, and I have never written in order to teach my readers anything. However...I suspected that I do have a message to share, and finding it has entailed one of those 'Be brutally honest with yourself!' exercises, which can be more than a little disturbing if conducted with the lights off. I think I've found it (it was over in the corner of the room, next to the spider).
I've always been celebrity-averse. I find the cult of celebrity to be deeply unpleasant, childish and unhealthy. It's one of the (wildly optimistic) reasons why I choose to write under an assumed name. Therefore, if 'Signs of (a) Life' were ever - against all the odds and the prevailing winds - to be catapulted into the mainstream and to become unaccountably and mysteriously successful (it's available online for very reasonable prices, and Christmas is coming![insert tongue-sticking-out emoticon here]), I would be forced to withdraw from the spotlight, walk with an enigmatic limp which suggested involvement in the battle at Rourke's Drift, buy a top hat and a black cloak with velvet lining, wear false ginger beards - or maybe take to occasionally donning false breasts. Actually, no. False breasts would be too weird, and the world doesn't need any more of them, anyway.
So, against that background, I believe that my quiet little message is merely this: Ordinary People Matter. Ordinary people live interesting - and frequently, fascinating - lives, after all. As I research my family history, for example, I'm not hoping - as so many people seem to - to uncover long lost links to royalty or other celebrity. I'm actually hoping to uncover any details of what my ancestor's ordinary lives may have been like. I'm interested in their struggles, their successes and their everyday experiences. In the same way, I'm interested in ordinary people today: their so-called 'ordinary' or allegedly unremarkable lives weaving a web of seven billion stories through time and space.
I am deeply, profoundly ordinary. I don't however, feel that this fact should prevent me from sharing my experiences. In fact, I have a hope that my 'ordinariness' might one day resonate with a greater number of people, and that 'ordinary' or 'average' might be celebrated for what it is: a cover story for every unique lifetime. I hope that people might one day read my stories and think to themselves that they can understand this life, that it makes sense to them, and that perhaps, it will in even just a tiny way, enable them to understand something about their lives a little better.
I may be suffering from delusions of grandeur, but the truth is that I don't expect this to happen. That would be extraordinary, and I am ordinary. However, strange things do tend to happen, even to ordinary folk.
It would be quite wonderful, though, to think that it was becoming a reality - that my message, quiet though it is, was being heard.