I have come to realise that there is the potential for pomposity in all of us. We may scorn at the language of self-importance used by certain artistes in describing their work, and yet it takes very little for us to start heading up that road too. Take my friend Graham and I (Graham is not his real name but he will not thank me if I reveal his true identity; he will probably be furious that I am even speaking of this, and yet I must). He and I had a business idea you see, an idea for a food product. We had reached the stage of going to each other’s house to try out the different recipes for it we had created. We were so pleased with our work, and so confident of how marvelously well received it would be, that we failed to notice how pompous we were becoming about it, ‘up ourselves’ some might say. The culmination of this was one Sunday afternoon whilst we were sampling our latest creation (which necessitated very serious and thoughtful facial expressions). It was a particular flavour combination using chorizo, garlic and roasted red peppers. Graham uttered the words that would forever become our metaphor for pomposity “Mmm, the sausage is really coming through”. We didn’t laugh at first. No, we both nodded wisely and made notes. A minute or so later Graham said “I sound like a right knob don’t I”, and then we laughed-a-plenty.
I recently asked Graham to read the short story that I was half-way through writing and to give me his opinion. He was very complimentary about it overall, but added that he was a little confused by that half-way point as to what had actually just happened. I launched into a grand explanation of how I like to write stories; I don’t like the reader to hold the superior position of knowing things that the characters don’t yet know; I like the reader to discover things at the same time as the characters do, and therefore it was perfectly acceptable for the reader to be a little confused by events at that stage, because the main character was too. I want the reader to be taken on the same journey of discovery as the characters. Graham gently cautioned me to be careful of the sausage – it wasn’t yet coming through, but I was starting to head towards the path of talking about “my work” as if it was something of greater importance than just telling a story.
There is of course nothing wrong with taking your work seriously, indeed it is a necessity if you are to succeed, but it is all too easy to get carried away with a sense of self-importance, and sometimes we all need someone, or something, to help ground us back into reality. I can think of no better leveler than the humble sausage to do so.