My CV is a long list of publications, teaching gigs and speaking events. It is barely more informative than the business card I never use, one that lists my name, phone numbers and the word “writer” where others would put their job title.
Wanting to be a writer is a pursuit whose success is unlikely. It’s like wanting to be an astronaut. So few people survive the final cut or make any kind of living doing it that the job sounds fanciful, like something a child invents. I want to be an astronaut. I want to be a writer. Both sound the same to me: improbable and babyish.
Okay, some writers are journalists and that is a real profession, attainable if competitive. But mostly, I am a novelist. That’s just kooky. Astronauts and novelists exist, however, and while our careers may sometimes be short-lived, we certainly see things others do not.
But what isn’t on my CV? What other things can I do that are never mentioned to anyone? We all have hidden talents; some of them grow into actual businesses. My friend, Lone Hudson, is a qualified architect but she is also an amazing artist who made the pot in the photo above. Lone’s ceramics are not only beautiful but inhabit a kind of Buddha calm within their pale aquatic colours and soft geometry. They bring an energy with them, and their presence in a room seems larger than their size should permit.
Lone’s CV will tell you she has been an architect, and it is true. She even built her own large, airy eco-house with slate floors and giant glass doors and a tall, open staircase as wide as my entire downstairs hall. But I think she only built the house as a backdrop to her beautiful stoneware. Lone is almost always in the garden or near the kiln. She’s either sculpting or planting or cooking. What wasn’t on her CV—artist, potterer—has finally been added, but it is late in its announcement. She has a rare gift. I am determined to buy yet a few more of her pieces before they become too expensive to consider.
What’s not on your CV? I bet there is something important, if not awesome. My friend, Simon, has a very high-level job with a major accounting firm, but you’d never know from his Facebook page. There you see what isn’t on his CV, that he is an ultra-marathon runner. His wife and he travel the world, rather swiftly it would seem, running for days at a time. He’s not just a little good at this; he is remarkable.
I’m not sure if there is any feature more outstanding about my life than the words I produce. I have a few small talents: I am a competent hoof-trimmer. Bring me a pony with terrible hooves and years of laminitis, and I will sort it out. I am a careful shepherd, managing my sheep so that they are friendly, cooperative, and live long lives. I am a gifted teacher. If I had taken up high school teaching there would now be hundreds, even thousands, of kids who would have benefitted. As it is, I only teach small numbers on course that is a bit of a sideline for the University of Oxford.
My brother wrote me recently and said something so nice I am going to repeat it here. I hope this isn’t bragging. He wrote, “You’ve always been a person who would help someone if they needed help.”
It’s true. If I think I can help someone, I generally do so without even having to be asked. This trait isn’t on my CV, but I think it ought to be. It may be the best thing about me.