Why do you write?
I have always loved writing. From my earliest scribbled stories in school jotters, all illustrated with little coloured in stick people, I knew that writing about the world around me made me very happy.
From my embellished stories of ‘What we did at the weekend’ in Primary 2, I moved on to writing poetry in my teens, short stories and poetry at University, before being totally captured by film in my 20s and 30s. I wrote several screenplays and wandered, almost by accident, into the film industry. Ironically, I spent less time writing when I was working as a marketing director for the Scottish Government’s body for film, but I did attend some excellent screen writing courses. I loved being around the creative process of storytelling and watching producers, directors and actors bring films to life, from a few words on a page.
When words come together in a beautiful phrase, or when I find the perfect sentence to describe a place or a feeling which brings it to life in full technicolour, I feel a buzz of excitement that has no equivalent in the world outside of a page. It is joyous and exciting and satisfying and ultimately that is why I write.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice or inspiration I have been given was in Moniack Mhor in 2018. Keith Gray was one of two writers dedicated to helping us for the week. He said simply ‘If you write, you are a writer’. I remember that that single sentence really lifted me and boosted my confidence. I had never really thought of myself as a writer. He made it seem real and gave me the confidence to believe in my writing.
I left that week with a chapter of my book and a year or so later, I had a whole novel and was sending it out to agents.
What are you writing at the moment?
I am now working on a novel about an accountant who bumps into a film set and changes the course of her life. She swaps out her boring accountancy job to become the Finance Director of a boutique film company and enters the world she has always read about in magazines. It’s called Chasing Stars. I’m in edit mode at the moment so it is quite painstaking. I had started to write it a long time ago after my time in the film industry. While it is definitely not a factual account, I have used my experiences of meetings in Hollywood, going to Oscar parties, walking up red carpets at the Cannes film festival and having completely normal conversations with very famous people. It was fun to relive these experiences through the eyes of a totally fictional character who is having a very difficult time.
What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading Still Life by Sarah Winman for Book Club and have just finished The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller for me.
I loved The Paper Palace. It was beautifully written and very captivating. I couldn’t wait to open the book again each night to see what the carefully crafted characters were going to do to each other next. I loved hearing about life in Cape Cod.
I am enjoying all the different voices of Still Life. She has taken us through the decades after the second world war, following the lives of a group of people from different backgrounds who are somehow tied to each other by time and circumstance.
What are you writing aspirations or dreams?
I would love to share my writing with other people. I really would like to have my work published, or produced, but I know it is a long journey filled with a great deal of hard work and a little sprinkling of luck.
I will keep trying and maybe one day I will fulfil my dream of being invited to a quirky little book shop, somewhere in the world, to read from my book and talk about it with readers.
You can read a selection of Jan Cutting’s stories right here on the Sunday Writers’ Club blog:
Sunday Writers' Club member
Hello Writer! I really loved reading your answers. Thanks for sharing, Jan.
Hi Jan, your enthusiasm for writing and all the wonderful stories you’ve posted on the SWC blog are an inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing.
I love to read more about your ‘why’ you write – thank you for sharing. I will also look into your book recommendations, the books sound great.