It’s day 100+ of #writing and what has this little experiment done for my practice? In a simple word: freedom. No, I am not channeling the wonderful and late, George Michael, though we may close with his iconic song. I mean freedom is the sense that I have put aside certain things:
- Fear of failure. So what if I fail? If I write everyday then I will get better at failing. I feel there I am regurgitating something that Samuel Beckett said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” Sod that with bells on for my next act of freedom.
- Fear of being compared. Let’s face facts, you’re unique, there’s only one of you, ever. True. BUT. You must be some kind of stupid to never have been influenced by what has gone before, what you have read, watched, listened to or been party to. There are worse things to be compared to: you look like the back end of a bus, you laugh like a donkey, your testicles remind me or a dead dog. Be compared, open a website, Go Compare Writers and Poets, get some Welsh man pretending to be Italian opera singer and sing a song about it. Oh, hang on, isn’t that similar to. Just because someone suggest you write like someone else doesn’t not make you them or stop you from writing. Take the compliment, move on.
- Fear of believing in the writing, if it’s shit but you know the idea is good, keep writing and find a way in to it. Remember, it’s okay if it’s shit, if the spelling and grammar is all over the place. This is A DRAFT. If it is like that in the end, then be VERY WORRIED. In #100daysofwriting I let poor spelling and bad grammar flourish, it resisted the itch to go back and edit, that is a different mind set. I had to belief in shit to find that good things can grow from a well manured patch of ground.
- Giving up. You know if you write everyday, you have to let go of the idea that it’s going to be good. I often told students this as a Creative Writing teacher, ‘I give you the freedom to write shit’, and then I’d go home in the little time I had to write and beat myself up for not meeting my exacting standards. Then I’d moan about not having enough time to write and the whole stupid cycle would continue on and on. For the record, Sisyphus is one of my personal heroes but not for the reasons of what he did, and why he keeps on pushing that boulder. People who get Sisyphus will know where I am coming from. I don’t have to tell you why he is a personal hero because you won’t get it unless you realise it yourself. Be like Sisyphus. Be a writer. It’s lonely. It’s thankless. It’s wonderful.
- Moaning. It’s very English. It’s very repressed. It’s very shameful. It says, ‘I don’t want to own what I do’. Imagine this, you’ve had a plumber around your house to fix a leak and later on you hear them in the pub saying, ‘I don’t think that leak I fixed on that bloke’s toilet this afternoon was my best work. It’ll probably go any minute now and his house will be ankle deep in shit. I should have used the right tools but I’m just too scared that someone will find out I’m a charlatan’. That’s what moaning comes across as. It doesn’t do you or anyone listening any good. The only people who love to hear moaning are the ones who will tear you down.
- Shame. Do not be ashamed. We are ALL charlatans. The entire fucking species. We preach love and compassion, then bomb the shit out of innocent people. We tell people that we’d love to meet them and then cry off sick because we can’t be arsed. We are complex. We are strange. We are wonderful. We are glorious. We are evil. We are stupid. And you, you sat there on social media bemoaning the fact that you don’t think you’re a real writer or poet amounts to the tiniest blip in the existence of the universe. Realise everything is bigger than you. You are just passing through, so why the hell are you ashamed to be doing something you love?
- Apathy. Love it. Hate it. Shout at the page. Bash your head against the words. Laugh and cry when the perfect moment happens. When you find the word that sums it up and just sigh. When you still find yourself laughing at nonsensical sounding words like, elbow. Lovely, isn’t it? Cringe at words, such as, moist. Horrible, isn’t it? Love that moment when it clicks. Love that moment when it doesn’t because you get to spend longer with the piece of work. Love and hate every moment but stop broadcasting it to people who won’t get it, this is not Love Island, you do not have to confess everything in the pursuit of fame. If you’re reading this and for you writing is pain, every word a torture and there is not one ounce of joy in it, I have to ask what kind of idiot does that to themselves? It is akin to a torturer testing out his tools on his family and then himself. Your torture will destroy those around you and 9 times of 10 it will reveal nothing about the human condition.
- Loftiness. What the fuck is the human condition? Seriously? This is Literary wank. If philosophers can’t answer it, you’re not going to have a revelation in 2,500 words. Reveal people. Hold a mirror up to the world. Enjoy the journey. Learn something for yourself. Let readers learn what they need to learn at that moment of reading. Fuck the critics.
- Fame. Makes you tingle that idea that you’ll be a household name. Realise this, not even Stephen King is a household name. Yes, he’s well known but when it comes to being known, God will outstrip him 9 times out of 10. Let’s face facts, God has been doing it a lot longer than us and God still gets negative press. It’s that simple. Be free. Be you. Heed this warning from an athiest, fame is wonderful, it is like a drug but it is a hollow validation that will dwindle away everytime you’re faced with the blank page. Fame is hungry and you are not big enough for it to live off. Keep writing. Keep believing. Do your thing and learn. If fame wants you, it will have you but it’s not what the writing is about. Fame is a misguided idea about paying the bills, being comfortable, being respected and you don’t have to be famous to do that.
- Fear of being influenced. Just because you have been published does not mean that you can rest on your laurels. Read books. Read more books. If you can’t get to readings, watch them online, listen to other writers, talk with poets, writers and anyone else who just loves books. Love to learn. Learn to love. Learn what a cliche is, did you spot it? Learn that writing is hard like anything in life (known as the human condition. I’m just rolling off those cliches now). Be influenced. Develop. Change. Do not be writing the same shit twenty years from now, going over the same ground with all the passion of roadkill.
- Literary aspiration. Genre. It’s not evil. There. It does not skulk around in alleyways ready to pounce on your literary aspiration. The Literary stick is often held by Literary critics who think that the only true writing is Literary. It is an insulated, masochistic, male orientated club and like any mens’ toilets it a no go area in bare feet. Literary sales decline year in, year out but hang on, Literary novels have subtext, theme, metaphor and the human condition! Will someone see the human condition! Will someone see that I am a man preaching to save humanity! Good writing uses tools. Great writing uses them without the reader realizing it. Someone telling you that you’re a Literary writer does not preclude you from writing any other genre or learning from another genre. Wuthering Heights is a romance story written by a woman who had to pretend to be a man to get it published because in the 1800s only credible books where written by men. Some things don’t change. Great this Literary club, isn’t it? And you want to be a member? Write what you want, let someone else pigeon-hole you and then break out of that hole whenever you want to with whatever tools you have accumulated. You are made to adapt and push boundaries, and that’s even before you decided to be a writer or a poet.
- Wasting time. Writing that never makes it to a reader is not wasting time. Do not be afraid to write everyday. Be selfish. Learn this is your job. Doesn’t matter for how long you write, doesn’t matter how many words, keep writing, be selfish because you wouldn’t want to have a heart attack and meet your Doctor who says, ‘You know, I just walked in off the street where I was wasting time and thought I’d have a go’. Writing is a craft, a job, a career and yes, you may have to balance it beside paying bills and having a ‘real’ job (for the record, writing is a real job or else we’d all be rooting around in the dirt and living in caves still). There is more damage in denying that part of you a moment in your day, to deny you are a writer or a poet is to tread on everything you are or could be. So dream. Waste time. A moment spent on the page is more fulfilling than watching television. If you let fear win, if you let the ‘real’ job define you, if you put aside these things to fill your life with trinkets because you think a lot of writing is wasting time, a silly dream not fulfilled, then you have missed the point. The act of writing is the fulfillment. To cast it off it too allow part of you to die. Keep writing, bit by bit you’ll learn that there is everything to be afraid of, and everything to find freedom in. Meet the end of your story with a clear conscience and a happy heart.
I could have ended my 12 with an anecdote about James Joyce and how one day a friend visited to find Joyce upset because he’d only written a few words that day but this is Joyce and we all know the ending to that. So, go on, George, take it away.