Saturday, 28 March 2009


You will be able to deduce for yourselves from these doodles executed while at work how fascinating I find my job. They may also reveal unfortunate traits in my psyche. (Judging by the middle section, I am a frustrated architect of tunnels.)

The first I call duckadoodle, the last cockadoodle.

I invite you to name the rest.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

When Nerves Attack!

Strange, the closer I come to finishing the first draft of Only the Gulls are Content, the more nervous I become and the more convinced I am I have written a pile of poo.

I haven't been helped by technology. The file for chapter seventeen escaped overnight and returned corrupted - that's Brighton for you. Fortunately I had saved an earlier version; nevertheless, all the work of the previous week had to be re-written last week. And of the thousand words I wrote over the weekend, six hundred will have to go into the recycling bin - in the deathly phrase favoured by political commentators, they were not on tune.

I've never been one to climb every mountain, but I have heard tell the last hundred feet are the hardest. Or have I just made that up?

This attack of nerves is familiar. The closer I come to end of any project the more apprehensive I become the quality of my work is just not good enough.

Is it just me? Is it time to visit someone in a white coat?

Saturday, 21 March 2009

All Change

Caroline was kind enough to post a comment on my last post in which she drew my attention to the importance of rules. (Caroline is an artist who, to my expert opinion, is one of wonderful talent. Caroline will be embarrassed to learn I have downloaded all her pictures and use them as my screen savers in alteration to Gauguin to savour when I am trying to write.)

So to rules: rules, of course, are there to be broken; however, in order to break rules one must first understand the rules that one is breaking and, therefore, to what end one seeks to break the rules. If one does not, there is only chaos and nonsense.

Rules are not an imposition created for arbitrary reasons in order to discipline individual thought, but have been developed over the centuries through man's contemplation of how the world is. (I employ man in the traditional philosophical use of the gender to refer to all of humanity - not as a sexist generalisation.)

Man's understanding of the world is in constant flux, so ideas of its representation in writing, painting and music, traditionally, and now in film and video, are also in constant flux. Nonetheless, there remains a conversation with the past that great artists recognise, acknowledge and profoundly disagree with when it comes to their own representation of the world. Their works are a counter-argument and, in recognising the paucity of previous reasoning, nevertheless, respect the fact it be an argument worthy of contradiction.

If we look for a man who sought to destroy the tradition of thought, we can do no better than look at Descartes. Despite his claim that he was going to start from the beginning and re-write the understanding of the world, an understanding that proves so radical it still resonates in all the arts, he cannot, indeed, it is impossible for him to break free of the assumptions that motivate his thought.

So it is with any person living in any culture in any age: we are steeped in assumptions about how things are and how they should be from the breast. We can and should question, fight and disagree with every received opinion; equally we should recognise that in our arguments we are operating from foundations that remain invisible to us.

As writer, artist, film-maker, poet, environmentalist, politician, or anyone who seeks to change the world, we will only succeed if we understand why and what we are changing - in other words, the rules of the existing world.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Words Putting Order in Right

As my confidence in what I am writing swings more wildly than a yo-yo clutching a bottle of vodka, I take an increasing interest in the blogs of agents and publishers; my two favourite being How Publishing Really Works and BubbleCow.

Jane of HPRW has posted on a Queryfail Day: a day-long Twitterfest. It's purpose was to advise writers why so many submissions fail.

I have followed some of the links in Jane's post and I am amazed at how stupid, arrogant, naive - add your favourite pejorative - wannabe writers appear to be.

The difficulty with writing is that too many people believe they are capable of becoming writers. Of course, it is possible for anyone to write; however, the ability to stab the correct keys on a keyboard to assemble a sentence that is grammatically sound does not make an individual a writer.

Writing is an art in the same sense as painting is an art.

Again, anyone can make marks on a blank canvas but unless you have a feel for form, colour, texture, shape, balance, and line, you can spend the rest of your life daubing canvases but you will never be an artist. Great writers are sensitive to the colour, texture, shape and structure of the written word. They understand the possibilities of what can be achieved on the page and how it may be achieved.

Writing is also a craft. I believe you never stop learning as a writer and anyone who wishes to become one must approach his or her task in all humility. The material we deal with, words, are infinitely subtle in the effects they can realise; however, they are also very fragile objects, their precise meaning protean and elusive. (If you don't believe the latter claim, I invite you to read the Oxford English Dictionary, which apart from being a volume of definitions may also be understood as a history of words and the change in their meaning over the years.)

Our intuitive understanding of words is that they point directly to the object, i.e. when I write 'rock', it sums up a transcendental image, one which we all understand, of the thing 'rock'.

Of course, it does no such thing. Excluding the possibility I could be referring to the motion of rocking, the seaside stick of rock, or rock and roll, but am referring to the geological rock, my elder brother, a former teacher of geology, would then ask me to refine my reference; did I mean igneous, sedimentary or the metamorphic, and further did I mean granite, basalt, sandstone, limestone, et cetera.

When I employ the word 'rock' all I do, in fact, is point you, not to what the object is, but to what the object is not. Remaining within the geological field, by using 'rock' the reader will understand I do not mean pebble, sand, gravel, sediment, etc.

The word is a single brushstroke on the page that gives the vaguest impression of what the reader is looking at. The craft of writing is first to learn and understand the techniques one must employ to create the pictures one hopes to create. The art of writing can only be realised once one has mastered the craft.

Returning to the topic of this post, those who astound me most are individuals who are, first, so misguided as to think themselves writers, second, confuse the notion of writer as being someone who is an ill-disciplined creative firebrand, an individual who, therefore, doesn't have to follow the rules. Consequently, they cannot be bothered to read the guidelines for submission, or any of the advice readily available on the Internet, and then are surprised their manuscripts never get read.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Party, Party, Party!

Don't you just love parties?

David went to a dinner party last night with daughter of V. Famous artist and completely misbehaved.

David and alcohol are such a good combination.

David is fearless in his opinions after a glass or two. Or ten.

David upset other people because of his fearlessness.

David feels no remorse this morning because other people should have more sense than start the evening with a vodka martini.

David is a bit of an arse when it comes to parties but, by God, he is value for money. The question being, of course, the currency you deal in.

I have just been told that not only am I a pain in the arse but proud of it [which I'm not] but I do recognise the fact I cannot stop being me, i.e. a pain in the arse on certain occasions, particularly when alcohol is present.

So who am I to be someone I am not?

Friday, 13 March 2009

This is Not a Post

I am not blogging at the moment because I am writing so much I am in danger of melting my keyboard.

My daily routine at the moment is:

Listen to Radio 4 news headlines
Catch up on blogs while drinking aforementioned coffee
Depart for morning shift


Depart for evening shift

Weekend routine is similar with the evening shift being replaced with a bottle (or two) of wine.

Last weekend I wrote 4,000 words. So I am not blogging at the moment. And this is not a post.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Pen Pushing & Glad Handing

I have never been on a writing course. Creative or otherwise. (And on that topic why are Creative Writing courses so-called; are there Dumb-Down-Your-Imaginative-Writing courses?) Neither have I ever been to a writers' conference, joined a writing group, or taken part in any of the activities other writers blog about. Perhaps I should.

I got into writing because I wanted to grow my hair long. You heard - my hair. I offer proof. This picture was taken on the set for a Curly Wurly stills shoot by John Turner. (Those old enough might remember Terry Scott starred in the commercials.)

My writing started young.

Up to the point where I started on the 'O' level syllabus, I and another boy at school would swop places as to who would come first in class for English, which then mostly consisted of writing short stories. Once grammar raised its punctuated head I lost interest.

To cut a long story short, the exasperation of my parents eventually drove me to a dull, administrative post at IBM. Looking out of the window one day, I saw a shoot taking place in the car park under the eye of the only man in the company who had LONG hair. He was the advertising manager. I handed in my notice within the week.

It took me three months to get a job as a copywriter. I learnt what skills I have with the written word on the job, which is not to say every copywriter is a successful prose writer but I was always rated as a long copy copywriter.

I wouldn't mind attending a writers' conference though, generally, I find conferences too long-winded with the occasional gem buried under a pile of generalities, obscurities and platitudes. Maybe I've just attended the wrong conferences. They are, of course, networking opportunities but until my book is complete I would feel something of a fraud.

My book is nearing completion so, who knows, one day I might bestride a conference with my head held high.A prize of this picture of a Curly Wurly to anyone who can persuade me of the benefits of a writing group.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Tweet, Tweet.

Do you twitter? Gary Smailes of BubbleCow keeps on about twittering and how useful it is to wannabes like myself.

I confess I am slightly at a loss as to its advantages. There are so many so-called social networking opportunities and I am less than convinced about most of them. For instance, I have a FaceBook page and as my dear daughter, Rebecca, wrote when it was first announced, 'Welcome to another way to completely waste your time.'

I did point out the issue of the split infinitive but you get her point.

Now please don't regard me as a Luddite - I was one of the first to welcome the arrival of the mechanised loom. I recognise the importance of marketing in all its diverse forms, and they don't come more diverse than at the present time. What confuses me is how to evaluate the worth of the various social networks.

First there was Friends Reunited, then MySpace, rapidly followed in no particular order by MSN, Skype, FaceBook, YouTube, Blogs, and doubtlessly many others I know not of, and now Twitter.

I could easily spend my life building up my social networks. I too could have six hundred friends on FaceBook (none of whom I have met or am ever likely to meet) as opposed to my current total of eleven (all of whom I have met and regard as genuine friends). That, however, would leave me no time to write, which would be the object of developing these networks in the first place.

Perhaps I am missing something - not in a physical sense though if it turned out this was the case, I wouldn't be at all surprised - but I need to be convinced about twittering.