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Monthly Archives: May 2022

dough

You come to a point after editing where you have to put away a story for a while. Then, when you got back to it, all the rough bits stand out, you excise them, maybe rearrange a few things, and it’s done.

It’s a bit like baking bread. You knead the dough and then you let it stand for a while. You do this a couple of times and it’s ready to go in the oven. I’ve got two stories going through the process of just standing, doing nothing, waiting, which means I have June and July free of the obligation to write.

Which gives me the two months to get on with actual life.

 

diverse

 

People are keen on being neuro-diverse right now.

I guess it’s part of an ongoing attempt to define ourselves against the world. My feeling, when I was a teacher, was that most of these diversities are just facets of what makes us us and, sure, you don’t want to be loaded down with a destructive personality disorder or condition, but up to a point they work for us, not against us.

My long-term walking pal, Wilson, is obsessive, and that’s fine, cos we never get lost and he brings all the kit. But to an extreme, it would be debilitating: I had a neighbour who was afflicted with OCD and she could barely function. She was fully sentient, very intelligent, but her condition trapped her in a maze of logic which ensured, for example, she could not take the medication that would have made her life bearable.

As a former teacher, I got to try out all the psychological tests on myself and, I’m happy to report, I’m not psychopathic, nor autistic.

But I do have ADD. And dyslexia.

Before I took those tests I used to just think I was messy and had a butterfly mind. And I always knew that general lack of structure, apart from making my WhatsApp conversations a bit random, is one of main the reasons why I write fiction, my imagination is pretty much unhindered – nothing is off the table: everything is possible*. It’s also why I have about forty unfinished books (despite my Rules of Writing #2 being “finish what you start”).

I can read though, it’s my favourite thing –  and if the letters float about, well, I got past that when I was three years old.

Another facet of my own disorderly mind is that I need to write a list of jobs every day, in order to properly function.  My good friend Ernie, who did have autism, though we didn’t know it back then, and I think we would have called it Asperger’s, told me he had to organise his life to the most minute degree, because otherwise everything fell to pieces. And when, one day, despite his efforts, his carefully structured life fell apart, so did he.

I’m not like that, I cut myself slack if I don’t tick every box, but I need the list as a scaffold, a guide, to my day.

I began writing this to say that, within reason, being special is not so special, it’s just a facet of being you. But then I listed two people, my next-door neighbour Helen and my good pal Ernie, whose lives were destroyed by their psychological ‘facets’. Maybe I’m being glib. Mental issues can be awful if they assert control, and while some facets of my behaviour can cause me difficulties, they’re part of me, and I embrace them.

Others struggle.

 

 

*Knowing that everything is possible is why I’m still scared of the dark, because, well, you can never be sure.

 

 

attack the space

 

Being left-handed means that the standard approach doesn’t work. You can’t just do it the same, but with the other hand. Ask a butcher if he’s ever tried using the bacon slicer with his left hand. Ask a boxer or a tennis player if they employ the same tactics as their dextrous opponents. The answer is an emphatic no. It doesn’t translate.

Living on the sinister side means finding your own path. Or not. When I was a teacher I found that lefties occupied a disproportionate number of seats in both the top and bottom sets. Very few were in the middle ground.

Whether by design or adaptation we’re naturally awkward. I think it’s why my approach to the literary industry is so counter-intuitive. I only have contact with an extremely limited number of people in the business, the less the better, and it works for me. It’s an adaptation of game theory, I guess.

Gary Lineker, one of England’s greatest goal-scorers had a technique for scoring goals. He said “attack the space”. Go where the ball is not, because if it does by some chance land at your feet, you’ll find yourself alone, with an open goal. American car racers talk about driving into the crash rather than avoiding it, because by the time you get there, the crash will have moved. From what I understand, Nassim Taleb based his trading approach on long-term, unlikely outcomes. They didn’t profit often, but when they did, they profited big.

I don’t think I have a choice in how I think, or write, or in my approach to life in general, but even if I did, I’d choose the path less traveled. I embrace it.

list

 

Was doing a bit of admin this morning  and I realised that there are only five more books that I need to write*. Writing interferes with my life. I spend a lot of time in my head, looking inwards when I should spend it in the world, looking out.

I feel a responsibility towards the characters in my stories, they have a right to be set free, a right to life, and that’s one of the reasons I write, but it’d be nice to not carry that burden.

 

 

*there are lots of other stories I could write but probably won’t.

 

 

 

I’m in the habit of reading from my kindle.

Tidying my shelves today I discovered about ten unread books on a lower shelf that that have been bought for me as presents over the last couple of years. I’d set them to one side to read and then forgotten about them.

Ten books!

I feel like a kid with the keys to the sweetshop.

 

calorie

 

I’ve said this before but, aside from this site, I don’t do social media. It works for me. I read, mostly novels, some news websites, and I listen to podcasts, but I don’t have FB or  Insta or anything else and I don’t go near games or gaming.

I can see the benefits of doing social media, but they’re massively outweighed by the drawbacks. Lishman often sends me stuff from twitter, which leave me feeling dirty, and Laura sends me links to instagram and TikTok, which can be entertaining but are mostly underwhelming. Otherwise I never go there. I recognise them all for the time-sinks that they are.

Social media is empty calories. It has zero nutritional value. It devours time.

 

 

jackpot

I began reading William Gibson’s Jackpot trilogy, and I didn’t enjoy the books as much as I’d anticipated. First time I’ve ever been disappointed. They weren’t too bad, they just didn’t have that sparkle, but they did introduce a great supporting character in Conner Penske, for me he’s up there with Tommy Barban as one of the all-time great secondary-characters, though he lost a bit of his mad swagger in the second book.

Not really looking forward to the TV adaptation. I probably won’t watch it.

I’ve always got The Bridge Trilogy, I guess.

jack

 

My friend’s dad was a bricklayer his whole life. Between the ages of 15-70 Tommy laid bricks. I watched him work and he was a master of his craft. His older brother, Jack, was even better.

At times, I wonder what it would be like to have just one trade for my entire life, and to practice that trade every working day. I’ve had thirty or forty jobs jobs – I’ve been a postman, an ironmonger and a busker, I’ve worked in a tax office and a post office, in a classroom and backstage in a theatre, I’ve tended bar, laboured on a building site, sold petrol in a garage and coffee in a youth centre.

The only things I carried through all of those was a love of reading and of music. Eventually, more through stubbornness than any innate quality, I became a writer. I still play saxophone. I still tutor. But everything else has fallen away.

But I wonder how I’d see the world if I only ever did one job my entire life.

 

 

Chatting to KW about writing, and I realised the main thing is to just sit down, pick up a pen and paper, and write.

Do it every day.

Turn up.

 

the gods

Every now and again I take a run at a couple of stories that I drafted but never quite came together. One of these is the gods – a collection of stories that I put together but that never quite gelled as a single unit.

There’s a mood in there that I’m still trying to tease out. I’ve tried it a couple of times and never been satisfied, and so always withdrew it from publication.

Now that I’m letting Gun Jesus marinate for a couple of months,  I thought I’d give it another look. The text is done – though it could do with an edit, obvs. – it’s more that the structure doesn’t quite work.

I’ll see what I can do between now and July.