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The importance of doing nothing…(dr who, pirates and staring at walls)

Was talking about Dr who today, despite the pirates, sirens and inter dimensional travel…it seemed a bit … well inconsequential. And I loved it. No world changing, universe ending, big plot moments. Just some pirates, on a boat feeling a bit unwell. I love small sets where little happens; my favorite red dwarf was marooned. I love writing short stories that hum along in a silent groove, not much happening, but the passage of time looked at from a slight angle, possibly the dusty corner round the back of a pub toilet or someone standing at a station waiting to get paid. The bits of nothing are blissful notes bouncing around the walls of sanity (sod it, I’ll indulge) but seriously…theres moments that we skip past every day without looking and not intending to go all Ferris Bueller, when you grab one of the bastards it feels damn good. You can stare at a wall for hours if it’s got the right feel. Some songs are the same, not much going on, but about everything. Not sure dr who was all that profound, but after all the cosmic urgency last week it was nice to mess around with a few pirates.

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Bank holiday drawl – Some imagachology

Sometimes I can write anything but what I am supposed to.  At the moment there are a few things I’ve got to do, but I keep getting distracted by ideas that seem far more interesting at any given time.  It’s part of the whole procrastination thing, but there is more going on.  It’s partly that of course, but maybe the need to do a specific task sparks my general creativity.  I know how bullshit that sounds – and don’t expect much on the musing inspiration thing, this is about psychology.  Alright, not quite scientifically researched theory either (I have even less time for that) but maybe some self reflective, introspection into how I work, which is what this blog is about.  I suppose that won’t always make it good reading, but my aim is more about writing and any enjoyment is purely accidental.  So there will be side tracks.  So…

In my psymaginary / imagochology, I reckon that some centre in my brain is stimulated by a pressure to create / write / do – it leads to a work ethic, but one that lacks any systematic organisations.  I love mind maps, but think that even with their non-hierachical bursts of idea are a little too neat sometimes.  An idea would look more like Mr Messy caught up on a wild rose bush.  When that need to create is triggered, at whatever point it comes, tendrils of electricity fire off in all directions, uncontrollable, powerful, and so incredibly beautiful.   Many of the sparks fade into nothing, but others germinate, grow, travel round and through some unusual places.  Some get lodged and stuck for years and others fight to get out immediately.  Chavelle got stuck and battled for quite some time and nearly shut me down (perhaps firing all that electricity is dangerous in such an inclosed spaces) even though I abandoned the project ideas still echo about and come in useful from time to time.  Maybe the side track projects, the procrastojections are the ones that really matter and it doesn’t really matter how I end up getting to them.

A list (really a list[a cheesy list {for people who like lists(I like lists)}])

  • Pursue everything
  • Be interested
  • Talk…(lots)
  • Listen (and hear)
  • Never throw away a bad idea
  • Distraction is good
  • Make notes
  • Have fun
  • See, hear and do new things
  • Don’t agree with yourself
  • Get some sleep (insomnia isn’t romantic, its a pain in the arse)
  • THINK
  • Aim high, but enjoy the low
  • Don’t stop
  • Do
  • …and don’t worry about being cheesy, bad, similar to your heroes, false, sincere, funny, foolish, serious…just don’t be dull…

Sentenced

I’ve never been that sure about grammar. It wasn’t really taught in school, not in any meaningful way. There were bits and pieces, the odd rule like don’t start a sentence with an and or always have a comma before a but. But later I challenged some of these. Perhaps, the teaching of grammar by rules was the problem, if it were taught as knitting or building a wall I might have developed better habits at an earlier age, and yet I fear it may be to late. I am growing a weed, my style of penmanship. Tweaking and changing it’s nature and hoping it pleases, makes sense and steers close enough to the legality of English rules to avoid offending those guardians who would run red pen through it.

Early on I fell for romantic visions, my teenage self obsessing over death and magic, depressive indulgence in all things dark and mysterious. My prose had flowers bigger than chrysanthemums and sentences that went on forever with little sign of punctuation or understandable structure. The love of adjectives, adverbs and all such pretties abound throughout, leaving most readers frustrated despite my mother’s continued praise. Indulging in this honey was fun for a while, but soured as time went on. The discovery of modernism. Of brevity. Clipped sentences, every word mattering. Led me down another path, one requiring the destruction of all that went before. My key discoveries were Hammett and Chandler, as previously discussed, but by way of Pound and Eliot. In a station…alongside the Wasteland at war with Shelley and Keats, so easy to dismiss, but loved of my late teens. That I read Shelley on the Darland banks, with no sense of the ridiculous, sun beating down and full of wonder, seems puzzling to my post cynical, current thirty something incarnation, but was hated in my jaded twenties self when I rejected all that went before. Sadly, the result of my rejection was not the super cool clipped prose of the PI masters. I exchanged decoration for a Neanderthal grunt. Writing short. Keeping it pithy. Usually meant staccato phrases. Interrupted rhythms leading nowhere. When I read it, I feel abbreviated. Chavelle was of this grit, plagued by machine gun descriptions; a lack of commas and my tenuous use of semi colons in some desperation to resurrect a flow into what had become fragmented words, less embarrassing than earlier, but hardly what I had hoped. These polar obsessions were destructive allies and disrupted me for ages. But I hope I’ve learnt to ignore the rules enough to flow without excess, weaving if with a splintered loom, to produce some semblance of pleasant readability. I still have to watch for bold stock phrases, check my indulgences and hope to hell my words pass okay, but no longer worry quite as much and use my faults to illustrate, where possible, whatever it is that I want to say.

A job to do…

I’ve figured out I’ve got a funny relationship with deadlines. I hate and need them. When they are approaching I get tense and panicky then flow into a zen like procrastination of cleaning the kitchen and perfecting sandwichcraft, before beating the crap out of myself to achieve whatever it is I’ve said I’ll get done. It’s not too healthy, but it’s worked pretty good so far; I have very rarely missed a deadline and recently I’ve been completist on a few personal projects like nanowrimo and fawm, I even managed to finish my 52 week rejection thing, but maybe it’s time for a silent revolution, maybe I need to break free of those self oppressive shackle, destroy my work ethic and just let it flow. Write as and when I feel like it, flunk my course and miss every funding bid I put in for. Maybe I’ll start sending applications to jobs that have already closed and booking tickets for gigs that have already played, I could see jimi on the isle of wight or vote in a few elections with full knowledge of the result and the futility of my delayed contribution. But, sadly my brain ain’t wired that way, and though I do a pretty good impression of not caring and acting relaxed, but my personal treadmill keeps me sane and without these bouts of sturm and drang, I’d have trouble getting out of bed in the morning…mind you, there’s always the other side. When all is done, or on the breaks in-between, when nothing much is going on, I get a chance to look out of my little struggles and realise how lucky I am to be alive.

Yes, no and pomo…

Last Sunday I picked up a book by Edward deBono. I was in town trying to find a farmers market that had been on the previous week and ended up browsing for books. It was called ‘Po: Beyond yes and no‘ it argues that thought can become stuck between linear patterns that are prescribed by our position in society etc, etc… leading to inevitable, stale thought. He suggests an alternative answer such questions might be ‘po’; a kind of neither nor response rather than some kind of synthetic compromise. Po (as I understand it) represents the opportunity to be creative, lateral or down right silly. It is the transparent, to what colour should I paint the house colour? The banjo quartet in the metal anthem. The grow more legs, to how can I run faster on snow. Po doesn’t have to make sense, it isn’t governed by the structures of right or wrong, success or failure; its from the 70s and I love it.

I stumbled upon Po by accident, whilst looking for something displaced by time and distracting myself for a few minutes before walking home. The product of random chance, another area of creative brilliance. Douglas Adams speculated on the ‘fundamental interconnectedness of all things’ in DGHDA far better than I could, his detective relied on this methodology and was probably my first introduction to the hard-boiled egg of noirish, PI fiction. I will write another time about the hell of unconscious plagiarism / tribute / inspiration into which I inevitably descended.

{I just saw a mother pulling her child along a train station on a three wheel scooter, a happy little suitcase, experiencing the safety of his mothers hand and the thrill of fair ground speed, surely a bit of ‘po’ in that arrangement.}

This all leaves me in a terrible, post modern mess. Discussing the post modern interview, Mats Alvesson rejects ideas of objectivity and positivistic certainties, in favour of context and relationship, trying to give the subject voice rather than worrying about any bias or partiality on part of the researcher. The interview is the product of two people meeting and talking about some stuff. It represents that meeting, between those individuals and what they said. So far so wonderful, the critics naturally question its scientific usefulness, but hey, that’s the game. Bloody science fascists, with their quests for the twin dragons of reliability and validity; I hope they find them in the forest of facts. One bit I think I understand about post modernism (a shaky claim at best) relates to an aim to sever ties between language and meaning, meaning and object. That somehow, the oppressive naming of things binds us in rigid ways of thinking that keep us in our place, nicely. That by subverting prescribed meaning and allowing for the many truths, we can escape the shackles of definition. (A recent dalliance with George Bataille’s Encyclopaedia Acephalica, by way of the ME4 writers and CitAEcephale, allowed some fun with this.) Unaware of all this nonsense, Chavelle was of this world. A non-tective, he was a PI in actions rather than job. His investigation accidental, pulling at a string and hoping to find something useful at the other end, perhaps obscuring more facts than uncovered with ‘pomo’ self indulgence.

***

A man lies dead surrounded by roses. The detective walks in and points at the butler.

‘Why him?’ Asks the bumbling representative of authority.

‘Because he’s wearing red trousers.’. Mutters the man in the dirty mac as he chews the remains of his stogie.

What was a muse on time…

I have spent the past twenty minutes crafting a piece on time. I discussed the lack of it, it’s whimsical nature and how there is never enough of it. In my over wordy blog, I wondered at the connection between those moments of procrastination and living that can inevitably provide both solace and inspiration for creativity.

I went on to explore my nocturnal habits, of writing between the sheets or tilted back on an armchair made by the upholster to the Queen, romanticising the moonlight flicker on fresh paper and bemoaning the comparatively early bed time of my inner editor, who inevitably wakes up fresh and early to chew out the pathetic zombie left after indulging in such lunacy.

I was then going to write something about the gaps of disengagement and disenchantment over months or sometimes years and wondering if the end result was stagnancy or perhaps percolation? But then my iPhone crashed and I lost the lot, then during this rewrite my dog fell down the stairs. Well, the first three anyway. She’s alright, it seems, but wishes she could still make the steep climb to the top of our Victorian terrace. We stopped her coming up and sleeping at the foot of our bed a few months back, after a few two many stumbles on the way up and the increasingly uncontrolled speed of her descent. We had a gate fitted at the bottom to put her off, but we managed to break it somehow, ripping chunks of plaster out of the wall. Keisha seemed to have resigned herself to sleeping downstairs, but had clearly been plotting and training all along, waiting for the perfect moment. I checked her over and let her out the back for a bit and when she’d done her business sat and stroked her for a while, enjoying the moment. I’ve now go a chair at the bottom of my stairs and an embarrassed looking German shepherd in my front room. I wonder if they do stair lifts for animals?

Anyway, times gone, I ain’t been staying up writing as late recently, but have been getting far more done through getting on with it. Hope someone lets me out when I fall down the stairs, don’t think I’ve quite given up on all my silly romantic ideals just yet.

What’s in a name?

The
naming of my private detective was a convoluted and somewhat
ridiculous affair, coming as it did from the routes of my
fascination with hard boiled literature. Dashiell
Hammet’s
Sam Spade – the hero of one of my favourite
pieces of fiction – The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade IS hard boiled, no nonsense and
represents an unthinking sense of action and grit that is nothing
at all like me. I fell in love with the clipped prose of
Hammett and Raymond Chandler with their stories of the street and
its violence, of betrayal and classy ladies with tawdry secrets.
The real crime with Hammett was how little he wrote compared
to some crime writers, with only five novels – fortunately there
are several collections of short stories and Bogart’s portrayal of
Spade in the 1941 film is spell binding, ensuring the character is
cemented as an icon of noir. The Spade character inspired
Chandler when he created Phillip Marlowe, a similar detective with
similar problems, similarly portrayed by Bogart in the 1946’s The Big
Sleep
. Chandler concisely solved that age old
problem of writer’s block with his law: “When
in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his
hand.” All these links entertain in their own way, as
part of what caught my attention in the first place, the logical
conclusion being Mike
Hammer
. Hammer lacks finesse, even stood next to
Marlowe and Spade. He’s a first class bastard who rules the
pulpier end of market, kicking in doors and teeth with equal zeal.
In ‘Vengeance is mine’, Spillane’s no nonsense PI wakes up in
a room next to the body of a friend who has apparently killed
himself with Hammer’s gun. They had both been drinking all
night and Hammer can’t remember what happened. Despite my
general preference for the more nuanced characters of Spade and
Marlowe, this beginning creates a brilliance of opportunity for
story and adventure that match Chandler’s law for its simplicity,
laziness and dumb brilliance. Both create the story by
taking it to (or in Spillane’s case starting from) a true nowhere
point. The action creates an avalanche of questions and
mystery, throwing the reader off guard and gifting the author with
a multitude of plot directions that require very little in the way
of planning.
I wanted to root my character
in both the dark waters of noir and the muddy stank of the river
Medway. Following the pattern of messrs Hammett and Spillane,
I wanted to combine a monosyllabic christian name with an
everyday tool, but avoid the inevitable Nick Screwdriver or Dave
Fork. Chavelle combines that which moves dung with the much
maligned, Romani term of endearment ‘Chav
referring to a young man or youth. Chav is inextricably
linked to Medway through its more recent usage to describe a
particular youth culture that supposedly (in some mythologies)
originated in Chatham, where I was born.