Monday, 30 November 2009

The Haddock of Truth

The whole point of this blog was to wax shambolic about my progress in Edinburgh Napier University’s Creative Writing course, but I’ve held back for two reasons.

One: It’s irritating when people discuss what they do in the day. I did this, I did that. I screwed him, I fellated her. Gah. So what. The world turns without you, sunshine. Shaddap.

Secondly: I’ve been walloped around the brains with the haddock of truth and it stings. My writing has been torn apart by savage savants and succulent svengalis. I have bruises the size of Nagasaki.

Here are some truths I’ve been forced to confront:

1. I can’t write convincing working class characters.

This is true. I perform better as a scribe when my character has an intellectual curiosity, some quirk of the mind that usually places them as lower-middle class types or richos. I was raised in a working class household but was one of those bookish brats who avoided his parents and siblings in favour of being a stuck-up tosspot. Hence, our current problem.

2. I over-over-over-satirize.

Too much satire and not enough everything else. My constant need to slap the world on the bum 24/7 needs to be contained. Thing is… I dislike most things. Cabbage. Homophobes. Gramophones. People. OK, let me rephrase… I dislike most people. Until I meet them. Then I like them. Then I resent them when they lose interest in me, and go back to hating everyone.

3. I am an unemotional writer.

It’s odd. I have satchels of sorrow and wellfuls of woe within my being. Trouble is, I care little for the emotional punch in stories. I dislike catharses (where characters weep and learn things). Characters who grow. Characters who love, laugh and live. Shaddap. Not interested. The human condition is a short poor man licking the testicles of a giant rich bastard. We are sheep. We are worthless. We come, go, regenerate and repeat. We’re too preoccupied with fast-food, coffee, careers in the media and YouTube to emote.

4. My vision is wonky.

What do I want to SAY as a writer? What gets on my cheese? What do my stories MEAN? These are important and irritating questions. My main preoccupation as a writer has been, thus far, the impossibility of writing. I think right now I’m veering towards a writing that is so self-contained, self-aware, self-critical, that it will exist only in my head as the spectre of an idea. You will have to download each spectral podcast from my brain.

Mainly I write about the same thing as most writers: why the world is a BAD and EVIL place. Sob sob sob sob.

5. I’m impatient and lazy.

I am part of the instant mash, instant whip, instant gratification generation. We want things now. We want to be geniuses now. We want to be Martin JG Will Eggers without doing the work. We want to run before we can take a college course in Basic Crawling. We are Generation Meh.

This was an informative vent. Solutions next time. Positivity! Ideas!


  1. Don't listen, they only want to tear you down, including the professor. Don't let thirty years go by and miss out on all that pootie you might have gotten on your book tour. Mono-mania rules. They're right, of course, but those things are easily fixed; life will take care of most issues. All you need do is witness and write, witness and write. The rest is luck. You have to be lucky.

  2. Fuck them. You're a genius. I know it/no one else matters. Beyond this I have nothing to offer. Being adequately medicated sucks. I miss you.

  3. Derek: Monomania does rule. I want to drop acid and invade Iraq with you.

    I haven't quite witnessed "life" in action yet. He is an elusive character who only responds when you boot him in the bollocks or run to Mr. Death.

    Verity: I miss you too.

    Thank you for your adequately medicated reassurance. Our time in the Valley of the Skinned Bears is coming.

  4. Hahahaha, I enjoyed that. Follow me, I know where the truth lies, though I can't quite wrap my arms around it. But I warn you; I'm everything you despise.

  5. Is it wrong of me to enjoy your misery so much? It's not actually your MISERY I'm enjoying, but that you express it so amusingly.

    As for satire... seems to me you can become a writer for late night TV and make a fortune... Oh, sure... sellout yadda yadda, but once you're famous you can write whatever you damn well please and people will buy it.

    (and there are a lot of authors in the required reading piles who's point is 'there is no point'--you're in good company)

  6. Susan Murphy: You intrigue me. I'll venture onto your path soon for some serious loathing.

    Watery: My misery is free. Help yourself to my pain crisps.

    I'm not miserable, actually, merely reflective in an aggressive way. In Scotland we have shout our feelings, since it's rare we ever get any.

    Thanks for the boost! Viva misery!

  7. Give me a hug. You know, I feel all of that in your writing. The over-satirizing, the emotionally disconnected whatever you want to call it, the "impossibility of writing" (and I love that phrase). I feel all of that, and I'm pretty sure that's exactly the reason I like your writing so much. I'm so tired of the poignant hoo-hah. The story that tries so hard to say something is BORING.

    You are never boring. Learn, yes, OK. We all have lots to learn. But I know you start rolling your eyes when you try to write something conventionally dramatic. And I think you should roll your eyes.

  8. I'm hugging you senseless.

    It's true: I have no appetite for the poignant hoo-hah. In fact, I'm reading a book with poignant hoo-hah right now and I'm rolling my eyes endlessly. Roll, roll, roll!

    I'm glad you're around. Without you (and the others), I would be wading through a swamp of inconsequence.

  9. Sort of like that swamp in The Lord of the Rings with all the festering bodies?

  10. Good...because that probably smelled really bad.

  11. I'm so glad that your tutors/peers decided to indulge you in being super critical and negative. Get past this hurdle now and you're set for life.
    When I went to the Royal College of Art, the head of design had this approach:
    1. Select a student because you saw something in what they were doing.
    2. Subsequently, try to rip them down, tear them apart, destroy what they were.
    3. Rebuild them in the wonderful image you have for them.
    Unsurprisingly, none that stayed the course turned into whizbang wonderkids.
    Some did eventually start working for my brother and I, (we'd told the clown to get fucked and continued doing our own thing), but they never really came to much.

    Something from the old Urbis reviewing days - don't say what they're doing wrong, help them do it right - their way!

  12. Hey Mike. Ha! Since you last commented, one quarter of the class has done EXACTLY that.

    My take is: who else are these people going to listen to? Themselves? Their grannies?

    If you want to become a writer, taking the advice of a successful down-to-earth screenwriter and a long-term London literary agent isn't remarkably stupid.

    Admittedly, though, I have been made to approach my story from a zillion different angles. It's not so much being moulded into one thing but being fed too many possibilities!

  13. Mark:
    "successful down-to-earth screenwriter" - yup, loads of potential there then to become a writer for Coronation street. Get in a few copywriters to advise as well, just to ensure that second mortgage home, kids and a nice dog.
    I used to get masses of advice from my brother, a very successful CEO. How he wanted me to stop pissing away my life. Decades later, always ignoring his advice, I found my own way - and outearned him big time. More, I had a great fucking time while pissing about - he will never have half the experiences I enjoyed.

    "long-term London literary agent" - again, hmm. One of those responsible for the great state of publishing we now see?

    Do you want to earn a living or taste all that life has to offer - and find all that you can offer life?

    No one helped me get to be chased down a mountain pass by gun toting bandits, most advice at the time would have helped me avoid that. Personally though, I woudn't have missed the experience for anything.

  14. Just a general rule of thumb I've picked up:
    if advice states "here's how I became a success, follow me" - shun it!
    If advice states "Hmm, now how can I help you do that?" - it MIGHT be more worth listening to.

  15. Heh heh. I'm pretty sure I can't twist your arm about these tutors of mine. Right now, I like being young and naive. It's part of that experience thing you alluded to somewhere.

    If I leave the course feeling disillusioned and depressed, I'll buy you a Malaysian lager and start dropping acid in the Himalayas.