Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Comprehensive Update of the MJ Nicholls Experience From January to June

Why haven’t I been writing more blog posts, commenting on your brilliant blogs and strewing desperate witticisms about the blogosphere like a comedian on horseback? I will endeavour to explain in easily accessible list form.

1. Blogs come to a natural stop. Looking at my blog roll I see many blogs that haven’t been updated in yonks. Stuart Kelly’s blog died a year and half ago. The Napier MA blog relaunch flopped and since then the Napier MA students have no online outlet for their awesomeness. Several friends’ blogs have languished for three to eight months with no updates in sight. Some update in monthly hiccups, keeping their hand in with tiny meaningless posts that tell us nothing about their writing agenda or personal lives. People drop off the internet (and the face of the planet) willy-nilly. It depresses me. They have babies, they marry Backstreet Boys, they win Yahtzee contests. And they’re so obsessed with their privacy they tell us nothing. That’s how it swings.

2. Life becomes too boring to describe. Since leaving my MA I have done nothing of interest except complete my novel Arlene’s Atoms, which I am currently pitching to agents. This might be construed as interesting but I have that piece of information in my profile. See? (Not the Ruskoline bit, lower). What else is there to say? I wait. I hope. I will send to other agents pending refusals. I will pitch to small publishers. Then write another book should I face constant rejection. In my day to day life I write and read copiously. I don’t have a job yet—no prospects of acquiring one on the horizon as I still don’t want to do anything but write. I have, however, been contemplating avenues of paid work I might explore—there isn’t really anything I want to do for eight hours per day but write. I don’t mind being unemployed because I have all the time free to write and read. But I’m trying to break this cycle, since the clocks are starting to tick. I have to do something else.

3. I have been in tortured artist mode. My next novel has undergone various false starts. I began by writing a satirical Divine Comedy, set both in Hell and Edinburgh (the difference: better bus links in Hell). Revolving around the lives of three suicidal people who discover a reason to live (that reason was never decided), the narrative was an attempt to further the magical realism I used in Arlene’s Atoms. This collapsed when I used the interrogating technique Sam Kelly uses to reduce eager artists to whimpering hacks. It had no heart. Or a viable structure. Or a semi-decent third character. Plus I couldn’t come up with a suitable reason for my characters to live. Then I toyed with a series of interlinked prose-poem vignettes, like what American MFA graduates write. Nope—binned. Next attempt was even crazier: six authors (all in the same family) collaborate on the same “little book of nothing” which comprises six separate narratives that would gradually reveal telling things about said dysfunctional family through the narrative approaches they each took, while commenting on the artifice of storytelling itself. ARGH. Metawank. Binned.

4. Continued. Despair passed when I decided to concentrate on refining and developing the individual characters’ voices and an overarching narrative voice that allowed me to fluctuate freely between internal monologue, narration and dialogue. The style is working for me so far. And the fun of writing a first draft without an obsessive need to design and structure is freeing. The main purpose of all these narratives is to draw upon my own difficulties fitting into life and find an outlet for exploring my own mishaps and calamities in the realm of self-interest, self-consciousness and self-destruction. Selfishness to the power of infinite. All the characters represent various aspects of my past self, imagined future self and fantasy selves. (And present self). I also want to discuss the notion that characters are nothing but extensions of the self and make this a part of the narrative. I’m toying with a talk-show format to link the three stories. Metawank? Perhaps.

5. Obsessive Compulsive Reading. Since I signed up to Napier I haven’t stopped reading. Stuart Kelly (Napier Reader-in-Residence) has passed on his OCR disorder and a week hasn’t passed since September 2009 without a book being read or completed. (By me. I think that was obvious). This doesn’t sound too bad, but it has become both a compulsion and displacement activity. I derive immense pleasure from reading but if I didn’t read so much I might make progress on the career thing. I wouldn’t fill three or fours per day gobbling up novels like the Book Monster. I can’t tear myself away and I love it. Is this a proper complex? If so I have it badder than bad, baby.

So: madness, obsession, self-destruction, denial and apathy for the outside world. The usual. Oh. I also started a book group—The Extremely Inferior Glasgow Book Group Experience. I also attended the Glasgow Writers Meetup which was a workshop (the horror) but quite useful. I also still live in Glasgow (at the bottom of Byres Road) if you want to stalk me. I’m also still in a relationship and five years sober on the sexual frustration stakes. Booya! (Too much information? Impossible, sir).


  1. I approve of this, even though you promote it as suckage. The "suffering artist who devours books"-part will eventually come back and bite you in your then "rich as caramellade because you made the big break"-ass and you'll fondly look back to the time you weren't drowning in Nobel - and Booker prizes.

    Also, I just invented the concept caramellade and believe it will be a much sough-after consumption item to provide assage to "not so rich as caramellade" people. High content of corn syrup.

    Also also my neighbour is a druggie, one of my students is stalking me and my former landlord has insomnia. It's raining. What else do you want to know?

  2. Also also also google is giving me a "mailer daemon" notification that your email isn't working no more whenever I try to comment here.