Hypnotizing Chickens

Sometimes I get annoyed as a writer. At what? Anything or anyone that gets in the way of my work. I realize that this does little in the way of moving me closer to a balanced life. But who holds the scales? And what’s the point of being balanced if a pound of feathers weighs exactly the same as a pound of annoyance. The thing is, I can always see that my annoyance is not rational or even good, but it certainly is necessary if I want to write something good that is worth all the crazy hours of solitude talking to oneself in fictional tongues. But the truth is, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself without “a broad margin to my life… in undisturbed solitude and stillness” (Thoreau), the brooding and the writing and the reading and the fretting.

I just remembered it rained last night and the day before. The slow build-up of thunder. The flash behind the white slop of clouds. The rain in a panic. The damp hanging around like a lost tourist this early in September.

I just finished reading M John Harrison’s Viriconium. I couldn’t put it down until I was done. I never thought I would discover a writer that makes the ego drop in the Id shaft so fast, I’m all lost in the basement of superego. How does he write words that fill up my body with the essential nutrients I was told by the state and teachers was only absorbed by eating a regular diet of “literary” writers. It’s all genre, isn’t it? Even Shakespeare was a polyglot for art and entertainment.

One day, I will never have an apartment in the Simmeringer Haupstrasse.

Here’s some Lloyd Cole.


Kitchen Sink Drama

I’ve been hearing some hokey stuff recently, so I thought I’d write about it. Here are 2 that have struck me as the most suspect:

“The writer in everyone.”


“Creativity is a solitary affair.”

The first gave me a reason to pause because I can’t imagine that there is a writer in every person who is just dying to get out and write. That would be like saying there is a doctor in everyone and a lawyer in everyone an accountant in everyone (scary thought) a president in everyone and etc, etc.

If I suddenly started to try and balance other people’s money, I’m sure the IRS would soon be knocking on my door. Or if I suddenly put a sign outside my house that read: “The Doctor Is In,” I’m sure there would be a lawyer crossing my lawn in no time.

I do think humans are natural-born storytellers. It’s on our tongue, literally, to spin a yarn, be it about the weather or the chicken that escaped from the coop or the guy down the street who dries his underwear on the garden post. The tongue likes to wag some story or other.

But writing is not the same as speaking. Writing is not on the tongue. Not at first, anyway. It’s somewhere deeper inside. It springs to life in the head, if I have to localize it. But that’s not even true. A story begins like the Big Bang, in space. And, at least for me, it then begins to take shape and form in the head, and I hear fictional voices. And those voices can’t stay there. Now the old oral storytellers would have begun to speak. Not me. I begin to write. So I somehow silence the tongue and I only bring it back into use when words start to flow and I want to know how they sound. Do they have a sound that is worth keeping? Still, most of the sound is going on in my head and then to the blank screen where it, hopefully, gets louder and louder. (I’m not trying to make this into some esoteric art; just a spooky one.)

I’m not sure everyone, besides writers, takes the time to recognize and act upon these strange voices. And so, the “writer in everyone” is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.

Now onto the second.

For a long time I’ve taken for granted that “creativity is a solitary affair”: a writer sits alone and writes. Then the other day I was doing the washing-up, squirting the liquid, and watching the foam rise…and it hit me.

Wait a honky-tonk second, I thought. (Picture the foam rising in the sink). I squeezed the sponge in my hand. (Picture more foam rising.)

Creativity is not a solitary affair! And I turned off the tap.

Here’s why. (And I shall use my washing-up experience as an illustration.)

Just like the washing-up liquid will not foam without water, so a writer can’t create without the presence of other writers.

Let me explain: Okay, I’m sitting alone before the keyboard, but, every writer (living and dead) I have ever read and loved is sitting on my shoulder. I can sense them there. Some encouraging, some snickering, some rolling their eyes, some yawning, some picking their nails, some typing themselves, some asleep, some shouting, some wandering off, some hooting and hollering, some attentive, some whispering words of advice and praise.

And just like the foam is an amalgamation of tiny bubbles, so a solitary writer is in fact just one iridescent bubble in the mosaic bubbles of life going on around them.

Let me explain:  Yes, I’m alone with my story. But am I really alone?

I don’t have my own writing room, it’s in the living room, the centre of house life. I try to make it a solitary space, though, by writing at night when my two young daughters are in bed. But even then it’s not as solitary as I think it is. One of my three cats might jump into my lap. A moth might bang against the window like a falling moon of white. A neighbour’s dog might bark at some noise. The lights might flicker. A car might grumble down the dirt road. A fox might scream and scare me half to death. There may be thunder. The wind might get the leaves muttering. Rain might fall in liquid drops. The moon might break free and gaze upon me. My eldest daughter might wake and wander down stairs….

How can I be alone with all of this life going on around me? And it’s not a distraction. In fact, it’s a gift. All this active life around me seeps in, fills me up, alters my mood, affects my writing, changes what I write. The life outside becomes the life inside the creative mind, feeding it, changing it, giving it that extra elasticity and energy to be something other than just the rote practice of sitting alone in a chair and writing.

Plus, as an added bonus, just as I can pull the plug when I’m done with the dishes, so I can pull the plug on the writing. Go back to it another day.

“And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turn them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation, and a name.” Shakespeare

“People lie constantly every day by not saying something that they think, or by saying something that they didn’t think.” Marlon Brando

“There is a class of hardy men, old-fashioned enough to have remained rugged individuals, openly contemptuous of the trend, passionately devoted to their work, impossible to bribe or seduce, working long hours, often without reward or fame, who are motivated by a common impulse — the joy of doing as they please. They do not seek to dominate, but to realize themselves. They evolve, they grow, they give nourishment just by being what they are.” Henry Miller

Sense and susceptibility

I think I suffer from a psychological term called pagan candour. Oh, the Shakespearean foppery of the world. It is too much with us. You know, illusion and ideology. “I am moved by fancies that are curled / Around these images and cling.” Eliot. And that is why I love art, the uselessness of it is a scandal to hard-headed pragmatists.

Was it Matthew Arnold that wrote: “With noiseless current strong, obscure and deep”? That’s life in its true essence, the underlying stream of all that we feel and are. The subterranean current that is life, the force, the being of our matter. The imperative is always to tell it how it is. But it’s such a strong current to maneuver since life flows back and forth. It’s not a constant rushing forward because there is always the nimbus of introspection that carries us helplessly back to the past and pours us over the falls to the future.

Some days I imagine myself as a lord with whip and spur and by the chantry I fly on toward the cathouse. I think it was Ted Hughes who wrote there is in all of us a real struggle between the Puritan and the Hedonist. But then Hughes was more than Frank — he was Ted — about his need for more than one sexual partner. Fidelity is the long boat on the stream of lust that touches nothing but the water of transience. I don’t know who wrote that. Wait! It was me. Am I committing an act of Mutatis Mutandis or in flagrante delicto? I can’t tell. My Latin’s very poor since the Celt got mixed up with it.

And some hours, the bewitching ones, I wish I could only have a morsel of Blake’s creative recklessness. There is so much ballast now in the calculative spirit of utilitarians. And Blake is seen as a visionary drawing a lot from religion, but his force was not to align his spirit with the scriptures or even the dogma, he sought out the extravagant and maverick ethics of Jesus. You know, “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” If they ask for your coat you give them your robe. If they ask you to walk one mile you go three. If they ask for your allegiance you give them your rebel yell. If your desires are restrained by religion or politics, and a political state keeps power by convincing us of our limitations, then maybe those desires you have are feeble enough to be retrained.

Thus Spake Zerk, grease fitter