Being Boring

I don't think that writers should write a blog post about how difficult it is to write. I think it's the equivalent of second-album syndrome, where all of your songs are about what a terrible ordeal it is to be in a band touring the globe. We get it, mate: you're Nigel Tufnel, explaining the problem with the olives and the tiny, tiny bread.

But writing a blog post at all has been playing on my mind, because it's over three months since the last one, and even if you're not expecting my face to imminently show up on the side of a milk carton, it might be germane of me to tell you where I'm at, not least because this gap will make a shite chapter in the unauthorised biography otherwise.

I finished draft two of The Sad Club a few months ago now, and after a short break I've gone back to it to re-edit. At this point I was going to write a humorous calendar of my writing process because I've had a couple of people cock their heads in puzzlement at why my novel isn't winging its way to publishers yet, but I realised I did that last year, when I was funnier and less of a shell of a husk of a burnt-out case.

The simple answer is that my book's not finished. I doubt it ever will be. I don't mean by that that I'm never going to show it to anybody, rather that in its current condition it's more rough book than class project. Unvarnished surfaces where I've sanded down the plot here, a snagged jumper where I haven't hammered in a theme there. It needs spell-checking, reading and feeling out. I'm not at a stage yet where I'm happy that if I were in a fatal accident, I could imagine my grieving relatives reading it and not going, 'well, his guitar will probably get a few quid.'

I waver between thinking editing is the greatest thing ever and hating it more than Diego Maradona. When you can see it working it's brilliant, because it brings you that much closer to what you want to communicate, but it appears that you're not actually doing much at all. It shares its DNA with writing, and this is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that you can write and edit for the same amount of time without noticing its passage. The only difference is that a ninety minute session of editing means you might change fifty words and end up with three fewer than when you began. Editing is like Cain and writing Abel: you end up killing your innocent, who-me-guv splurge out of spite and jealousy. Nobody cares when you say you're editing something, but tell them you write and it's open ears aplenty.

Sorry. I think I've had to use the delete key too often lately. Maybe I shouldn't write blog posts before I've taken my pills.

But I am working, and editing is something I've only come to appreciate as I've grown more experienced, much like Bruce Springsteen's 'The River' or Test Match Special. I think, levity aside, it makes you a more mature writer if you can work with your text and take out bits you know don't work, or try things from different angles or in different voices. I don't think I'm ever going to be too comfortable eliminating whole chapters but I can whittle with the best of them.

I also realise that the purpose of a blog is to write about things that you've maybe had on your mind, or have an opinion about. A lot of of things have occurred since March when I last wrote here - a fuck of a lot, you might swearily say - but personally, I'm fatigued by it all. Having arguments, silences and trying to rise above it all is tiring, and between intricate tasks at work and on my book, I can't be arsed writing something contentious about Brexit, terrorism or penalty shoot-outs. The world's in a shit state, nobody knows what they're doing and there is twenty-two trillion dollars worth of capital floating around tax havens while food banks run short of breakfast cereal. If this is The Matrix, these sodding hackers have let their ransomwarevirus loose.

So, to directly contradict myself, I'm going to share a poem I wrote for a competition at work before Easter. The challenge was to include five words from that day's headlines in any style of poetry and you could win chocolate. Now, I'll do a lot of things for chocolate, so I thought I'd give it a go. Sounds petty, but I was pissed off that it didn't win, although the poem that did captured the imagination far better than my Joy Division tribute did. It's shared for the first time below an inconveniently-located picture of a cow laughing at a trapped horse. In the meantime, I have a few bits and bobs lined up so if anything writerly happens to me, I'll be sure to tell you about it in seven weeks' time. Adios.

"Yeah, you might be laughing now, Mungo, but unless we're in France I'll have this field to myself by the weekend."

Variations On A Theme

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it
Is nothing more than describe the state
Of a world of headlines
The same every day but different:
War, disasters, mudslides
Variations of a theme
That follows the sting of the news.
Could there be a less promising time
To be painting with words
Such muted hues?
Only greys, browns and blacks
In place of my yellows and blues.

I’m no old master
I’m not even a student
I’m just bewildered
At a world getting constantly faster.

We’re already bored at the distance we’ve gone
We don’t realise we’re running on air
By the time we choose to look down at the ground
It’s long since ceased to be there.

But we’ve still got our health
Unless you’re part of the majority
For whom that’s not true
An accident of birth can be the death of you.

Why are we such serious people?
This is the modern world
It’s all for you
Except the borders we choose
The wall in the head does more than a fence will ever do.

Could there be a less inviting time
To be painting with words
When the colours of flags are all we see?

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it
Is to write of wars, disasters and mudslides.

When I see variations on these themes
I remember what a curse it is
To live in interesting times.


Popular posts from this blog

My Christmas Presents, 1991-99

My Euro '96 XI

Prince: Five Years Gone