Thursday, July 28, 2011


(so, having gotten "writing as therapy" out of the way, now it's time for "writing as art" - and maybe even toying around with the novel idea of "writing for fun". Who knows?)

writing about writing

SOO after a brief hiatus of 6 months (or thereabouts) of being lost within my own mind I am more or less back in the room again; the refreshing thing about going AWOL is that it does give you a renewed sense of appreciation for what life has to offer. Which, at present, is primarily along the lines of festivals, food and fun - three f's which have been conspicuously absent from my life for a while, so it's been a pleasure having the opportunity to reintegrate them.

(and I remember, last September, when things seemed sunny and I was still enjoying living someone else's life, on my way to poverty aid to buy old furniture with the intention of breathing new life into old beauty, walking past a poster in Hyde Park, stuck on the side of a bin. "You are here and you are alive." And it filled me with joy, that - I was. I am. I was. I am)

Anyway, returning to this blog after some time away is prompting me to consider what purpose it actually fills - both intrinsically, for its own sake, and from my own personal perspective. It seems reasonable, at this point in life, to be blogging about something specific - contributions to the external world being rather more worthwhile when they have at least SOME focus and direction. To that end, I'm going to start a separate blog soon which is focused on reviewing literature - another nice thing about actually having an attention span again (and no dissertation to battle with) is that I'm capable of reading books rather than staring at them and wishing I could repeatedly slam my face into them, which is good. But that does leave me with the question of what exactly the purpose of this blog is? I've had it for - I suppose five years or so now, and really it's always been more of an outlet for whatever thoughts are jostling their way through my mind at the time - the sort of thoughts that tend to run circles around each other and tie themselves in knots when they are not given coherency and form, stood up like little tin soldiers in black and white in neat little lines on the page before me. Sometimes what goes on in my head is too big, it's too much - each thought spins out into an infinite number of tangential sub-thoughts, like fractals so complex that even to behold them feels like an impossible task, let alone imposing enough order upon them to package them up into neat little succinct sentences that can survive the crossing of the massive chasm between my psyche and my mouth. I can't work with them when they're in there - they're too abstracted, too vast. This is why, when I was sad or scared or there was too much stimulation going on in a situation I sometimes did not finish sentences, or did not speak at all - too much to understand, too much that could go wrong, my brain exploring too many different avenues simultaneously with no idea which one to explore, and while trying to construct this sentence, being aware of a million different other things going on in the room - each sparking their own little branch of thought, fraying attention spans further, and by halfway through the sentence I am not so sure what I was even saying - and does it even matter anyway, does it matter, people are familiar enough with the grammatical construct of sentences to infer whatever point I was trying to make, and does it matter, does what matter, what was I talking about in the first place? ((perhaps it's a product of too much time spent staring at a computer screen - longer than spent staring in a mirror, and what is reflected back is not my face but something far more personal, my mind. Instances of fraying minds increasing in congruence with the rise of technology use are well documented - google it, draw your own conclusions.)(or perhaps, it has more to do with a youth spent more or less constantly stoned; or perhaps, just perhaps, I am naturally of flighty mind - personally I suspect a combination of all three, and on the whole, feel little need to attempt to rectify or justify any)) But when I can take these thoughts and lay them out before me - turn them from something abstract, from instinct and emotion beyond language, into those signifiers we call words - then suddenly, they become something I can work with, even play with; like building blocks, I can build homes, I can even take down walls. Consider the analogy: while there is no form, but merely pools of colour, red and yellow and blue all swirling together frenetically in an ocean of unfathomable depth, how can one hope for anything more than simply grasping vainly as all of that colour slips away between outstretched fingers? But when, via language, that ocean of thought is given form, pressed into building blocks of various colours, then the resources of the ocean are tapped; neatly tesselating structures can be built, games can be played, and most importantly - one can avoid drowning.

(maybe I am writing because my thoughts aren't real thoughts until they're written down)

So that's one reason why I write, I suppose. That's how I make sense of the world, and of my own mind, and of my minds reaction to the world. But then, if the act of writing is, for me, a purely personal thing, then why bother putting it on the internet? Haven't quite figured that one out yet - although I suppose one explanation involves some level of exhibitionism, whatever gratification I may or may not feel at having others read my thoughts isn't really what I would describe as a driving force behind writing itself. I mean, it's nice when someone says that, for example, your hair looks nice on a particular day, but that fleeting appreciation isn't the reason why you chose the haircut in the first place, is it? If we were to consider all forms of expression to be essentially geared towards the recipient rather than the expressor, we would surely arrive at some fairly confusing conclusions - and indeed, with some fairly fractured individuals, lacking cohesion, pulled in a thousand different directions (there being, after all, usually more than one observer we are aware of in the social panopticon of contemporary society). Expression serves the needs of the expressor, recipient and, I would venture, also serves a purpose unto itself. The poets of the Black Mountain School (and a whole bunch of the beat era guys and gals, I suppose) subscribed to a sort of Eastern-derived philosophy of art which suggested that when we express something, in the form of a poem for example, we are not creating something from nothing, but rather we are actually channelling something that comes from beyond us. This is one reason behind the mode of writing often favoured amongst them, a kind of stream-of-consciousness process where the writer is, in a way, the medium rather than the origin of the creative output. Your art does not belong to you - you are a channel, you are not the source. This interests me because when I write, it is with an absence of the consciousness which normally dictates that every action become an infinite number of choices and sub-choices that bear in-depth consideration. When I write, I do not think, I write - I think by writing, my thought process becomes completely externalised, as though my hands, typing this on keys right now, are the organ of thought, and not my mind. I suppose that it must be my subconscious that is dictating the structure of the words I write, but even so, my body and my psyche has become a channel for the expression of subconscious creativity, and I am inclined to believe that our subconscious is not so individually 'ours' as we would have ourselves believe - transcendence of the ego, after all, frees up a lot of things that are normally chained to that imposing and definitive of all towers, (the kind of tower that Princesses are confined to and convince themselves that there is no hope but letting down their hair and awaiting rescue), "I".

(and then, a few weeks ago, with a year's worth of lessons and truths on a red-wine mission after midnight through streets that now seemed sadder and wiser, too, I stumbled across that same poster - although now, filled with some strange irony and poignancy that harkened my mind back to that day last September. There was a symmetry to it, actually - given the fact that I'd spent a substantial amount of University life trying to run away from myself, to find myself retracing my steps seemed oddly appropriate. I felt as though I had folded up and met myself coming back - each moment was such a perfect inversion of the other; day/night, joy/apathy, naivete/wisdom, beginning/end, lost/found - funny, how words can have such different meanings depending on the psyche of the reader. "You are here and you are alive." "You are here and you are alive." Those same words which had seemed to me, buoyant and hopeful as I was the previous year, filled with a sense of jubilance, a joyful proclamation, now took on a different meaning - one with some deeper power that words seem insufficient to encapsulate. "You are here and you are alive." "You are here and you are alive." When there is nothing else, or even when there is, "You are here and you are alive." You. I. I am here and I am alive.)

I have kept journals since I was a child, but between the ages of 17 - 21 (a particularly enjoyable and horizon expanding epoch, as I'm sure it is for most people) I was somewhat more fastidious about keeping a day to day log of events. I mean, I was never really one for writing "Today I woke up and went for a walk and then ate sandwiches etc etc" (although some days did conform to that particular structure - I remember a passing phase, in the midst of my stoner years, when I was so excited by every activity I undertook that I endeavoured to commit all of them to paper for fear that I would forget them. With hindsight, this was wise, as for the most part, I did) but I had diaries which were essentially, I suppose, ongoing meta-analysis of the narrative of my life. It helped me to develop ideas, and gave me the sense that I was not careening through life in danger of losing all the pearls of wisdom that I was beginning, in my youthful enthusiasm, to collect and treasure. (After the age of 22ish, I switched to keeping notebooks instead, which I still utilise although somewhat more sporadically - they are filled with ideas for unwritten stories and glimpses of epiphany which, should my mind ever collapse in on itself, will hopefully remind me of things I once knew). Looking back at those diaries, I can easily recognise the times when I have been unhappy or lost because suddenly, often and usually without apparent warning, the journal entries stop. Out of the blue, there will be sections of blank pages - some lasting for weeks, others for months. It makes me sad because I know that to be incapable of writing out my feelings, of giving them form and structure, means that they were festering away inside my mind with no hope of resolution. Imagine trying to prove that (sin x)/x = cos(x/2)*cos(x/4)*cos(x/8)*cos(x/16).. in your own head, with only a basic grasp of maths, no idea of the form of the equation and an attention span constantly distracted by shiny things and bright colours. When written down, when such equations are given actual form (and in this case, the aid of the internet, I know fuck all about maths, it's an analogy) a proof can be constructed - but when one's attention span is trying to solve problems one lacks even the language to fathom, nothing can be resolved - the mind becomes a burden, and one resorts to trying to distract oneself by counting windows on nearby buildings, one, two, three, in an attempt to quiet the constant need to SOLVE what ultimately doesn't need solving. (Is it necessary to construct a complex proof for X, when one can accept that X simply is?)

(and there were other clues, really, had my psyche sought them out, rather than folding in on itself like Chinese boxes. On a wall at the end of my street, there was another piece of art, pasted onto a redbrick wall - a woman walking down a street, and emblazoned beside her, the words "Do what makes you happy." I mused upon them often, as I locked and unlocked my front door - it's perplexing that I could have done so and yet so consistently managed to miss the point of what is essentially a fairly simple instruction. Instead, I made myself miserable, trapped myself in cages, tried running away from that word which means so much and so many different things because I thought it would make me a better person and I thought that it would fix me. By the time I realised that ascetic mental self-flagellation solves nothing, there was very little left to fix. I forgot who I was, let alone what made me happy. The day I left that house, I stepped out of a prison that I'd somehow, accidentally, unintentionally, misguidedly, put an awful lot of effort into building for myself. On the day that a very old and very dear friend came to rescue me from Leeds and from myself we stood in the middle of the road and stuck our arms out and spun around very very very fast and the whole road disappeared into a blur and I felt free for the first time in a very long time and perhaps, perhaps, that is what makes me happy - spinning round very very fast, being free, and the whole road disappears into a blur, and when I am standing still again the world still spins slightly and I realise that I could have done this myself, I could have done this all along, not stood still with arms pinned to my sides, my own tower, "I")

and maybe I am writing because I don't know how not to - because the need to do so burns through me, an uncontrollable urge, a need as strong (stronger) than the need to eat or dream or fuck. Maybe it's because a writer who does not write is very little at all - a shadow, a moth with no flame, a dotted line surrounding the space where a person should be, a mirror that bears no reflection. Maybe, as Bukowski said,

" if you’re going to create you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire."

SO there we go - that is, to some degree, the conclusions reached from the various thoughts that I have had floating around my brain for the last few months. I can't say that it was a terribly pleasant experience but looking back at this blog post, I seem to have figured one or two things out, for the time being, and the conclusions drawn all seem to be fairly positive. Hopefully this can signal the end of what proved to be a dangerously solipsistic phase of my life - writing this was interesting, and I suppose, with a little bit of distance involved, I will at some point look back on the darker sides of the last few months as having been fairly interesting from an intellectual perspective also. But to be honest, I would far rather be directing all of this relentless analysis in the direction of politics, art, beauty and love, so that's what I'm going to do, for the time being. Writing is how I make sense of the world, so maybe it's time I start trying to do that.

(and maybe I am writing because I am here and I am alive. And maybe, just maybe, that is enough)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

and I look at you all and think, "fuck, you look older -------
---and then realise that the last time I looked at you all,
I didn't even use the word fuck
and then realise
I've gotten a hell of a lot older too -
and wiser
(/wiser? questionable
do lessons make us wiser, or just condition us
make us dance to bells that are Pavlovs, not our own
is that wisdom
or just the sound of more doors slamming shut as we fight our way through corridors
that were planned by someone else,
through someone else's building -
fuck that; I've come to the realisation
that I'd rather set the whole thing on fire
than march to the beat of someone else's drum)
Nice to see you."