Saturday, 17 May 2014

Re:writing

I did spend the best part of a decade writing blogs, because they felt like genuine finger-exercises in writing. I also did the NaNoWriMo challenge five times, just to see if I could generate long fictional content.

The distraction of Facebook is that it becomes a conversation, so rather than capturing permanent words, it more closely resembles idly sitting around talking in a Paris cafe, rather than being back in the garret, actually writing words down.

And micro-blogging seems even less relevant - lying around, generating sound-bytes or witticisms (like Oscar Wilde before going down to his cafe).


Dudley Moore: I'm writing a book. 

Peter Cook: Really? Neither am I. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

I remember before Prohibition

Back in the 'good old days' you could start the day with coffee and a cigarette. The sugar in the coffee helped get you up to speed, and the caffeine kept you going. Who knows what the cigarette contributed.

Ever since the prohibition of "really dangerous drugs" had been enforced that kind of choice is no longer available.  I mean, who wants to break the law, and risk getting a police record, over something like that?

So today I have to start with a little hit on the kif pipe, fresh chopped, tamp it into the tiny bowl, one quick draw, then turn the pipe and blow the plug of burned kif into the fireplace.

After a snack of bread and nut spread, and a sip of water, I usually get out the coca leaves, and chew them into a cud, to which I add a little blim of quinoa ash to activate them. That usually gets me through the morning in the office, or at least to mid-morning break when I might refresh my coca leaves, maybe sharing them with the boss, after a nice hot cup of guarana.

When 'the sun is over the yardarm' I often unwind with a spliff or two, although if I have the evening off I'll probably go for some hash fudge or perhaps mahjoun, while watching the footie with some mates.

I still know a couple of people who could probably score me some lager, but it's often too much hassle staying in the supply chain for illegal drugs like alcohol and tobacco (apart from the risk of arrest, and possible effects on your career prospects). I've seen what happens to people like politicians who try to look street-wise by admitting to occasionally drinking alcohol at university, and then finding the stigma gets attached to them, as though they must have damaged their long-term judgement along with their credibility.  Everyone knows students consume hash and grass - it's part of being a young adult, but it is best not to confess to the really hard drugs, like drinking booze.

I have got a bohemian aunt who has her friends around for tea and cakes, but I didn't find the caffeine and sugar rush interesting enough to take the risk, and I felt uncomfortable around druggies when not joining in.  They'd be giggling and laughing, talking nonsense and apparently having a high old time, but I felt like an outsider.

Perhaps I was a bit cowardly to just go down to the nearest cafe for a hit on the vaporiser.

Of course, on a Friday night I might have my friends around to share a pot of mushroom tea, and have a laugh, but I couldn't take the paranoia of doing illegal stuff.

Ever since sugar was shown to be addictive, with no nutritional value and unwanted side-effects, (from rotten teeth to hyperactive kids) I have tended to stick to Natural Coca-Cola, since they left out the sugar and caffeine and went back to simply using Coca leaves.

Of course, there's still quite a large sub-culture of illegal drinkers, and even tobacco smokers (many of whom insist they somehow 'go together') but the punishment for possession (and particularly for supplying) has driven that scene underground.

It's amazing to think that not that long ago people openly consumed alcohol at weddings or handed tobacco out to celebrate the birth of a child.  Men who drive at 200 miles an hour would be handed a bottle of champagne to shake up and ejaculate all over the crowd (at least they didn't drink it).

In cop shows the police would retreat to a pub to discuss a case over a few drinks; politicians would be shown sharing a quick sherry in their office, and morose policemen would sit at home alone, listening to classical music while sipping beer. It's a little bit before my time, but apparently the whole country used to toast in the New Year with alcohol!  Hard to imagine, now.

Some people want to go so far as to air-brush these images out of films and television, so as not to influence young people into thinking that drinking coffee and tea, eating sugar, smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are somehow 'cool'.

I think that's going a bit far, myself, so long as they stick to legal substances like cannabis, mushrooms, coca leaves, etc - and don't abuse them.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Missing the point

I guess I knew that trying to ignore the creative and motivated act of novel-writing and just surf on the writing energy of the crowd, while compiling an autobiography, wouldn't really work.

I have patched together some bits and pieces, and done some thinking about it all, but this hasn't proven the same kind of experience as the previous years, which were frustrating at times, often exhausting, and didn't always end up with finished work to be proud of, but every time I did experience some kind of breakthrough on certain days. A character coming to life, an unexpected plot twist that started to write itself.  Those moments made the process worthwhile.

So I feel a bit of a cheat, really, as I have not sat down every day to seek those brief revelations, but have been also cutting and pasting bits that I had already written, stuff from Scrivener, and so on.

Still, it got me back into looking at the material again, so I can't consider it an entirely wasted month.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

In My Own Way

I loved the title of Alan Watts' autobiography, "In My Own Way" for its ambiguity.

I seem to have problems of getting in my own way when it comes to completing an autobiography, too.

I did make a good start, and put it in Scrivener, thinking that such a well-designed piece of software might make it a pleasure to return to, etc.  I routinely do bits of research, or recall phases of my life, although a lack of diaries does make it impressionistic, rather than accurately detailed.

Although I have used NaNoWriMo to motivate myself (I remain pretty dogged at keeping my word, once I have made a commitment) and have completed five imperfect 50,000 word novellas, I always thought it was breaking their local rules to work on non-fiction within that community.

Indeed, if you take the original rules literally, they specifically exclude memoirs and autobiographies.

Find me on NaNoWriMo

So, not feeling motivated to attempt that fiction mountain again, I thought perhaps I should take a break from NaNo, and just turn the same energy to shaping up my life story.   I went into NaNoWriMo, only to find that it now has a NaNo Rebels space on the forum, where others breaking the basic rules can still gather.

That seemed like a good idea to join.

But here I find myself, five days in, and I only wrote the 1667 words you have to do each day on the first day.  Then I got side-tracked, by a friend suggesting we make a Facebook Page for a small show we worked in during the early 1970s.  The Raree Show.  I guess I could kid myself that it counts as 'research'.


I have had fun putting it together, but still await contributions from other people, to get the momentum rolling.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Write that book!

As may appear obvious from the fact that the last post to this blog happened in March, I have slipped away from that writing pastime almost completely.

Of course, most of us write hundreds of words a day, one way or another, but that doesn't add up to a finished piece. Most of it remains ephemeral chatter, or topical communications.

But the calendar rolled over into October, which makes it countdown time to NaNoWriMo again.
 

I have taken on this writing marathon "challenge to self" five times now, and each time I have completed the 50,000 words in a month, although I could hardly say I have written five books.

I mostly enjoyed the process, but have never managed to motivate myself to really address the re-write problem.  ("All writing is re-writing").

For the first couple of times I also explored the whole self-publishing route through Lulu, just to end up holding a hard copy of the book - not because I expected anyone to actually read them (they remain the equivalent to children's art stuck on the fridge).

Bobby Campbell made me covers, etc., but it remained a simulation of the necessary processes.



I also discovered the joys of Scrivener, and began work on an autobiography.



But it all stopped again.   Somewhere between the day job, the dog walking and the wine drinking, I can't find the time to get back up to speed.

So I have a month to decide whether to try it again!   Why not join me?   It's quite a laugh.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Other people's trivia

I still feel amazed at the fractal complexity of the human world (let alone the natural world).  I watched a bit of Antiques Roadshow, and as usual gasped at the range of extraordinary things that people have spent their time commissioning, or making, which now change hands purely as investments, and get assessed by experts who know their trivia inside out (with perhaps a few reference books to double-check).

What is just old stuff to many of us, has all kinds of mysteries embedded for the expert and the collectors.

You find the same thing in art (sorry, Art) where a whole language elicits the fine details that escape the non-expert.  Similarly classical music, say, or opera.

You could say the same for wines, and the delicate verbal distinctions of connoisseurs, or food (flavourings and spices), and so on.  There's a Cannabis Cup held annually in Amsterdam, where people don't just get stoned, but assess the high of plants from different breeders.

Listen to the football pundits assessing individual players, teams, managers - attacks, defence - the importance of the different leagues, and so on.

Star Wars fans collect a wide range of models, with all kinds of small variations that seem important to them, which others would not appreciate.  How much is perceived investment, or simply competitive, and how much sheer pleasure in 'just noticable differences'?

If you belong to one of these groups (and many more like 'em) you know how meaningful the distinctions seem to you, and cannot understand that other people do not perceive, or care about, the subtleties ("It's a bottle of wine", "Why is kicking a ball around so important?" "it's just an old chair", etc).

We may feel astonished, or aghast, that other people cannot perceive the importance, or the distinctions, that we make - which might explain why it often comes back to using money to measure things.

We are supposed to be impressed by the price or value of the antique, or the bottle of wine, or the transfer fee of the footballer, or the Tracey Emin artefact - even if we would not willingly spend our own money that way (assuming we have any).

The examples above probably give a clue to the things I remain a 'barbarian' about - I would include "Top Gear" (a car is a car is a car), for instance.

I often can't see what the fuss is about.

Having said that, the stuff  on the Antiques Roadshow, that the obscenely rich people got other people to make for them, back in the day, can sometimes have its charms.  I do like a bit of quality, me.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Run that by me again...

One of the problems about working on an autobiography (after you get over the idea that it's just a vanity project) is actually working through memories - particularly remembering moments when I was unkind, or unfair, or just plain stupid.

The process reminds me of Castaneda's 'recapitulation', or psychoanalysis, or even that thing the Scientologists do, with an e-meter, where they make you work through upsetting emotional memories over and over again, until they have no more influence on you.  Flat-lining, I guess.  NLP also has various ways of reworking memories and traumas to remove the continuing influence.

I have memories where my toes still curl with embarrassment, for instance, or I get pale or flushed. 

So, along with the delightful memories of better times, moments I wish could have lasted for ever, I also have to confront all these flawed behaviours and incidents and choices. 

Even worse, in describing them, do I put myself down, laugh at myself, or try to justify them?   And do I even have the ability to do that? 

I know my mother used to dismiss my attempts at explanation, as often as not, as though it equalled refusing responsibility for my waywardness.

I am enjoying the process, but it has turned out much slower than just making up stories about imaginary people!