Tag Archives: writing

Do our writing habits define what we write?

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While catching up with a fellow blogger today (Holistic Wayfarer), I started to complain about my general ongoing lack of inspiration to write anything currently, when my mind went off on a weird tangent, as it is frequently wont to do.

I then posted some silly remark about my sitting in Ernest Hemingway’s favorite writing chair. Immediately after which I dimly recalled once reading how Hemingway always wrote standing up. See here for the article http://www.openculture.com/2013/10/ernest-hemingway-standing-desk.html

Old grumpy-pants Ernie is not alone in this, evidently. Dickens, Churchill, Nabokov and Virginia Woolf also held to an anti-sendentary stance regarding the how-to’s of writing.

Which got me to thinking about the physical act of writing and how it affects the content of what we write. For instance, I grew up knowing quite a famous writer, who was a family friend of my parents. And he too wrote standing up, perching his typewriter atop of an old lectern.

I always felt as a child that this family friend looked like he was giving a lecture when he wrote. Or that he was preaching perhaps.

As for myself, I am currently writing this with my thumb on an iPhone. While sitting stretched out on a couch; a cool breeze licking around my heels, as it eddies in through the open patio doors. (See photo at top — borrowed from another article on famous writers’ weird habits). Hence my overly casual style maybe?

But what about you? What is your preferred method of getting words onto the page? Do you need absolute quiet, or does the erratic tinkle of a wind chime get your muse online? Is alcohol mandatory or verboten? Incense, candles or a strong cup of coffee — what of them? Don’t be shy about it, plenty of people write in bed or the bath or even the buff, allegedly?! And what if they do, does it change what they produce?

Let me know what you think…

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this is a poem

relax
this is a poem
not a test
believe me
you can’t fail
there is
no quiz
at the end
no subtext or
obscure
hidden meaning
to wrestle with
just this gift
of words
we share
between us


The Golden Art

Original artwork by Lorem Ipsum 2014

Original artwork by Lorem Ipsum 2014

I can’t exactly confess to having been afflicted with writer’s block this past year. For instead it’s truer to say I had totally given up on being a writer altogether.

Ironically, however, the circumstances leading to my complete abandonment of my craft, I believe, make for an interesting enough story, on reflection.

After having seen my debut novel sink beneath the waves of global public indifference, it was suggested to me I seek guidance in the form of mentoring from an already established writer.

And as an example of the adage “careful what you wish for”, through a series of seemingly synchronistic events, I soon managed to make contact with one of this country’s more celebrated and awarded writers.

What thrilled me most of all was the fact that this writer in question also claims to have been largely inspired to write by the very same 17th century alchemist I myself have been. Too mind-blowingly cool!

Anyway, now the story gets a little bit more complicated. Because my first real contact with this writer is actually with his wife. An amazing experience in itself. For, literally two or three days earlier, I had quite by chance read the book of poems written for her by her future husband to be, with which he had first wooed her. And now here was this great writer’s muse standing before me — in the hallowed recesses of his writing studio no less — sharing intimate details of the intervening 40 years of their married lives together.

“I think he really is happy at last,” she confessed to me, “now that he has decided to stop writing.”

It was the usual story. There’s no money in it anymore, the dumbing down of the reading public, the all-pervasive curse of political correctness. This is a man after all that can recite whole cantos of classical poems in their original Latin, from memory. I mean, I feel stupid even thinking of myself as a writer worthy of the name in comparison.

So I listen to how this great luminary has finally decided to call it quits and feel all conviction drain from my body. Still, I leave my details with his wife and arrange for a time when it would be convenient for me to make contact with the man I wished to be my writing mentor.

Soon afterwards, I do in fact next have a telephone conversation with the man himself. Although the problem is that I can’t seem to clarify whether he thinks he is going to mentor me as an apprentice alchemist or as a failed novelist. Argggh, it’s all so hopeless! I don’t know what the hell’s going on.

“Look, it’s very hard to talk about these things abstractly,” he says, “but I’ve got a book of essays coming out next month that explains everything. Give me your address and I’ll send you a copy. Read that, and then we can start from there.”

Fine. I’m totally confused. Not least because his wife has just told me he has quit writing, and yet now I’m informed he apparently has a new collection of essays coming out. Also, I don’t know if I’m ready to start an apprenticeship as a real-life alchemist any time soon.

A month passes. Nothing. No book of essays comes my way. Just as I suspected. The whole thing was an elaborate lie to brush me off. Okay, so this writer is no JD Salinger when it comes to reclusive writer types, but he’s not exactly the kind to hold literary soirées either. All right fine. I give up, I think to myself. Being a writer simply isn’t worth it. What’s more, I’ve made a complete golden ass of myself with this whole mentoring debacle already.

Two months pass. Three, four, five. Still nada. I turn my attention to honing my guitar playing skills, swearing to never write another stinking word. Alchemy is for the birds. What delusional world had I been living in? Synchronicity? Oh, brother!

Seven, eight, nine months go by. I haven’t written a single poem, stanza or word. But my guitar playing is off the chart. Woo-hoo, couldn’t be happier.

Ten, eleven, twelve months have now past, when I pull up in the driveway and see an envelope sticking out of the letterbox. I grab the oversized piece of post and open it distractedly in the front seat of the car.

Oh, shit. It’s the book of essays, but I can’t remember their significance. I’m finally happy being just another second-rate guitarist rocking the suburbs. Man, I’ve given up. Like really given up. What the fuck. I feel like someone has just dragged the needle back across the record of my life, and that the back-masked message I’m now hearing threatens to implode the very reality of my new simple, dumbed-down choice of existence.

“Read that, and then we can start from there,” my would-be mentor had told me almost exactly a year ago.

Start what? I can’t remember what it was I wanted so badly. Let me go back to my Wild Turkey and amplified heat haze. Fuck this, I was happy. I was happy for having quit.

I crack open the cover of the book, searching for answers. But it only gets worse. My mentor has handwritten notes to me in the margins of his own book. His tone is jovial and self-deprecating; his handwriting impeccably informal.

Don’t make me go back to being my old self, I beg the Fates. It’s too hard to contemplate. I’m a fraud. A master alchemist will see right through me. I’ve forgotten how to turn words into a golden phrase. I have fallen out of love with all language and it with me.

But still I hold this invitation in my hands.


oh, my, is that the time?

20130815-134423.jpg

oh, my, is that the time?

save a seat for me at the mad hatter’s table
no, please, don’t say there isn’t any room!
’cause although i might be running late
i carry in my haste a special boon
the answer, you see, is killing me
as to why a raven is like a writing desk
i shan’t delay, i must confess for
unless this answer’s shared i cannot rest…
so, well, ahem, they are alike as ailke [sic] can be
from their being devourers of dead certainties
(those secret desires of which we dare not think)
as well as suggesting the color of spilled, black ink


“An ugly child belongs to its parents, whereas a beautiful child belongs to the world” — unknown.

I heard an interesting quote the other day that was told to me by an extremely inebriated, anonymous reveller, and it has stuck with me ever since.

Here it is: “An ugly child belongs to its parents, whereas a beautiful child belongs to the world.”

I suppose, in some ways, I can see how this quote is sort of akin to the well-known saying that states, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan”.

Whatever. What’s more intriguing to me is that I’ve since been surprised to find that I can’t seem to locate this first quote anywhere else on the web. (NB Please let me know if you know its source.)

As an artist I often feel about what I create as though it were my own offspring. And hence I can relate to the above quote not as an actual parent of a child, but instead as a writer. Sometimes I worry (like I’m sure all writers do at some point) that my literary offspring appear ugly to others. No matter, I tell myself stoically, it’s just a case of the ugly duckling syndrome…

So, until such time as all of my various ink-children should find similar birds of a feather to soar with, I have turned my attention to crafting the next big Internet meme instead (I wish!). 😛

An ugly child


The Blog that Broke the Camel’s Back

The other day I had an exchange with another blogger here on WordPress, during which he told me that there are some 600 million blogs in the world.

Later on, I read a recent survey that put the total number of blogs at WordPress alone at close to 74 million. FYI Tumblr hosts over 100 million blogs, as well.

It’s mind-boggling, really. Or should that be mind-blogging? Boggling and blogging are, after all, anagrams of each other, aren’t they?

Anyway, whether the initial figure of 600 million blogs is accurate or not, I did some rough calculations about how long it would take to visit every single blog in existence. As part of this equation I allowed 10 seconds per blog view and the number I got was 190 years.

In fact, to be honest, I actually got 19 years, but now I’ve re-done the sums I think the answer should have been 190 years. If it is actually the latter, then this would be proof enough it’s in no way humanly possible to see every other blog in the blogosphere.

Who cares? I hear you cry out in despair at my lack of a discernible point.

To which I reply, all right already! Be patient! For here is my point. Are you ready? OK. Let me ask you this, how is it out of the literally hundreds of millions of other blogs (that are just blogging around out there) you ended up here, reading this?

Think about it…Life’s short, and it would take you somewhere between 19 and 190 years (trust me, math is not my strongest suit) to visit every blog in existence. And yet here you are reading this.

Is it fate or kismet or synchronicity, perhaps? Pure chance, maybe? What is it that makes us visit and follow the blogs that we do? I’m sure, most of us would like to think we exercise the power of choice in such matters. But I’m not so sure.

My primary criteria in selecting blogs to follow is a perceived sense of like-mindedness. That and curiosity. By which I mean, if a blog diverts me from my habitual preoccupations, in some interesting or unexpected way, for long enough, I might also give it a go.

Whatever. What I’m really trying to get around to saying is that what we’re seeing with this whole blogging phenomenon is actually the next evolution in writing. For in many ways we are currently witnessing the end of the novel and other more traditional forms of the written word.

And so, ultimately, I believe, the next big shift in writing will be towards a more collective approach. And that’s exactly what I would argue is taking place right now within blog-writing communities more generally. People are aligning with each other and forming small collectives, whereby they can freely exchange comments and feedback, almost immediately after a piece of written work is posted.

In the past a new idea would find expression through the writing of a single individual, be it the societally critical insights of a Charles Dickens’ novel or even the evilly distorted vision of something like Mein Kampf, for that matter.

But is it possible that maybe humanity is now moving towards a point where new ideas will find their expression through the kind of “writing collectives” that blog-writing communities naturally engender?

So put another way, are we really choosing the blogs we follow? Or is there a larger purpose bringing us all together? Because, sure, while it might prove to be an extremely long and gradual process, it’s entirely possible there are certain yet to be formalized ideas actively seeking new modes of expression through our various collective on-line groupings. Just what those ideas might be is only limited by the extent of our imaginations.

It’s either that, I guess. Or that instead of 600 million blogs, there’ll soon be 6 billion and not a single one of them will be read by another individual because we’ll all be too busy blogging ourselves into oblivion.

Makes you think, though, doesn’t it? 600 million blogs…


Trust Me, There’s Absolutely Nothing Ho-Hum About Being a Factotum!

On those few occasions when I have introduced myself as a writer to other people, one of the questions that has consistently been asked of me is whether I have a favorite word.

This, of course, isn’t the first question that people ask, obviously. That question would be “have you written anything I might actually have heard of or, better yet, perhaps read?” and it is usually delivered with a piggish snort of disbelief. Bitter? Not a jot…

Anyway, as to my favorite word, well, it’s currently factotum. Please note, though, this choice of word is subject to change, randomly and seemingly without warning on any given day. But for today, at least, it stands true.

The word roughly means a jack of all trades. And it also happens to be the title of a Charles Bukowski novel, evidently. I say evidently, because I haven’t read the book itself; although I have seen the film of the same name, starring Matt Dillon in the title role.

Ok, good. So, I first came across the word factotum, when I watched said film. It’s strange, because I would typically call myself a Bukowski fan, but I had never heard of this particular novel before. Largely, I suppose, I have tended to concentrate on Bukowski’s poetry. That’s my excuse anyway. However, I digress.

I guess why I like the word factotum, then, is because it seems to me to perfectly describe the lot of us writer types. Each of us needs to be a Jack or Jill of all trades, in order to do what we do.

In the film already mentioned, this concept is portrayed in a very literal sense, as Matt Dillon’s character drifts from one dead-end job to another. Essentially a semi-autobiographical account of Bukowski’s own hand-to-mouth existence as a struggling writer, it shows the kind of work we writers are often forced in to so as to pay the bills.

On another level again, I would argue the term factotum also very neatly encompasses the multidisciplinary nature of what it takes to be a successful writer. Namely, one must be: an astute observer of the human animal, a tireless researcher, a gifted wordsmith, an enchanting teller of tall tales, a chronicler of social foibles and ills, an antidote-providing physician for the very same social foibles and ills, a visionary of rare insight and a fearless self-promoter sheathed in rejection-proof rhino skin, to name but a few necessary accomplishments.

All of which leads me to tell you this – and I promise I’m in no way making this up – the next time someone asks me what it is that I do for a living I going to place my hand on my heart and proudly declare that I am a factotum of the very highest order. And if it pleases you, I would urge you to do the same, fellow factotum!

“My ambition is handicapped by laziness”
Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski (Photo credit: Wikipedia)