Remember that I’m not saying that making music is easy, far from it – making music is very difficult – I know that there are tens of thousands of very talented musicians in the UK and at least thousands in Wales – and I know a few of them so I know how hard they work to make those sounds.
But I am saying that making music is a cop-out – compared to writing it’s a doddle. I mean once you’ve learned an instrument and the tunes to a bunch of songs all you have to do is play and sing. Unless you’re a composer of course, but even then it’s still easier than writing. It’s still following a bunch of rules and usually that means repetitions of things like beats and lyrics.
I know a point of view like this might upset a lot of people, especially those who have spent decades learning their craft and those who profess their love for certain musical artists or genres, but it doesn’t matter, because my opinion of music doesn’t matter. I’m just an ordinary bloke, that’s all – one ordinary bloke out of tens of millions of blokes in the UK alone.
Besides, I’ve got no influence, no respect, no kudos, so just chill the fuck out – I’m only writing about how I feel – and even then I’ll probably change my mind next week or have an epiphany or something. Yeah, so just chill the fuck out. And there’s no reason or need to dislike me either, just for my opinion. I am not disrespecting you, in fact, I admire you a lot, it’s just that I don’t think music is such a big deal.
Recently I told someone whose life is music that I regarded music as just like the wind – it’s just there that’s all. They and others they spoke to in the music business were horrified. I’m a little puzzled by that reaction to be honest because I think it’s a complimentary thing to say – I mean, the wind is one of the most amazing, wonderful, varied, profound, powerful and beautiful things there is. It is an actual force of nature.
Writing on the other hand is like taking the whole of history, the whole of human evolution and experience, the whole of the universe even, in your brain all at once and issuing words that encapsulate the magic and the majesty in a conscious way. It’s not like just standing on a beach and feeling the wind in your face and the sea air in your lungs, it is the very act of creation itself. Writing is divine in the true sense, not in the namby-pamby repetitive sense.
But yes I still admire and envy you – I wish I could sing and play an instrument like a guitar or a key board.
Maybe I’ll try to learn. Is it too late for me to do this at 67 years old do you think?
(Interjection on Wednesday November 18th 2015 – as I’m typing this into a Word document ready to be copied into the book that this will end up in. The interjection is this – is it possible that an intelligent person could practise a skill – say, like writing, for decades, and write countless words until they have accumulated at least 6 medium cardboard boxes full of their scribbles plus gigabytes of hard drive space, is it possible for that person to be a crap writer – I mean if you practised all the those years and still didn’t get even the tiniest bit of appreciation and recognition for your work – is that the time to just say “Fuck it – I’m a crap writer – give it up, find something you’re good at.” And what if I won’t accept that, because I have to write – I have to write – there is no choice for me – appreciated or not – so then my voice, however much it doesn’t fit with what is regarded as a good voice is, as good as, as important as, as interesting as, as honest as any other voice of any other human being, whether expressed in words or visual art or, god forbid – dance. End of interjection.)
Most of what everyone does is unnecessary and harmful.
Stop doing what is unnecessary Abolish money Grow or forage for your own food
Cook your own food Make your own clothes Build your own shelters Help each other to do this Have fun Use or abuse no other sentient being Do what you want but harm no one
(This is a personal note to myself – please ignore.)
I’m a writer. There’s no doubt about that, as you would see if you bothered to explore my website. It’s mostly about writing and most of it has been written – by me of course. Problem is ‘writer’ is too wide a term to be meaningful to anyone who doesn’t identify as a ‘writer’. I mean, what am I? I write blog posts like this, and . . . well . . . here’s a list of the other things I write:
Plays for the theatre
But if I was forced to define more finely what it is that makes me a writer then I would say: “Call me a novelist”. I would say this even though I have not published a new novel for three years because there is something divine about writing a novel, something that takes a direct line to the absolute essence of my being – it is an experience, or a conglomeration of experiences, that means everything, forever.
Extract from Work in Progress novel – The Flying Boy
You. You.You. It’s all about you isn’t it? Yes of course, you think. Who else is it going to be about? There is only you, in your life anyway. Is that sociopathic? Or some kind of pathic? You only know about yourself. You can’t know about anyone else – only what you are allowed to know by whatever this universe is. Ah – there it is, it’s about a u-niverse, so, yes, it is all about you.
But you still have to breathe air, share, and even you admit you don’t know everything. In fact you know hardly anything, possibly nothing. For example you tell people you are writing meta fiction but you don’t even know what meta fiction is until you look it up in the great big dictionary in the sky, just to check that you aren’t talking crap and could be called out by a first year literature student. But you are talking crap aren’t you? You are talking crap because for one thing the great dictionary told you that what you think is meta fiction probably isn’t – for one thing it seems to be spelled metafiction as one word, and the rest of it, well, there’s too many subtleties in the definitions of the word and not many come close to the sort of thing you’re writing. So yeah, you are writing something that is probably not metafiction, but you’re not sure – maybe it’s meta fiction or even meta-fiction.
So what. You’re not writing according to some spurious literary rule. You are writing the truth. You don’t know who Jill is. This is important. Because Jill is . . . Jill is what? Hmm. You can’t deal with all this now. You have bigger fish to fry, or maybe you would if you fried fish. But you don’t fry fish; you don’t do anything with or to fish except look at them now and again in a friend’s pond or dead on the slabs of a fishmonger in the market.
There was that time, maybe thirty years ago, when you were involved with fish more than you wanted to be, more than you should have been. It was an actual fishing competition organised by your brother. He was a fisherman. Not a professional fisherman. He didn’t sell them or anything, though he no doubt traded the odd fish for some other advantage because that’s the sort of person he was, but he had a boat and loads of tackle, and he organised a sea fishing competition. You helped him by creating and managing a little computer database to record the details of the fish the competitors brought back to the weigh-in.
Stop! Pardon. Pause at least. OK.
When you’re writing like this it’s like applying the first daubs/splodges/lines of paint of an abstract painting on a canvas. You step back to look and at first it’s just random marks, random colours, random shapes and textures. Then you catch a hint of form. It starts to mean something and you start to realise that that meaning was there all along, it possessed your hands, your eyes, your brain. It used you to express itself. This is a divine thing – its form and its meaning will reveal themselves.
(Martin Amis is your inspiration. Is he? Yes. Every time you read something about him or by him or see his name on a book cover you find yourself writing seconds later. Is that true? You’re doing it now. Ah! OK.)
Now really restart, resume maybe.
So helping your brother out at the fishing competition means sitting in a damp portakabin behind a makeshift desk, typing bits of information into a computer database. Things like contestant name and number, boat name, time of weigh, species of fish weighed, weight of fish.
Each species of fish has a specimen weight attached to it. So, a sardine say, has a specimen weight of a few grams, while a great white shark has a specimen weight of almost two tonnes or whatever. Not that you weigh any sardines or great white sharks, though there is a shark the size of a spaniel dog and some kind of flatfish with the circumference of a saucer.
At the end of the day there is a winner, the person whose fish is bigger than its species’ specimen weight by the largest factor. The spaniel-sized shark doesn’t win but the saucer sized flatfish might do. You can’t remember. You don’t want to remember.
All that must have been around the same time , late 80s, early 90s, that you read the book London Fields by Martin Amis, coincidentally, you’ve just read an interview with him in the Guardian (online) about the film that has just been released based on that book – London Fields (the film is rubbish apparently). Maybe that’s the reason you’re thinking about your brother’s fishing competition, some feint connection from three decades ago.
So yeah, maybe you have to admit that Martin Amis is your inspiration, your muse perhaps? I wonder what he would think about that? Being a muse for an also-ran novelist. You know what he is. He’s not a muse, he’s the sort of arrogant male artist who employs muses, uses them at least. He’s as much a muse as a jockey is a horse or a fish is bait.
But there you are, there he is, each in your respective universes, and there you will remain. Though Mr Amis does remind you of a dope-smoking friend you had for a while as a dope-smoking teenager. That friend was called Martin as well. He was not a tall person and used to walk around in a thick woollen coat that was too big for him.
Your Martin used to knock around with Jill. Hold on. You’d better stop there to think about it. Jill? Even that far back? Half a century? Is that possible? Are your memories real?
As part of the 2 day Crime and Coffee festival hosted by Cardiff Libraries I, along with two other local authors will be discussing our very differing approaches to Crime Writing.
My focus will be on my trilogy of stories featuring Detective Inspector Frank Lee, an ex punk New Age Traveller, who, to the dismay of his family and fellow travellers, became a copper to catch the ‘real bad guys’.
Bums, the first novel in the trilogy is already available. the second book, Beats, is due at the end of this year and the final in the trilogy, Bones, will be published in 2019.
Come along on Friday June 1st at 1pm to find out more about our unlikely police detective.
The other two authors on the panel are Evonne Wareham and Phil Rowlands, both are great writers with their own unique take on Crime Fiction