in spires

It’s nice if you can amaze yourself occasionally – it doesn’t happen often, but it is good when it does. Those little miracles that rise up out of the mundane and make you smile more than you have in a while; you have to keep an eye out for them and you have to recognise them for what they are.

As an artist you share essential parts of yourself regularly, and people react to that, and when they do it in a positive manner, which is obviously not always the case, it is very gratifying. When you get that negativity thrown at you it can be very damaging, but it is not the most common reaction and therefore you have usually stored up enough good feeling to ride over it.

I respect all artists of any kind, even if I don’t like their work, why? Because putting yourself out there like that is one of the bravest things that you can do, and people do not acknowledge that enough. When a story gets rejected, or a novel ends up on a slushpile, that isn’t any easy thing. When someone makes a derisive remark about something that you have poured your heart and soul into – a throwaway remark that costs them nothing, it can mean a hell of a lot.

When you see a creative person that is burnt out because the world has not been kind them to it is a tragic thing. It is similarly tragic when the world takes a child that is able to do anything and be anything that it wants to be and reduces them to being able to fit into that round hole. The world at large can be a sad and stultifying factory that only turns out cogs. We have to change that, and we can, quite easily. For every person that changes their mind and refuses to accept the status quo a small eddy of change pushes out into the thoughtstream and impacts on the universal consciousness.

There is this poisonous idea that thinking is driven by a top down process that disseminates the big ideas and that we only react because of the trickle down – that is a lie that is put out there by the guys that sit at the top of the pyramid. Why do they do that? Because they know that if the people woke up, en masse, and realised that at the grass roots is where change can really be driven from, then the world would be a different place. It only works the way it works because that is the design that we have all agreed upon, but the stupid things about it all that bug everyone, why do we put up with them? Because we think that we have to. We don’t.

Artists are the drivers behind the wheel – our imaginations make us the grandmasters of this chess game, the ones in power who generally suffer from a complete lack of imagination … they are lagging a long way behind, and we stretch further ahead of them all the time. We are the frontrunners for the future; the messengers of the new ideas. I know I get a little carried away here sometimes, that I take an idea and spin it out a lot further than some people might think is feasible, but you have to dream with this world, and build spires on the foundations of where you are and what you are doing. If you can imagine it then it can come to pass.

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Book It

Organisation is a wonderful thing. It’s interesting – I have thought of myself as being somehow crippled as far as art goes for a while, but in that time I have created 170+ book covers, some of which I think really rock, and I have drawn a few things which are really going to look great when they are employed in the finished collections I am putting together. I have been sitting on a surplus of books that I need to put out there; things which are pretty much edited and just need a little proof-reading to ensure that my readers get the best possible book I can give them.

I get really excited writing … and I get a buzz from putting a book together, especially if the cover rocks. Anyone who buys one is someone I have a great deal of affection for, even if they really find that they hate the book … at least they gave it a chance. Not that I want them to hate it, or that I would be happy if they did; but that they bought it really does mean something. I feel the same about anyone that reads and likes something on one of my websites. I do write for myself, but I write for you too … any of you who are writers understand this.

I got some Janet Frame books to read today. I am so happy that this beauty is there in the world … Jeanette Winterson, and Janet Frame … I am going to read each and every word that these two brilliant women have out out there in the world. And then who next? Well, I started reading Kathy Acker and would love to read more of her work, and then there is the treasure chest that is Margaret Atwood’s literary output. I mentioned I have William Gibson’s new book to read. Most of the original Hellblazer was secured from the local library system. It is hard not to be majorly inspired.

And tonight I got to speak to a really good friend that I have had limited contact with for  a while; I am starting to find my way back to where I should be, and to be able to see where it is that I want to go. Clarity of vision is a wonderful thing and arrived at through a process of constant learning; of constant evolution. I will forever be a student, that way I can become, at some point I hope, a good teacher.

WPCIA

I recorded a whole bunch of spoken word tonight. I have uploaded some of it, but the software that I use to make the images that accompany it is online and the site is down. It was kind of cool, I felt like my voice was getting stronger, that I am becoming less self-conscious than I was before. I am itching to actually do some real spoken word. I don’t just want to do one though – I want to run one again.

It has been a while since I had an active Writers, Prizefighters & Caffeine Inspired All-nighters and site, and a while since I had a night, and I tell you what … I want even more than that. What do I want? I want a venue.

There are a lot of things that I am planning to do, and a lot of funding that I need to find. I do believe that where there is a will there’s a way, and where there is a fucking good idea there are funds to be had.

The cool thing is, and I hope that this has been true of a lot of the things that I have done … this isn’t intended to just be for me. I want to help elevate the indie writing community; help raise the quality, help flow more money into it. Why raise yourself and leave others behind? Raise everyone up and your already in a better position yourself. Sure, there is a certain amount of idealism in all this, but idealism isn’t a bad thing. It makes the world go around; hand in hand with love. Don’t let all the cynical bastards tell you otherwise … just because they arrived where they are, maybe by chance, and cannot see the idealism and love that made it possible for them to arrive, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t so.

I am watching Revolution today. I had the first two volumes of the collected Rogue Trooper and I did not realise that they were going to be such wonderfully substantial volumes. And the other thing I got which is making me really excited to sit down and just crack open the book and read until it’s read is The Peripheral by William Gibson. Fuel for thought; thought to change a world. That’s how revolutions and movements start, isn’t it?

Open Your Eyes

Dude, you know what? Where’s the fucking carrot? I am tired of getting the bloody stick all the time. They try and herd us with HATE and FEAR and a permanent indefinite state of ORANGE ALERT. Doomy gloominess seems de rigeur, and if not that then inane cheeriness so disconnected from reality that it runs on a fuel of escapism with an engine of pop. Choice is boiled down into a Hobson’s Choice, Sword Of Damocles kind of thing, where you basically get to choose between having the threat hanging above your head or bringing the threat down on your head. It isn’t a stalemate; it is instead a no-game position.

Every year there is some kind of epidemic that threatens to be a global pandemic, and it always originates from abroad, conveniently making everything strange and foreign seem once again threatening. What that is good comes from overseas? You get to choose between Asian Flu, Ebola from Liberia, bombs and Islamic fanatics from Iran and Syria, and those who aren’t killing you are taking your jobs. If you are on home soild you have to worry about racist cops who want to bash your skull in; you have to worry about psychotic gun freaks with their psychotropic drug haze distorting their view of the world.

This is what they try and tell us. They are painting us into a corner and getting us to self-administer the label of victim. The revolution isn’t coming and we are the ones up against the wall waiting to be shot. How did we get here?

You know what? We aren’t here. This isn’t all there is. I could find you media evidence that the world has been this bad and has been tottering on the edge of a precipice for longer than  you’ve been alive. You know what though? I could find evidence to show that we are evolving and that things are improving. Close your right eye; open it and close your left eye – you have no depth perception … open both and you get the full picture. They want us to close both eyes and stumble around like blindmen. In the kingdom of the blind we have the guys with their left eye open telling you it’s all great, and the guys with their right eye open telling you it’s all bad, and the truth of the thing is that they are both right and they are both wrong. If they add the qualifier from my point of view that makes it a little more truthful. You have to have both eyes open to be a philosopher king and lead people out of the cave.

We need some Philosopher Kings in the media – some guys who still show us the good things. The streets aren’t littered with Ebola sufferers, and they aren’t paved with gold, but goddamn it, it isn’t so fucking miserable that we should all end it with a gun to the temple. It isn’t. Open your eyes. Really, just open your eyes.

Short And Sour

I just noticed that I still haven’t corrected my times for posting on wordpress, so it still thinks I am in England; still thinks I am on Greenwich Meantime rather than Eastern Standard Time. This sometimes means that it appears I am posting on the next day rather than the one I am actually writing it in per my timezone.

Today I finished reading The World & Other Places by Jeanette Winterson; I really enjoyed it, and it was something different to most things that I have read lately. Winterson is a very distinct writer; a very poetic writer who takes big ideas and transforms them into something mythic. I have always liked that idea; always sought to balance in some way the different impetuses which drive my writing. Bring together the literary and the pulp sensibilities and not come out the other end of it with something distinctly middlebrow.

I have been having a pretty good couple of weeks, but the progress I thought I had made in regards to my living space are not resolved. Let’s leave it at that. It is frustrating. Lots of work to do; lots done.

This might be short because I am wound tight and finding it a little hard to concentrate.

Weighing The Anchors That Are Machines

I got the phone turned back on. There’s something cool about … having a phone; something funny in that when it’s off I can pretend people don’t call me because the phone is dead, but now that doesn’t work. I found ways around it when I didn’t have it and for how much it is, I wonder if it’s worth it. It’s only useful when you need it, right? That’s when you notice its absence; otherwise you notice its presence. It isn’t an unpresuming object – it instead demands attention.

Sometimes all the technology imposes – I spend a lot of my time anchored to it; in fact it’s fair to say the majority of my time is like this. Some kind of computer in front of me all the time; ears plugged by ear phones. Is it a good way to be? Meh, not always … sometimes you need some time away from it all. As I sleep my phone charges on the bedside cabinet; the I-pad charges (serving as my morning alarm); on the little shelf the MacBook Air charges; atop the pile of books the Chromebook charges; over there on the top of the chest of drawers I keep the old HP alive.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time listening to music that was kind of branching out from that Talking Heads nervous energy of artpunk kind of thing; smart New Yorker music. Then I shifted gear into a kind of slow muggy Southern kind of speed. Into early morning Batman, and then the second series of Alpha House. It makes for an interesting decompression and acceleration and relative qualitative experience of time.

I really enjoyed the second series of Alpha House – it felt like we had settled in with the characters and they became warmer; which could just be that we know them better. At the end of this series though I was looking for the next button on the browser but there were no more episodes. It used comedy to skewer some party positions on big issues and it did deal with big issues.

Now I am watching Kerouac: King Of The Beats, which I think I may have watched before on youtube, but which is new on Netflix. It rocks – it is talking about books I love that rewired my brain and fired up the sense of freedom that exists in writing for me. It’s funny when I think about it, what I was reading at that point: Huxley, Bradbury and Kerouac. I should have been doing homework but I think that year – the last couple at my upper school – was when the genius that had peeked out at my five year-old bible reading self was back again, and I followed the tale of the Beat Generation through Encyclopedia Britannica, in the same way I had followed the trail of Celtic mythology, and I became an expert on it. That school library gave me Desolation Angels and  Dharma Bums so those were the first books I fell for, then I grabbed up and read all the rest of them through the local library. To say that my head was on fire and that I started to write hard and write fast and write outside the box, driven by the notion of jazz, by the notion of stream of consciousness; I really started to strut my stuff and stride.

Back then I was writing into notebooks, or writing on the reams of blank paper that I had got for typing (typing supplies were expensive and writing longhand was the best way to make use of that resource). The coolest thing used to happen when I found a new piece of equipment to write on and with was the expansiveness it would introduce to me. My first paper came to me from my dad who would bring me the one-sided scrap paper from the plastic factory he worked at; then I got reams of paper bought for me so initially I could type on the old Olivetti typewriter, then the Brother electronic typewriter, and then the Sharp Word Processor. The typewriter meant I had whatever I could tap away at and produce, and I wrote a whole novella for my coursework (it was about time travel gone wrong). The Brother had a single line LCD display which gave me a fraction more control over what I was writing. The Sharp had a floppy disc so I could actually save work, and that was the machine that gifted me with my first experience of losing work because the machine couldn’t read it. But I still did a lot of longhand writing back then … not all of it edited into formats for people to read, but maybe after my visit at Christmas some of that will come out. I waste nothing, and there is a distinctive charm I think to some of that.

Next up came the Olivetti P75, my first computer, and I was plugged into the unlimited scope of a file where I could type and type and type as long as the computer’s memory was large enough. Given the size of text files that boundary was not something I was ever likely to reach. Now my phone has more memory than those early machines I had; I carry the world in my pocket. The potential is good. Easier to pick up and easier to put down. It moves, it evolves, but it never gets less fascinating. Never.

Not Quite That Barton Fink Feeling

I just watched a movie called The Letter and I want to disagree with the reviewer who said it was terrible. I know I should do that on her review, but I am doing it here in an open letter kind of way because that’s how it occurred to me. Anyway. It’s not an easy movie to watch, but I think that’s because of the speed it seems to unfold – it is as if it were told by someone on some kind of soporific, drugged to the eyeballs, kind of drifting from one scene to another, and interleaved with some dream scenes, some scenes where reality appears like a fading message drawn by a finger in steam on the window. It is a very slow movie – almost interminably slow, but it is not without merit.

I tried to write something with this kind of mental drift in it, and I suppose if I had filmed it then it might have emerged like this. It’s hard tp write something paced this way, harder to film maybe – why? Because the way we are geared isn’t this speed … movies move much quicker, are signposted differently, some from a different place; it’s almost like switching from a car to a cart. A temporal dislocation.

I have been thinking in terms of turning some of the ideas and the techniques I tried to develop in certain books I was writing into methods of writing … sort of codifying for my own self what I was trying to do so that I can, in some sense, replicate the process. Often, just by changing the subject on which I am writing, the style will shift to accommodate. Why? Because you  can’t approach writing about quantum physics or the heavens in the same way as you would write about being a fish-monger. Sometimes you can’t. Of course sometimes you can. Sometimes they are the same thing and sometimes they aren’t. Style can be a viewpoint moved around, a state of mind entered into, an emotional feeling captured or recaptured. I know there were at least two distinct stylistic things I attempted that I wanted to build further.

I hope some day to translate this sensibility into comics, into, film, into art, and into music. It’s not and never has been hard for me to conjure up a way of feeling and ti run with that … it’s useful for a writer: it means that you don’t have to be miserable to write about misery; you can just play the game and wear the mask and when you have finished you put the game and the mask away.

Having the ideas is the first step, doing the work is the second, and deriving the organising principal comes thereafter. To set limits on yourself and create the rules of a game within which you have to play with the game of writing makes it ever changing and ever interesting. I write from writing prompts; I tell myself you have 360 words in which to tell this story; this story is made of acronyms. Of course I don’t always do it like this, but I do it often enough that when I take the shackles of rules off I can run more freely than I might have otherwise.

People who find no fun in writing don’t put it there. Either that or they are playing the game of suffering, which might be fun for them … can’t be a serious artist without some suffering and pain, eh, Barton Fink?