Reading is one of life’s great pleasures, and reading as a writer is an essential skill, by which I mean honing the part of your brain that wants to know why these words are having this effect on you. Blog posts are really notes to myself, with some longer pieces reflecting on my life as a creative writer.
15 Apr 2022, 17:28
I’m in Wales with my dad today, Good Friday, taking him for a Covid test before he has a cataract operation Monday. He’s been waiting six years to get both eyes treated, and he’s worried something will happen to cancel ...
6 Mar 2022, 09:01
It’s been a month since I set up a Patreon creator account and started posting a few things only for patrons, and it feels like a good time to stop and take stock. The initial idea was to explore publishing ...
6 Feb 2022, 10:39
I’m thinking about what people might like to see in a writer’s Patreon, and what would be exciting for me to publish. My favourite Patreon creators are podcasters, and of course they give access to extra podcast episodes. Creating a ...
22 Jan 2022, 18:18
I’ve come to think that films are intrinsically linked to my writing practice, but I’m worried my film-watching habit is more of a distraction than an inspiration. Films are like dreams, and the good ones are endlessly interpretable vessels for ...
30 Dec 2021, 21:15
As 2022 comes into view upriver, the final days of 2021 flow past, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to reflect on what I’ve read, watched and written this year. (Okay, reflect is a strong word, but it’s been ...
5 Dec 2021, 13:52
Between January 2018 and December 2021, I watched 569 films. I know this because I track the films I watch on Letterboxd. That’s a lot of films. Not as many as more serious cinephiles, but a tremendous amount for ...
27 Nov 2021, 21:16
Feeling the pull of Christmas, and seeing 2022 on the horizon, I’m looking at my work-in-progress, and it seems to be asking how we got here. It’s a patient and wise creature. It knows I haven’t said anything about it ...
11 Sep 2021, 15:49
Here we go again, with my fourth #31DaysofHorror extravaganza/exhaustathon. This year I just want a reason to watch a lot of horror films. Here are the rules I’m playing by:
9 Sep 2021, 19:29
Time isn’t real. The future is an abstraction. So says Alan Watts. I do rush things to get to the end of them—not always, but often enough for it to be a thing I’ve noticed over and over again throughout ...
13 Aug 2021, 16:34
I’m sitting in the sun. August isn’t going to plan, but I’m doing the best I can with it. I won’t go into the details, we all have work and family dramas that flare up when we least expect them, ...
23 Apr 2021, 20:23
It’s been a tough year, and in the tumult of it, I stopped enjoying reading. Instead, I watched films, which are just as wonderful, but do a fundamentally different job. If you feel jaded with reading, or you want to ...
23 Apr 2021, 13:46
Spring arriving has given me a creative kick. April has been pretty meta literature-wise. I’ve been reading about reading, reading about writing, writing about reading and, of course, of course, writing about writing. It’s all good. The novel is taking ...
1 Apr 2021, 14:10
I bought Something Wicked This Way Comes three years ago in a bookshop sale, in spite of the cover, which honestly put me off reading it for a long time. It showed a terrified, wide-eyed carousel horse looking down, about ...
5 Mar 2021, 09:01
This time of year is always strange. There is a drumbeat of family birthdays, including mine, and the pandemic has heightened the sense of time passing. My mother died at the end of February 2014, so this is seven years, unbelievably, since then.
Spring represents renewal. My father has had the vaccine, as has my sister and both my in-laws. I don’t know what my mother and grandmother would have made of all this if they were still alive. The so-far-successful rollout of the vaccines is making me feel cautiously optimistic for the first time since last March. Of course, that’s the other strange thing about this time – it’s a year since the pandemic hit. I remember the paranoia ...
15 Feb 2021, 09:22
Lying in bed this morning, between the alarm going off and me pulling back the duvet, it occurred to me that sentences can capture the high-level aspects of a story as well as the nitty-gritty. This isn’t a world-shattering realisation, and it isn’t like I’ve invented a vaccine or anything, but for me it was a little spark, a sympathetic prod, a loving poke even in the direction of writing enlightenment.
When the creative winds are not blowing, and you find yourself becalmed, those summarising sentences can be like flying a kite high enough to catch a draught that might pull your flotilla of metaphors to fresh coordinates.
23 Jan 2021, 19:43
Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is one of those books I keep coming back to, this time to stimulate my first draft writing gland and get my novel moving again. I’d run aground at twenty thousand ...
17 Jan 2021, 10:15
I started the week with Blade Runner 2049. I was frustrated with it in 2017, but watching it over three nights at home, I’m more forgiving. It’s way too long. It looks beautiful, and it has some fascinating ideas, but ...
9 Jan 2021, 15:26
In Ali Smith’s Autumn (2016), when discussing a piece of art, Daniel Gluck asks the young Elisabeth, ‘And what did it make you think about?’. I love the openness of that question. Interpreting art is about making connections. There is ...
30 Dec 2020, 14:56
I’ve had a tough year reading books. I fell into the trap of seeing reading as work and lost the joy of it. I filled the story gap with films, but thanks to a throwaway Goodreads challenge (35 books in ...
26 Dec 2020, 17:04
Having watched so many films this year, next year I want to get back to reading novels. Films do play into my writing practice. They show me patterns of story, character arcs, themes and dialogue, as well as feed my ...
22 Dec 2020, 21:42
I’ve written more posts on my blog in 2020 than ever before. It was tricky to start with — I had to find a new voice and get in a groove. As the year ends, and I begin to think ...
21 Dec 2020, 20:01
The protagonists of London Gothic are walkers, art lovers, film buffs and train nerds. They are loners, in the main, fascinated by urban spaces and routes between places. Through their eyes, we see the people who haunt the cafes, galleries ...
7 Dec 2020, 21:28
The term ‘exit management’ is one Lauren’s HR consultancy uses as a euphemism for helping their clients to fire troublesome employees. Lauren is exceptional at it, and is highly valued by her monstrous boss, Mina, for her emotional control and ...
25 Nov 2020, 15:25
It’s good to play around with your projects and try new things. I still suffer from a degree of imposter syndrome, and I probably always will. That’s partly a working class thing, but it’s also because I didn’t study literature ...
22 Nov 2020, 08:12
My mother loved to do jigsaws. She would stay up late, after every one else had gone to bed, and do them on the dining table, which is also where she would do the bookkeeping for whichever company she was ...
14 Nov 2020, 12:46
I’m in a fallow period, pottering around, looking for the next thing. I started a jigsaw, read a novel, watched the first half of Homecoming (Season 1, with Julia Roberts), listened to podcasts on my walks, and wrote in my ...
4 Nov 2020, 09:01
Halloween has been and gone, Bonfire Night is cancelled, and I’m writing a pep talk to myself as in England we go into another lockdown. It’s shit we have to do it, but we do, and better late than never. ...
30 Sep 2020, 00:00
I love October. I love September too, but October is the favoured child. Since rediscovering my love of the spooky, eerie and horrible, I relish the enthusiasm people have this time of year to cherish the darker paths of the ...
20 Sep 2020, 00:00
Graham Swift once said, ‘All novelists must form personal pacts with the pace of their craft.’ Now I am deep in the foothills of my second novel, that quote is a comfort, because I’d forgotten how hard it is ...
6 Sep 2020, 00:00
With 2020 being a demented shitshow, I did fleetingly wonder if I wanted to do #31DaysOfHorror again this year, but then I remembered why I love horror films — they are an escape from reality; they are an outlet ...
12 Jul 2020, 00:00
I first watched Reality Bites when it came out in 1994, the summer of my final year at university. I’d finished cramming for my exams and it was obvious I wasn’t going to be an ...
25 May 2020, 00:00
I was interviewed by author CR Dudley on the website of her independent press, Orchid’s Lantern, about being a writer in the current lockdown. She asked some fascinating questions, and it was a lot of fun. Please have ...
18 May 2020, 00:00
It’s hard to pinpoint when I stopped reading Rebecca. I started it in the middle of April, and I chose it for many reasons: lots of people I like and admire loved it; I wanted to read something from the ...
16 May 2020, 00:00
I’m doing okay in my little lockdown bubble. We live in a relatively rural spot, we have a garden, and we are working remotely pretty successfully. The days are going by fast — they all feel very similar, whether work ...
21 Apr 2020, 00:00
Last night, I had a deep dream of stasis and being held. I seemed to accept it, though there was a suggestion of pressing against constraints. I can’t remember any details. It’s a feeling from a fragment.
17 Apr 2020, 00:00
In 2019, on Goodreads, I set myself the challenge of reading 52 books. I succeeded — I wanted to read more, and the challenge did the trick. There were periods where I hardly read at all, and to stay on ...
12 Apr 2020, 00:00
It took me thirty years to get from wanting to write a novel to finishing one. I walked away from writing several times, but I always came back, because deep down I knew it was a vital part of who ...
31 Mar 2020, 00:00
I wrote a fun post about how I write and the room I write in, prompted by some great questions by Georgina Bruce. There are lots of others in her escape room series and I recommend them. ...
29 Jan 2020, 00:00
I find it liberating to write whatever is next in my thoughts. The train doesn’t ever stop, not even for sleep, and for me, capturing some of that stream in a notebook bucket allows me to read those thoughts with ...
23 Nov 2019, 00:00
My son and daughter are both YouTube watchers, but until this year I’d never felt the need to try it. The whole influencers and cult of personality thing put me off. Then last week I decided to look on YouTube ...
15 Nov 2019, 00:00
I’m sitting in my kitchen listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and I have some thoughts about how it’s making me feel. Christine McVie is singing Songbird, a song she wrote, and while the lyrics are hopeful and full of love, ...
14 Nov 2019, 00:00
I’ve updated this website, hopefully in ways that aren’t obvious to the reader, but that let me have more control (and fun) in the months ahead. It’s been through several iterations over the years. The last one was built with ...
12 Jul 2019, 00:00
The first shoots of the ideas that would combine to become The Complex appeared way back in November 2012, when I was fascinated by Lars von Trier’s film, Antichrist. I hadn’t watched it, I was too scared of ...
10 Jun 2018, 21:51
I wrote a (very) long review of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane as part of my application to the MA I’ve just completed. This book is a different beast. It’s a collection of short stories, each taken from myths about Odin, Thor, Loki and other Norse gods.
There is something cartoonish about these stories. The writing is top notch and the style is an excellent fit for the material. I feel like the Marvel Avengers films have cursed my enjoyment a little by implanting Anthony Hopkins, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston in my brain. I can’t unsee them.
I’m reminded, in reading this, how old these characters are, and how central to the human experience ...
3 Mar 2018, 21:09
I read several Ballard books in the late nineties — my mid-twenties — starting with short stories, before being entranced by the original shiny silver paperback cover of Super-Cannes, and then going back to his earlier work. When I saw there was a film of High-Rise being made I believed I’d read it, but when I bought a copy, apart from the general sense in most of Ballard’s stories of things being on the edge of primal chaos, I didn’t recognise the story or characters at all. I’d read so many of his book shop blurbs they had all blurred together. In my twenties I didn’t read with much real attention either so it was quite possible I had read ...
2 Jan 2018, 19:25
Tough day. Sometimes you have to accept things didn’t go as you wanted and let it go. This is a sad post. Not much else to say.
I ate sprouts, fried with potatoes and the leftover swede. Perhaps there will be more sprouting tomorrow.
1 Jan 2018, 12:11
Woke up late. My son is in Sydney for three weeks and when I walk past his bedroom the quiet inside makes me sad. I’m trying to be more mindful as I go about my low-key morning. Last night I watched the first half of Let the Right One In before my wife and daughter got home from a New Year’s Eve party. This morning I read the first third of Written on the Body, mostly while sitting at the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee. I like being at home. It’s been a busy Christmas.
I took a break and listened to Wolf Alice on the expensive headphones I bought years ago and never used. Music sounds amazing ...
31 Dec 2017, 16:25
After being away for a few days with my father, I came back to a fridge of random uncooked vegetables — red cabbage, beetroot, sprouts, carrots, swede and broccoli. With another load of veg arriving in a few days time, I looked up in Nigel Slater’s Tender how to cook red cabbage. It was a beautiful vegetable to chop, the purple and white patterns blissed me out. I fried the chopped cabbage in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, seasoned it, added balsamic vinegar, put the lid on the pan and left it for fifteen minutes.
It was mid-afternoon. I ate some of the cabbage wrapped in a slice of bread. It felt like a treat. Red cabbage. Simple ...
30 Dec 2017, 21:15
Week 1. I’m going to try to read a novel and watch a film each week in 2018. In time, I’ll work out what I’m doing with it. We’ll see if it sticks. I love the idea.
Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson (1992).
Let the Right One In. Dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2008.
I tried to use these in my practice week and failed utterly, because Christmas. I’ve been up and down the country, making food for people, visiting people, people, people, people. There has been no time or space.
But I’m home now, and I want to create that time and space. It’s important. I might be biting off too much, but let’s give it a go....
29 Dec 2017, 18:50
My mind is circling the same wishes for the New Year that it circles every year, to do with health and writing. Each year I make some progress, never enough to make the desire for change to go away, but usually enough in the face of unconscious defences, personal circumstances and events to make me feel some pride.
It’s dispiriting that my health is still bothering me to the extent it does. I made great strides in my writing through completing the MA, but without the structure of seminars and deadlines I’m floundering a little.
I don’t think resolutions work particularly well. I like the symbolism of a new year to mark changes. Perhaps this year I could resolve to ...
28 Dec 2017, 21:45
I remember when blogging was something people did to express themselves without worrying too much about quality. It was a daily thing, a quick thing, something informal and loose. It wasn’t a big deal to throw up a blog post. Everyone was doing it. This was before Twitter and before we had the Internet on our phones. Dare I say, before we had out attention spans blasted into smithereens.
Well, I’d like to claim some of that back. That feeling of freedom, that spoken quality of written voice. If I have to edit and rewrite and shape every blog post as if it is essay, it becomes a chore. That’s why the habit doesn’t stick. I have too much else ...
7 Dec 2017, 14:23
Winter is when I want to retreat to my burrow. The garden becomes inhospitable, but often beautiful to look at from indoors. Simple things please me when it is cold outside. A cup of hot tea is, in winter, sustaining ...
7 Dec 2017, 14:01
Mindfulness is a way of exercising your ability to pay attention: when you can focus on something, the critical thoughts quieten down. – Ruby Wax, Frazzled