Picked up Brother of the More Famous Jack. Barbara Trapido is an incredible writer. Nagging envy made me put it down after the first five pages.
A fellow writer on Twitter sent me an invite — it’s still in a pretty combustible beta — and I immediately felt much more at home there than on Mastodon.
I’m reading Cinema Speculation, Quentin Tarentino’s non-fiction celebration of key American films of the seventies—Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Escape From Alcatraz, The Funhouse...
With everything going on in my life, the only way I’m going to write is if I have a clear purpose and a plan. This is always true I suppose.
If I’m stuck in a matrix, what sort is it? Writing? Capitalism? Our budget spreadsheet is a matrix. Reality? (There’s that word again.)
I’m pleased with how consistently I’ve posted to Patreon, but I feel guilty that I’m not giving enough value to people, so I’ve jiggled things around.
Twitter shines at surfacing what I need, when I need it, in this case Elisa Gabbert’s 2022 book list, within which a link to an essay she wrote, Why Write?
Going into the new year I’m going to do some gentle excavation into my beliefs about writing, because I’m realising I’ve lost touch with what fiction means to me. If there’s no meaning, there’s no purpose.
I’ve just broken a wine glass. I’m at my father's house, and it feels auspicious, although I don’t know why. He has cheap glasses because we are his only wine-drinking visitors.
I don’t remember my dreams that often anymore. When I’m particularly anxious, or there’s a lot going on, they tend to stick.
I don’t know what to do for the best with my social media. Twitter is all I have. Zuckerberg is worse than Musk in many ways, so I’m not going to those places.
In my notebook this morning I was thinking about how tempting screens are. Just having one near me makes me want to look. Today it was a wall of water, either a tall wave from a ship at sea, or a tsunami, I couldn’t tell.
It’s Halloween. My daughter had friends around for a spooky-themed tea, and now they’ve gone out to ask for treats. The door knocking has begun.
I tweet way too much. Longer form pieces go here or on Patreon. Recording the podcast was fun, but not structured enough to stay interesting. I still write in my notebook every day, but recently that’s been less creative writing and more organising the job move.
I’m going to continue to trust my enthusiasms. I hope your creativity is in full flow too.
My internal critic says I’m being lazy, or disorganised, or just not up to the job, but kinder voices reassure me that there is a season for all things.
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 it, which has happened several times already. I head home tomorrow and my sister takes over the ferrying around.
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 short stories behind a paywall, to try to motivate myself to finish smaller pieces because there was an expectation, and to put a symbolic stake in the ground that said, I want to have some control over when I publish my work, and, no matter how little it might be, I want to be paid for it.
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 podcast might be fun, but I am primarily a writer, so my crazy idea (crazy for me, knowing how I usually write stories, i.e. slowly) is to publish a short story a month for the rest of 2022 on Patreon.
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 the unconscious mind. How could that not be useful to a writer? Or am I kidding myself?
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 someone who actually wants to be a novelist and not a filmmaker.
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 to anyone, bar its name to a very select few, perhaps out of superstition, but also, I think, to keep the energy it holds close to me, to nurture it, and show it I am taking it seriously. It’s not fodder for polite, or impolite, conversation, and certainly not to be talked about on Twitter.
Here we go again, with my fourth #31DaysofHorror extravaganza/exhaustathon. I’ve talked about this before, but watching these sorts of films makes me feel like I’m hanging out with my dad. This year I just want a reason to watch a lot of horror films.
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 my life.
I’m sitting in the sun. August isn’t going to plan, but I’m doing the best I can with it.
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.
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.
Lying in bed this morning, between the alarm going off and 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.
Reading fiction requires reading muscles, and writing fiction requires writing muscles. This week I watched: Heart of Midnight (1988), The Grinch (2018), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010), De Palma (2015). This week I read: Equilibrium, by Tonino Guerra; The Art of the Novel, by Milan Kundera.
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 about 2021, I find myself wondering, are they worth the time I put into them?
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 or writing until I was well into my thirties.
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 book-keeping for whichever company she was working for at the time.
I wonder what next year will bring? I wonder how I can make my craft feel more fun? With those questions in mind, we enter a season of change.
This is a pep talk to myself as I go into another lockdown. It’s shit we have to do it, but we do, and better late than never. These are tough times and periods of lockdown are hard on the spirit. The greater good can get to you.
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 heart.
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 to write fifty thousand words.
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 for the darkness in me; they are smart, subversive and funny, as well as gnarly, gruesome and grim. I find them endlessly fascinating, invigorating and fun.
I was interviewed by author CR Dudley about being a writer in lockdown.
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.
In 2019, on Goodreads, I set myself the challenge of reading 52 books. Here are my favourite five.
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 I imagined myself to be.
Adjusting to working from home and an escape room that is no longer an escape.
I’m into minimalism this week. It’s been a useful concept as I try to solve some tricky problems.
I’m a writer not a critic, but I have critical thoughts about other people’s books — what does it mean if a writer is a critic too?
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 am going to cook the swede and make it delicious. I have to work on my meal planning though. I wish I had a pork chop or a steak. C’est la vie.
It was mid-afternoon. I ate some of the cabbage wrapped in a slice of bread. It felt like a treat. Red cabbage. Simple pleasures.
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.
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 pay more attention to the habits I have that frustrate me and keep tweaking them until they take me where I want to go.
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.
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.