Cover of novel The Complex, by Michael Walters

Writing

For me, writing is a daily activity, and reading is one of life’s great pleasures. Reading as a writer is an essential skill, by which I mean honing the part of your brain that wants to know why words affect you as they do. These posts are notes to myself on daily practice and books I’ve read, with some longer pieces reflecting on life as a creative writer.

  • The future of my online shizz

    6 Nov 2022, 19:10

    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. Mastodon is not a replacement for anything, it’s a unique flavour of online community that will take effort from everyone who goes there.

    Blogs are the obvious answer, but who will have the taste for that these days? It’s effort. Twitter removed the work of posting and consuming, a bit like fast food, and now we’re all a bit flabby and useless, technologically speaking.

    Perhaps Twitter got people online who would never have blogged. The numbers suggest that’s true. But the global social experiment is being stress-tested ...

    Read full post...

  • Image of a wave

    1 Nov 2022, 20:11

    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 viewed from a ship at sea, or a tsunami from shore, I couldn’t tell. It was mesmerising. I was mesmerised by a photo of a painting of a wave on my laptop screen, but the overwhelming fear and awe it created in me was real.

    The image brought a feeling of awe out of me. That’s what’s addictive about screens. Images, and words, can summon feelings to the surface, and sometimes that brings a feeling of release, but often it’s disappointment, and so I scroll to ...

    Read full post...

  • The most important thing to do is

    The most important thing to do is

    31 Oct 2022, 19:30

    I went for a walk and the streets were quiet. It’s Halloween and dark outside, but it was too early even for the youngest children to be out. My daughter had friends around for a spooky-themed tea, and now they’ve ...

    Read full post...

  • Microblogging

    30 Oct 2022, 21:27

    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. It’s been an amazing year for my software career, but it’s driven my writing practice into a ditch. However, I am still rolling that boulder of a novel up the mountain.

    Musk’s takeover of Twitter has shaken me up. There are alternatives that do different things — Substack is particularly interesting, and seeing George Saunders on there is inspiring. I don’t know enough about how it works yet. Perhaps it’s a better fit ...

    Read full post...

  • Kardomah

    Kardomah

    23 Jul 2022, 07:00

    When I visit my father, I always love to walk around Swansea and get an early morning coffee. We used to come as a family on Saturday mornings when I was growing up, so with my existing coffee and writing ...

    Read full post...

  • Trust your enthusiasms

    Trust your enthusiasms

    17 Jun 2022, 07:56

    It’s been a highly unusual period for me since pausing the podcast. After fourteen years in my day job, I am finally leaving. My new role is still coding, but instead of being in Higher Education I’m going to be ...

    Read full post...

  • ChillerCon UK 2022

    ChillerCon UK 2022

    12 Jun 2022, 16:14

    ChillerCon UK 2022 emerged from the ashes of the Covid-struck StokerCon 2020, miraculously held together by the heroic organisers who had to deal with cancelled hotel rooms, refunds, and much else I’ll never know about. The original idea when ...

    Read full post...

  • Kindness in retrospect

    Kindness in retrospect

    3 Jun 2022, 16:45

    I’ve always thought that living life well was more important than writing, and typing that aloud I’m not sure if that sounds obvious, wise or stupid. I know writing regularly is part of the life I want, but often life ...

    Read full post...

  • An oblique strategy

    An oblique strategy

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Patreon: one month in

    Patreon: one month in

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Writing short stories on Patreon

    Writing short stories on Patreon

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Films, dreams, fiction and writing

    Films, dreams, fiction and writing

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Farewell, 2021

    Farewell, 2021

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • The great adjustment

    The great adjustment

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Keeping the story alive

    Keeping the story alive

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Horror AND sex!

    Horror AND sex!

    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:

    Read full post...

  • Intent

    Intent

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • A seat in the sun

    A seat in the sun

    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, ...

    Read full post...

  • Why read?

    Why read?

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Swimming with David Lynch

    Swimming with David Lynch

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes

    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • It’s Spring, and it feels like it

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • A flotilla of metaphors

    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.

  • Giallo January

    Giallo January

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Slippery surfaces

    Slippery surfaces

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Autumn and The Long Goodbye

    Autumn and The Long Goodbye

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • My 2020 in books

    My 2020 in books

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Language muscles

    Language muscles

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Why do I write here?

    Why do I write here?

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • London Gothic, Nicholas Royle

    London Gothic, Nicholas Royle

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Exit Management, Naomi Booth

    Exit Management, Naomi Booth

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • November culture

    November culture

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Jigsaws

    Jigsaws

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Creativity 2.0(.21)

    Creativity 2.0(.21)

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Lockdown, Part 2

    Lockdown, Part 2

    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. ...

    Read full post...

  • October beckons

    October beckons

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • In the foothills

    In the foothills

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • 31 Days of Horror, 2020

    31 Days of Horror, 2020

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Reality Bites

    Reality Bites

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Writers on lockdown

    Writers on lockdown

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Leaving Rebecca

    Leaving Rebecca

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Website as digital garden

    Website as digital garden

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • The inner Wonder Woman

    The inner Wonder Woman

    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.

    Read full post...

  • My favourite five books of 2019

    My favourite five books of 2019

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • A walk around my writer’s block

    A walk around my writer’s block

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Escape room

    Escape room

    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. ...

    Read full post...

  • First post, best post

    First post, best post

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Minimalism

    Minimalism

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Writing and reviewing

    Writing and reviewing

    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, ...

    Read full post...

  • Blogging with Jekyll

    Blogging with Jekyll

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • On writing ‘The Complex’

    On writing ‘The Complex’

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Norse Mythology (2018), Neil Gaiman

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • High Rise (book and film)

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Sprouts

    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.

  • Swede

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Red cabbage

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • 1: Written on the Body/Let the Right One In

    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.

    ...

  • Habits

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Blogging v2018.0

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Winter

    Winter

    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 ...

    Read full post...

  • Mindfulness

    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