Poem for Friday 29th

slight throbbing in my head
hello friend
hello continuity
jazz saxophone
hello playful thought battle hero
hello dream of silence
hello memory of bliss
ash and gravel voice
hello sinking out of tension
hello wondering whatever
the Skids
hello something new

whirring computer fan
hello three weeks later
distant car door
hello silent Sunday after the gales
slight throbbing in my head
hello overthinking
hello forcing myself to write
hello goodbye



Writing / Sex / Mistakes

headinhandsHaving got officially sick and tired of hearing myself think about blogs I might write complaining about not knowing what to write (having exhausted in reality the topic of complaining about being too afraid/too anxious/too busy to write), I am back and ready to write actual stuff.

Not that these topics aren’t important at all, but certainly I am hoping to develop my ideas into a conversation other than the one with other writers about the experience of writing. But you know, one day I will look back at the obstacles I faced from a distance (she says willing this to be true) and on that day I may well see something more interesting than what I’ve had to say on the subject so far.

I ought also to wonder whether the book I’ve written (but not published, or sent out very far) is ultimately a veiled account of what it feels like not to write. I wrote it precisely while I was supposed to be writing a PhD. It was an escape from a harder task, and it caught me up in its deeply satisfying mental-health-giving properties. My blog posts about writing itself have probably all popped out when I have not been at work on it for some time.

In fact the book is about a lot of things, a great many, and on my to-do list long before approaching publishers, is to re-read it expressly to find out what my themes were (sex, gender, justice?). I like to describe it as a philosophical stream of consciousness confessional, but hey, who likes them? Maybe lots of people would like it, but equally, maybe I wrote it just for me. When I say it’s philosophical, I mean it’s full of questions. Literally, it’s full of questions. When I re-read it, it will take me back to them all and maybe from there I can get some clarity about what it matters most to me to write about. (Sex, gender, difference.)

Because I am only just beginning to bring the strands of my life together to see that my obsessions actually matter. For instance, this week my work bit me hard in the personal-interests department. For that piece of code, read: my ‘boss’ called me ‘rather a strident feminist’ to a male colleague because I called out sexism. I reeled at the grilling I was given, though I should have expected it and, logically, it’s a fair cop; I tried hard not to name names and events, so my claims must have seemed pretty vague. But the real reeling is in the insane laziness of this characterisation. He was literally implying that if I’m a feminist then my view of sexism is inherently inflated. Worse, his emotional reaction (in a nice way) at being called out suggests that he thinks his workplace practices are feminist. He obviously doesn’t know that this is the right word for the things he is proud of in his workplace, not to mention in his personhood, but it is.

In fact I was really trying to call him out for his sexist positive treatment of arseholes. I suspected that a particular issue affecting two women colleagues would illustrate this weakness. In fact people thought that the guy in question was the root of the sexism I was calling out. What a fricking mess.

When I say sexist, I mean shockingly blind to an affection (weakness) for certain men who personify a brash confidence, but are rude or mad. Perhaps they got good results, but they were paid more than and treated with far more respect than the women whose jobs they made infinitely harder. It’s painful to throw another stereotypical judgement onto my own karmic log sheet but these guys are in marketing. The sex of an arsehole or an empty suit shouldn’t matter, and women should get employed for their skills and competencies, and men should not get employed when they lack these. And I should know better than to think I can fix a very old and entrenched psychological problem by flagging up how it disadvantages certain staff, using the method of professional observation and reporting. Apparently I have “a bee in my bonnet”.

Before I run screaming back into gainful relative unemployment (I’m freelance so it’s nicely vaguer than that), I need to reap some ‘lessons’ from this that are going to make me real goddamn happy but not smug. And I need to finish the work on my plate like a grown up, albeit a grown up in a team of grown ups with an overgrown child at the helm, calling the shots and giving me glare-eye.

Are there lessons? Hell yeah – you’re reading it now… I am coming to realise that, even if my report was strictly speaking true, my belief that it would work was in contradiction with the reality I know. Each time I tell myself that I don’t really know what I need to write about (sex, gender, sexism), I am making a temporary escape from dark shit that depresses and scares me. Then I go about my daily life thinking that all the tools we need to fix things are just there and we can use them and change things. Well they’re not. They need making. I need to remember that, much as I hugely value making discoveries through direct human contact, writing is a way to create some of these tools.


What’s the worst thing that could happen if … I write?

Calvin-WritingThe worst thing that could happen if I write, is that I could be hunted down by a group of vigilantes, carried to a temple and put in a hole where my skin in then cut off with razor blades.

Another diabolical thing that could happen if I write is that an invisible cabal of powerful, wealthy media professionals could easily, quietly, ensure that my work is ridiculed and dismissed before it is given a fair hearing by the wider public.

Or I could become so introspective, unsupported and undermined all at once that I would discover I truly do not know why I am here, or what is the point, or how my being alive differs from my being dead, in relation to the rest of the world, and so decide to stop all thoughts by wading into a river.

Another terrible thing that could happen if I write is that I would become more microscopically aware of the enormity of the structural obstacles to reducing and removing the structural injustices which ruin us, compared to the impact of just about anything I might ever be able to do, until I lose faith in ‘progress’ and ‘change’ and just walk into the sea.

I needn’t worry about these things happening to me though because they only happen to famous, talented people. Also, there are many far worse things that could happen if I write, that I haven’t even heard or thought of for chrissakes.

It is quite possible that people will laugh at what I write, even if it is not meant to be funny. It’s also possible that I’ll write dry, sarcastic jokes, and people will miss them and totally misinterpret my work. That wouldn’t be my fault! It’s also possible that I’ll write something so ridiculously wrong that it will be lambasted and eclipse and outlive anything sensible and decent I write. It’s also possible that I’ll write and write and write and then one day look back in shock to see I’ve missed out on the things I always wanted to say. I could pick up a book by someone else one day, and think, fuck, I was going to start writing this twenty years ago, and I never did.

Another terrifying thing that could happen if I write is that no-one will like what I write at all, or that a huge number of people will dislike it and a tiny number will like it (or pretend to, to be friendly). It’s quite possible that any public writing could be trolled, the emotional impact of which outweighs the felt benefit of any positive engagement. It’s also possible that there is a completely indifferent response to what I write so that I am suddenly face to face with myself, realising that my rage, my inquiry, my obsessions, my instincts, my convictions, all boil down to one painfully obvious piece of common sense which everyone else already knows. I guess if that’s the case, it would be good to find out what it is, sooner rather than later.


This one post

With this one blog post I want to mark the end of dithering about what and when to write. This kind of dithering is not a harmless kind, characteristic of a kindly parent who wants to get the balance right between libertarian and Victorian parenting, or a hurried pedestrian cautious not to get run over. This kind of dithering is the kind that lays waste to lives.

As if I hadn’t heard it enough times in enough ways already, that one must seize the day, that one cannot expect to write if one does not write, I have had an onslaught of pushes this year. I was shown a book by Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art, which is so good I had to slow down the reading of it to make it last. Every page of it is worth typing out in full for you here which isn’t a particularly sensible use of the blog. Pressfield says Resistance is king and we are the subversives, he says that we can and will never defeat it, so to think that we are wise to wait until we have done so before we embark on the activities that lead us to our goals is only the contorted success of Resistance.

Last night I was fortunate enough to see Kate Tempest with Orchestrate at the Brighton Dome, because a friend was clever enough to know when the tickets went on sale and to get them. Although a friend encouraged me to see her when she played at the Cowley club, I only finally did last year at the All Saints Church in Hove. That venue made the performance more fully what is: divine. Last night was equal in power, fury, love and the divine. She is not only a poet, composer and artist but an impassioned human soul firing on all cylinders. Inspiring is the word, but naturally no one word will do Tempest justice.

In the past three weeks I have become keen to write, determined to write; I have planned to write, I have seen the blessings in the circumstances preventing me, and I have resolved again to write. Interweaving with this process I have known what to write, wavered, forgotten, remembered and doubted. I have started knowing something else to write, hesitated, diminished and given up. I have not given up being determined to write on the day I had planned (today), but I have given up wanting to know what to write. Hence this post.

Tempest doesn’t inspire me to write, she supercharges my mind so I can see without doubt that it will continue to become ever harder to forget to see the world as a whole, to allow the consciousness of the ultimate bad to permeate all efforts to do and feel good as well as the moments where this level of life is effortless. She is alive and she wants to prevent forgetting.

Right this moment I couldn’t tell you why I want to write or what I want to write, and that kind of makes me want to cry; but only because it is without doubt a symptom not just of my own style of resistance and prevarication, but of the conditions which prevent me from having the right conditions to have done more, sooner, or to have felt more often that I am always already doing, and that at the same time I have done enough. I can be kind to myself, and I can celebrate my achievements. I also know that if I were not careful I might use these emotionally essential directives to become lazy and self-satisfied.

All our little memes are good for only one thing: whatever that is. To the arsehole we say: start being nice. To the doormat we say: start being mean. Be kind to yourself, be a hard master to yourself. Celebrate your achievements, never think you are done.

With this one post I am desperately conjuring a shift in my relationship to this little window. So far it has been no more than a page, a game, a room where I dance like no-one can see me, and then panic when I realise someone taped it. But I tricked myself into taping it. I can load it onto YouTube or Soundcloud and still I can be anonymous and secret. My 3 followers (you still rock) probably don’t live within a thousand miles of me.

With this one post I invite myself to stop being afraid that what I do write, when I have remembered what it is that I have to say, will lead to my alienation and ostracism, to my success or to my failure. It doesn’t matter. None of these things really matters.

Tempest showed us last night what I already learnt from Adorno: you have to know the worst. If he saw her with the orchestra I reckon he would cry twice. First because the orchestra is pared down and modern looking and he would think we had gone to the dogs, and then again because its sounds would grab his heart and rip it out and shake it until he understood what we are all feeling today. There is nothing worse than what people had to feel in Adorno’s lifetime, and nothing is worse than what we feel now about the worst. But usually there is room for hope. When there isn’t, this in itself drives us to build new rooms. If Tempest and Adorno don’t endorse hope for its own sake, they still give it to me. They give me hope that I can externalise feelings we all suffer with in the way that they do, because that is a human capacity.

What I hope for myself is that what I have spent so much energy analysing is worth analysing, and that by writing what I think, I can take part in our collective thought as well as our feelings. With this one post I state my intention: the world will not be the same place as it would have been if I did not write.