I’ve always loved words. As a child, I listened to them and the ones that I liked, my lips silently shaped prounouncing them, though I’d no idea of what they meant. They have a colour and a taste for me and I suppose that’s what they mean about synesthesia nowadays, though I don’t see them in ways anything like that; they were just words I liked.
My mother would catch me doing it, so she’d stick her thumb into my mouth so I wouldn’t look too retarded making shapes with my mouth. A protective lioness and her idiot baby child. Mess with that sort of woman and over one of her babies, you’d be in a world of serious grief. It was a sort of instinctive teat replacement.
It’s a bit more complex than that though. They are words, just words, but each one of them has a weight, and that weight varies in subtle ways, depending on the context they’re used in and the way it interacts with other words. For me, using the wrong word in a sentence, reads like a clunk.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy. I put those clunky words in the first draft without pausing and have to look for their replacement or scrap the whole sentence, which I hate doing. I run at every piece very hard, breaking through every barbed wire fence tearing the skin off my thin shins, because I’m at my best under pressure and that’s how I know the unthinking diamonds pop out of me, but I do polish the results. I work that way. That’s the hard work and why I’ll probably never get more than one piece a week out.
When I write an article, I go for content, and how it flows is the last ten yards to the finishing line. If you’ve ever really raced, then you’ll know those are always the hardest final yards. You have to write for the engagement and pleasure of the reader, and if you think you’ve succeeded at both of those, then that’s your satisfaction. Like a good meal, it has to be pleasing to the eye, as well as the palate.
I suppose I’ve always thought of blogging as a conversation, and it’s an easy and familiar one. It’s me and a good friend talking at the end of a decent meal. We’ve decided to order that second bottle of wine, already had the how’s the job going conversation, done the how’re the wife and kids doing and last but not least, how’re you really doing.
After all that, comes the free range conversation about anything and everything, and they constantly surprise and delight you with their viewpoints, which is why you enjoy their company. They’re like those gems of books you occasionally find, the whole bloody preconception which gets ship wrecked after the first page, and you’re hooked from there on in.
Books have always been a comfort to me, but they’ve always been a slightly secret perversion. Life pulled me around and kicked me around and jerked me over a bit, and yet I’d always had some tattered paperback jammed in my back pocket. It’s worse than that though, because while I’ve been other things, I’ve always been at heart a writer.
Writing well is essentially an act of betrayal.
You see stuff happening, and you really see the effect it’s having on real people and you intervene when you can, but sometimes, all that can be done is tuck it away somewhere in that silent watcher’s heart you have. Maybe it’s your way of dealing with it but you know in some sickening way, you’ll eventually use it one day. It’s all usable stuff, all material, grist to the mill. You disguise it, you conceal the real circumstances, you do some weaseling but you just know you’ll use it in the end. In that way, you’re not a very nice person.
The price you pay, is that you’ll never forget those moments, nor your predatory usage of those people and situations, but the saving grace, if there is one, is that you’re trying to speak with some truth for them, and you just hope you’ll do it well. Such is the life of low creatures.
I have a long long history of failure because I try things and am not too bothered about being laughed at when I crash and burn. Perhaps it’s a measure of the person you are that you’re strong enough to try an alternative.
I’ve always found the path less well travelled is the more interesting one. While everyone else is doing the peer group mutual ego massage, you’re off in your own space. You won’t pick up many fans that way, in point of fact my experience is your reward is you’re probably going to get a bloody good kicking, but life is definitely more interesting in that zone. Challenging, but more interesting. Once you’ve broken your biscuit, it’s not too bad a way to go.
I had a conversation several years back with some friends about what could be done to combat the malignant cancer that environmentalism had become. The dreaded consensus was that nothing could be done, the eco-fascists had all the big guns on their side and we had nothing. Amid what was popular amusement, I said I was going to try my hand at this blogging thing.
Blogging was a minor strand in other moves I was making at the time and typically contrarian because as I’d decided to take an essayist approach, I knew the blog was most probably doomed anyway. Most people on the internet seem to have the attention span slightly smaller than that of a mosquito. Once you get over a hundred and fifty words, they’ve surfed out of the joint. I plugged away at it though, if only because it enabled me to organise my thoughts.
It is therefore with a certain astonishment, but with some undoubted pleasure that I see this place closing in on one million page reads.
Thank you all for reading the errant thoughts of someone who still tries to shape words.
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