What I Really Want to Know

Really what I want to know revolves around how to make prose meaningful.

Like, it’s possible to write words that are largely empty of meaning: long descriptions of grass, trees, sky; endless minutiae-filled skeins of thought about nothing in particular; the sensation of blood pumping whilst climbing or dust in the eye after shaking a mat.

I’d like to go a little beyond that; you know what I mean? But how.

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Bus

I saw a bus go by and it made such a sad sound in my heart.
Going places and leaving me here.

Not alone.
But not moving either.

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Mastodons Amongst Us

If reincarnation and transmigration of species holds then this could explain why some people prefer a larger body mass index than others. They have simply become accustomed to the ground shaking beneath theit feet as they walk.

Connecting with the Earth – a Workshop

Creative Writing UK BK Eco Retreat 29 – 31 March 2019 at Worthing

“Creative Writing UK BK Eco Retreat 29 – 31 March 2019 at Worthing. Our final session of the day was with Robert and showed us how we can use creative writing to discover our own inner ‘genius’ and connect with the Earth.”

I stood, and sometimes sat crosslegged, in front of a dozen or so people and did the same thing I always do at short workshops. I told them that there are two ways to write: planning and pantsing and that I’m a panstser so that’s what we’re going to do today. A planner plans out what they’re going to do before they write and a pantser just makes it up as they go along.

The raison d’etre for this is that if a writer can switch off their critical facilities for long enough, they can just write down the words that their unconscious processes suggest, in much the same way as word-association games works.

To demonstrate this, I took the group through a warm-up exercise that involved me supplying a seed-word and then, going around the room, the next person just saying the first word that came into their head. I suggested to them that if there was any hesitation in this it meant that they were using the conscious processes (the ones that planners use) and that these were what we were trying to circumvent. After a few rounds, they started to get the hang of it and got quicker. It was time to move to phase two.

The next exercise involved each member of the group drawing a mind-map using a seed-word of their choice. They got five minutes to do this, which involved writing one word in the middle of a piece of paper, four words that they associated with this word around it, then a further three associated words for each of the four. In all, we ended up with seventeen words each.

Their challenge then was to, individually, use all of their words in a story, that could be as long or short as they liked, but they only got ten minutes to complete it. This meant that they had to do it, as much as possible, without thinking. The instructions were to just write a word and they write whatever next word that popped into their head. Everyone, without exception, completed a story within the ten minutes.

I asked them then to think a little and then extract an affirmation from their story that they could take away and use. We then went around the room and people shared their stories.

With only one exception, everyone shared. It was surprising the variety of styles that people drew on: functional, short, long, flowery, metaphorical, terse, lyrical etc. But, whatever the style, they were all totally on target for the theme of the weekend: eco-friendship.

It was a fun way to spend an hour. I got to get people to enjoy themselves and write stories about making the world a better place. What’s not to like!

Success and Failure in Online Writing

Black Box by Jennifer Egan is, as I understand it, a novelette released Tweet by Tweet. It seems to have been written Tweet by Tweet too.

I can’t imagine that it was written over the same ten days that it was released within even though I could have done that. Sure, my effort would be as good as this, but I could have done it. Saying that, I perceive this to be good but I’m not entirely convinced that it really is. Perhaps I’m just going on the premise that it’s good because it was written by a famous author.

Actually, I only gave it three stars out of five on Goodreads so perhaps I don’t think it was that good. It wasn’t such an easy read. There was a disjointed feel to it that, I suppose, came from the chopped up nature.

It’s funny how reading something in that style makes me want to write in that style now. I am struggling to reassert a hypotactic style that string together clauses into something coherent and whole that can entertain as well as inform. There’s a lesson there if you’re wondering how to imitate another author’s style.

So yeah – it’s not very pretty to read. It’s a disjointed thing. It tells a story but the story seems false somehow; like cornflakes made out of cheese paste.

Verdict: limited success.


Jennifer’s tale is a whole heck better than Letter to Linus by William Gillespie. Basically, it’s a prose experiment in several parts with seemingly random links between them. I think that I might possibly have read all the available words in that ‘story’ but not in the right order. I kept wanting to extract it all and sort it into the correct order so that I could make sense of it but the individual parts of the text were not interesting enough for me to want to do that. Enough said.

Verdict: fail.

Going Beyond Paper

It’s no coincidence that you’re reading this on a screen; for I have gone beyond paper. In fact, almost everything I’ve published has been in an electronic format. The exception is a children’s book I published on Amazon, just to see how easy it was (very). To date, my paper sales have netted me the princely sum of £9.67, and it’s all pure profit. Please don’t tell the t*xman.

They say that the future is electronic. And (almost) everything I’ve published is electronic. So why do I have a couple of thousand books in the attic that I’ve never read?

I guess that I have a vision of myself in a bed catching up on my reading at some point in the distant future. My leg is broken and so I’m not expected at work. The electricity is off and so there are no e-books either online or offline. There’s only me, a huge stack of books and … erm … a huge pile of tinned soup that I’ve yet to get around to collecting. Oh, and a tin-opener.

I’m stocking up for a world without books. In the future, entertainment will have been transferred to other formats:

  • one or another of the current electronic formats:
    • interactive books,
    • e-books,
    • digital audiobooks), or
  • the book alternatives
    • movies,
    • YouTube videos of cute pussycats,
    • electronic games,
    • browsing the internet aimlessly or
  • future forms
    • being in the game,
    • exploring the world virtually,
    • book immersion via implants,
    • consciousness upload to digital realms.

When that future arrives, I’ll just read. Or perhaps I’ll be seduced off into something I haven’t even imagined. Or maybe (wonder of wonders) I’ll converse with other people.

So, there are options available for those who haven’t got a stack of paper books. Are you up for any of those alternative forms of entertainment? Or are you still licking your finger and turning, turning, turning those pages?

And aside from that – how are you going to publish your own musings? Paper, electronics or something else?

Yours – Interested of York.

Why I Prefer to Look (at Books)

I love to read books. I love it so much that I read while I’m walking down the street. And no, I don’t walk into things. Well, not very often.

When winter comes, and the nights draw in, there isn’t enough natural light to read whilst walking to and from work. At times, when I don’t feel too foolish, I use my smartphone as a torch and read my book in the dark. And no, I don’t bump into things. At least, not too often.

When the weather turns wet, I carry a bit umbrella in one hand and a book in the other one, and I carry on reading. And yes, I sometimes bump into people. But they don’t seem to mind too much.

Every so often it gets too wet and too dark for me to be able to read my book and so I’ll pop it in my bag and pull out my phone. I have two options: I can read, or I can listen.

I’m halfway through Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville in audiobook form at the moment. Because the weather is good and the rain has eased off, I’ve been at the halfway point for quite a while.

I prefer books because when my mind wanders off from the story I automatically stop reading. But with an audiobook, it just carries on without me and I end up having to rewind.

I prefer books because sometimes I want to think about what I’ve read. And that’s easy with paper. I just stop, and I think, and then I go back to the words. With audiobooks, control of the voice is not as closely keyed to my mind. I have to press a button to stop the voice. Stopping is not as easy as just looking away.

And when I read words on paper, I can read more slowly if the words are long or the phrasing is more complex. And I can speed up if I find short words or an action scene or if I just want to skim over a passage to get to a more exciting part. With audiobooks, it’s just one speed. And never the one I need at any particular part of the book.

So yeah, I prefer books. eBooks are good too. I can treat them like paper books. The experience is much the same as a proper book.

How about you; how do you get your fix?