Wednesday, 28 November 2012

On writing, whenever

Also, I relish the times when it’s super miserable, when I haven’t slept or am hungover. If you can sit down and write when you’re completely uninspired, completely miserable, hating everything you’ve ever written or thought, and just stay in the chair until something happens, then you know you’re going to be OK.

 Michael Fitzegerald (co founder of Submittable)

Write in the good times, when it comes like quicksilver—darting, liquid, cool to the touch. Write in the bad times when you have no words, when your head is sopping with yesterday’s wine and this process is eking, an old towel that needs to be wrung. An old towel tied between donkeys and the donkeys told to walk. Come to the table and open that strange small place and force things out, pick up these cardboard boxes stacked there and walk outside and place them on the other side of the door. Leave them in the street for vagrants and vagabonds to pick through your laundry (these boxes are not your responsibility any more; you did what you could). Step closer to the things from which you flinch, open the palm of your hand, remember that a burn will carry on searing your skin, even once you’ve fled from the source of the flame. All I am asking of you is that you show up and start whispering because maybe your nonsense chants could make sense to the ancient Polynesians, maybe you’re tapping into a chattering seam in the bowels of the earth. I would like you to keep going because I wonder that something is coalescing and figuring out the gaps between matter and dust. I wold like you to keep going because this stuff and these boxes and the donkeys are, just maybe, all that there is: a world, you living in it, trying to craft some structure, some sense out of words.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A rainy Saturday afternoon

A rainy Saturday and our home is too many stairs up to worry about leaving, so I make pizza from scratch for breakfast and spend the afternoon in the company of Barbara Gowdy necrophilia fables, Mary Gaitskill interviews in the New Yorker, Wikipedia articles about cannibalism, and my own made up worlds.

I want to tell you stories of circuses and beautiful women who smell of sawdust, magician’s assistants with scars like barbed wire on their stomachs. I want to dig up the past with a garden fork, turn my sordid memoirs over, heave the worms and wriggle amongst them. I want to talk about locksmiths and Janus and the Hierophant Tarot card; I can’t stop thinking about snibs and latches.

So, did you know that human flesh tastes like nothing so much as well-developed veal? Have you heard of the mellified men in ancient Arabia who sacrificed themselves by eating nothing but honey, until even their sweat and their faeces turned to honey, and after their corpse lay in honey for a hundred years it was sold as a sweet, sweet cure for broken bones? Let me tell you about the Leopard Men of West Africa who leapt on wayward travellers in their leopard skins and tore them apart with their leopard claws and ate their flesh, hoping for the strength to carry on. Carry on with their leopardy lives.

Come and gather round, it is early and I have a record player and a red stick candle and a warm blanket to tuck over our knees. I want to whisper horrible and beautiful and monstrous things in your ears until you shudder. I want to lock you in this room and I promise to show up every morning and chant nonsense until the words begin to catch and form.

Monday, 19 November 2012

This evening I am mainly

Reading But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, drinking a bottle of cheap champagne, eating anchovies and mature cheeses, having a crush on Anita Loos.

Friday, 9 November 2012


This month is national novel writing month, where people attempt to write the first draft of a novel in 30 days. I did it in 2009 and ended up with lots and lots of words, and I wanted to write again this year, but couldn't think of a novel to do it in.

So! I will be writing 50,000 words of anything. Posting little excerpts and finishing stories long started. Drinking many coffees and listening to music with high bpms.



 After the operation, she had to stay at home for thirty days and all she had for her brain were other people's windows. She tried to read, but the words became soup and the white of the page was too bright, like a camera flash, too much for the letters. The stories that had once canted off the pages, the paragraphs she had leapt through feeling all the while like a pony in a meadow full of ever-decreasing wooden fences, they were gone. Or, they were still there but they were nothing: black termites marching to a tunnel too small to allow her entry. So, she sat by the window with a glass of gin and Rose's lime cordial and she watched the windows.

It wasn't as it used to be, watching the windows. When she was a girl, the windows had seemed like ever-flickering zoetropes, alive with stories. The light was a softer shade of yellow, like butter, and the people moved through the butter with a kind of buttery thoughtfulness. These days, the lights were brighter. The only candles were scented glass-clad cylinders in bathrooms, their only task the re-calibrating of the scents the air once claimed. Poetry does not flourish in fluorescence. The people move differently, or they don't move at all. Every window she looked in was just a box with its own windows inside, flickering multicoloured windows, epileptic visions and banners of unnatural colours. There is only so long you can spend staring at a person, staring at the television.

In the backroom, which used to be Charles's office, were the chests. Inside the chests were his things and she had never looked through his things when he was alive, because a wife sometimes has to be a clear plate to reflect back the thoughts of her man. A polished glass beaker. The wiped corners of the drawer in the fridge. But then a man dies and the wife who has spent all her days being a surface and a mirror suddenly wakes up and there is nothing in the world worth bouncing back, and she is aware that her body is more than this, her mind is a thing. This is the point to die or to carry on, really, the options are less fantastical and less imperative than we think. And there is always a chance to make another decision when you pick the latter. So, she carried on thinking that maybe next week she would let herself go, but let's just see first, maybe. A wife can go a long time waiting for next week, provisionally, when she has become a widow. It seems so definitive to leave the table before the last card has been overturned. Besides anything else, it seems rude.

Thursday, 8 November 2012


The world slopes to magenta and neon and radiator heat; a different kind of heat. A soft warmth that waits for your bones and offers fleece. I haven't left the house for two days, since we returned from New York. I am trying to tuck this fact in a secret place and keep it going. It is so very perfect here—all wooden and warping, all Leonard Cohen and the way he growls.

And there are no letters in the mailbox; and there are no grapes upon the vine; and there are no chocolates in the boxes anymore; and there are no diamonds in the mine.

Except, of course, my mines are full of diamonds.

I take the challenge of words like a woven rope hanging above a Mexican lake, surface speckled with the footprints of pond skaters. I feel the weft between my calloused palms and let myself entangle, throw this careless body out over a long still surface that could be an ice rink or a canvas or a deep dark hole. I speed the pace until I have no direct line to my thoughts anymore. I train my fingers to overtake the whippets in my brain and I let them delve into the afternoon Wikipedia research: Hierophant & skeleton keys & Janus & trickster gods & Diprosopus & the Holy See & Loki.

The internet is back.

Suddenly the air is full of flickering June bugs of html and secrets. I am addicted to this spill of ideas; I wish I could click forever. The blue lines are talismen and shaman guides through the soup that is a brain stayed up too late watching a hideous man try to convince the world he isn't really a lizard. Trying to pat the women on the head and hush their frets. It's ok, gal, I've got you covered and we know what's best. I couldn't turn off because there is, in my guts and my skin and my fingers and my womb, a rabid fury at their hands, blood smeared to the wrists, plunging into some unwelcome place. But by the dawn, it was fine. Things had prevailed.

But yes: things out of kilter. Waking too late and trying to grab at the coattails of daylight. Please, let your sunshine be my magic carpet. Let this grey mist whip us from winter's cavelike hole. I need a mantra against the damp that gathers on this season's walls. I will try the word "swaddled" in my mouth for size.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Negative Suck!

Autumn, in Negative Suck. Featuring words about Epping Forest, touching boys, and the future.

Read it here!