Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Hard-Workin' Man

Theoretically, I should perhaps apologise for my prolonged absence from here, but after all I'm not beholden to anyone with regards to all of this writing. Occasionally, I feel this space as more of a metaphorical millstone around my neck (an obligation to write something, anything) than a possible place to fill with writing. Partly because my obligatory writing has been filling up my time so much recently - live reviews and small record reviews for Plan B, live reviews for BhOne, and lingering possibilities, half-finished posts that might eventually go up here; the fact that I'm working almost twice the number of hours I'm contracted to isn't especially helpful; I also happen to be basically bone idle. Spending my evenings relentlessly tapping away on a keyboard might be more noble - and practically better, keeping the writing brain in shape - but in reality I prefer spending my evenings reading other blogs, messageboards, books (currently on Gunter Grass' The Tin Drum), drinking red wine, and going to gigs (on the few occasions I do so.)
There's also the small matter of my actual interest in any possible writing subjects. I generally have absolutely no energy to listen to the news, let alone get worked up about it - every night brings the same result, the country going even further to the dogs. My reading and listening (and that includes downloading) habits are such that I can barely give each new album much thought before moving onto the next - enough time to listen, not enough time to forge words. So, many posts continue to hang around on my hard-drive, perpetually unfinished - often because their premises were, on second thought, absolutely ridiculous and hole-ridden, sometimes because I simply don't know how to write them well, usually because I've moved on.
Most of the friends who I see regularly - more often than not, at gigs (the only occasions for which I seem able to leave the house, bracing walks and work excepted) are artists or musicians - both, in some celebrated cases - but I don't know a single other writer (excepting, of course, Frances, although I've never read her work). Not to pretend it's a valid excuse, but there's an immediacy to making music or drawings that writing lacks, completely and utterly. Writing is, more than anything, a process of construction, making something artificial, the creation of something separate from the writer. The self-alienating quality of writing is at its very core, and constitutes the most unpleasant part of the composing process: it struggles against its very existence, refuses to completely settle into the meanings with which it is identified. I feel almost completely disgusted with any piece of writing I do, as soon as I'm finished - I'm already pretty fed up with this one, and I'm not even finished yet. Writing a piece of poetry recently for an online interview with Warwick University was a process of torture: every line I came up with, I hated, but seeing as it fitted into the poem, and conveyed what I wanted, it had to do. I'm just about able to separate the end product from the unpleasant business of the process when writing reviews for publication, but even then the business is painful: working and reworking, starting again and honing further. By the time I send them off I'm usually sick of the damn things; it's only when I clap eyes on them in the magazine a month later that I can separate the two. It becomes another voice amid the clamour.
And that is, probably, the main difficulty I have doing any kind of writing whatsoever: the sheer superfluity of the act itself. There are so many voices out there doing this thing considerably better than myself, and doing it first. Open yr average magazine, and (if you're reading Plan B or The Wire) you'll immediately find someone writing much better than me, or (if you're reading Vice, Dazed And Confused, etc.) someone no doubt writing far worse, but with the ineffable confidence that bored affluence and status as 'media spokespeople' inspires. If I want to write something about an album I'm listening to, the likes of Dusted's Doug Mosurock, Jon Dale, or (to pick a name out of thin air) Ben from Stereo Sanctity, or K-Punk, make it essentially unnecessary for me to write anything. With any given release, my work will simply be following the opinions of others, usually the ones I first heard about the album from. Lord knows you don't have to read anything I might have to say about Gowns, because there has already been three good-to-astonishing reviews (inc. a live review by the inimitable Petra Davis - it's unlikely I'll ever even get the chance to see them, so what I might have to say on the matter is absolutely negligible) in Plan B. Anything I might have to say about the more-or-less ancient albums I'm still discovering - for example, John Coltrane's Ascension, which I got for Xmas - is buried beneath a avalanche of text from the last fourty years. I'm pretty much at the bottom of the pile when it comes to the writing talent at Plan B; my live reviews, compared to their average fare, is melodramatic, self-indulgent, relentlessly dull. This is what it means to have a life devoted to text, to words: a minor kind of suffocation, burial.
This isn't something I should really worry about at all - there's a lifetime of writing to be done. It's just an explanation. Expect more writing, though - I can't bloody afford not to do it.


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