Tuesday, May 13, 2014


The meme revival carries on apace as Philip Willey asks me to muse about writing (rather than blogging per se, I guess, although obviously the two overlap). The deal is that I answer four questions then nominate three people, so keep reading to the end to find out whether you’ve been handed the black spot.

Why do I write what I do?

I write different things for different reasons. Sometimes I’m paid to write and although I often have little or no say on what the subject matter is I do try to make it a bit more than mere hack work, although I may be deluding myself. The problem is that very often when the work-writing is done for the day I’m not terribly inclined to do any non-work-writing — and no, live-tweeting The Archers doesn’t count as writing.

When I do stir myself from this torpor, my main outlet is this blog, which I write simply to get ideas of mine out in the open. I’ve noticed in recent years that the communal, rhizomatic, conversation-driven spirit that encouraged my blogging when I started has receded quite a bit; it’s more a matter of putting up a discrete essay now and again and occasionally someone bothers to respond (and thank you if you do). Sometimes I wonder why I still do it. But I do still do it, which must mean something.

I do have about half a dozen barely-started novel(la?)s knocking around my hard drive, most of them with splendid beginnings, tolerable endings and a big gaping hole where the middle should be. Why do I (try to) write these, when the word on the digital street is that The Big Serious Novel Is Dead? Maybe because I’m and old fart — now officially in my late 40s — and still wedded to the idea that a book on a shelf is somehow more worthwhile than a fistful of ones and zeroes.

Back in the olden days, I used to write books and other things about popular music, but I don’t do that very often now. Partly because I’m less interested in it, but also because I get the feeling that people are less used to what I think about it. I’m not quite clear which came first.

Incidentally, this is a pleasant elaboration on the usual question – “Why do you write?” – to which the answer is essentially that I can’t really do anything else.

What am I working on?

If by “working on” you mean “things upon I haven’t yet quite given up” the various fiction bits and pieces include (forgive me if I don’t give away too many secrets) something farcical about a restaurant critic; something terribly postmodern with lots of footnotes about a book that doesn’t exist; something absurd about occupied France during World War II; and something a bit mid-life-crisis-y. Then there’s this blog post and further episodes of aesthetic edification in Japan, following on from the previous blog post. Well, you did ask.

What is my writing process?

It depends on the subject matter and the medium for which I’m writing but usually I write a number of subject headings – either on paper or directly into my laptop — then juggle them around until they achieve some sort of coherent structure. It’s similar to the initial sketches before you begin a painting. Once I’m happy with that I start writing.

How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

I’m not quite sure what my genre is, to be honest, but if you can be bothered to Google me, most of the references are to things that I’m written about music. So, looking back at what I did write when that could conceivably have been described as my genre, I’d say I rely far less on primary sources and interviews than other writers, more on critical analysis and theory with a bit of taking-an-idea-for-a-walk whimsy. I guess my approach owes something to the likes of Greil Marcus and Morley/Penman in their pomp. Of course this type of book is unpopular with those readers who prefer their books to be variants on either “and then Thom Yorke out of Radiohead did this and said this” and/or “and this is why Leonard Cohen is brilliant. The End.” Well, tough, frankly.

The writers I’ve decided to lure into this particular web are:

Madeleine D’Arcy, who writes short stories and used to say “aargh” a lot. Maybe she still does.

Ian Hocking, who writes SF sort of things and also teaches.

James Henry, who writes stuff for kids and stuff for telly, sometimes both at once.

No comments: