This is a truth I hold dear. Some people cannot write. In the same way that I cannot draw, some people cannot write. We can all have a game stab at it, throwing words out there into the world, but the truth remains: some people cannot write. Or rather, some people do not understand how writing works.
When you read something – anything – whether it’s a book, an article or even just an email, the writer is inside your head as you absorb those words. Yes, I am inside your head right now. Hello! Bit dark in here, isn’t it? You are reading my words, and my written voice is inside your head, right here, right now. If you’ve unavoidably failed to escape me in real life, then you might even be reading this imagining me actually speaking (for those of you who have been spared, my voice is actually quite small, bit of a Norwich accent, prone to breaking into a hooting laugh that’s as big as The Mane). I am writing these words to you, reader, whoever and wherever you are, distracting you from things you should really be paying more attention to. Sorry, I won’t keep you too long.
I was hoping to get away with not writing this next bit, but I’m lazy and can’t think of a way round it. People, some people, tell me that I’m a good writer. And I’m not being a faux modest twat when I say that I don’t think that I am. Because to me there’s no magical process that takes place. I don’t struggle and slave over this stuff. If I say ‘I’ve written something, I’ll edit it later’ what I actually mean is that it’s all written in a notebook already, or that it’s there, fully formed in my head, I just need to be poked into actually typing it. I don’t have an angsty tortured relationship with The Muse, I don’t have a writing routine (other than really liking to write in a pub), I don’t spend hours writhing in agony waiting for inspiration to strike, and I very definitely don’t have a writing style. I just write the way I think.
Yeah. It is honestly that simple. It doesn’t matter what I feel like writing about, or what thought has been bothering me, or what mood I’m in. I don’t rehearse it. I know I’m lucky in that I pretty much only have to write for me, I don’t have to consider an audience or use jargon or seek to flatter anyone. I’m not even writing for self-promotion, just for myself, just to verbalise whatever occurs to me. And sometimes it’s shit, to be honest. Sometimes it’s ok. Occasionally it touches a nerve with people and I get told I’m a Good Writer. Am I bollocks. I’m just honest.
And whilst I’ve got you here, I’m going to be even more furtherly honest, and admit that I can be a bit of a wanker about writing and saying that I have to write and that I feel like me when I write and I’m a nightmare to deal with when I don’t. The difference in me since I was gifted my beloved desk is noticeable enough to be remarked upon. Also, it does rather feel like the pressure cooker has blown as a result, so I probably will do a lot of navel-gazing selfindulgent tosser blogposts … because I can, now. And before you sneer and say I’m no better than the shit writers I frequently rail against and that this type of writing is essentially mental wanking with my pen as a dildo…. Mate, you don’t have to read this. No one’s forcing you to. Just close the tab. Kthanksbye.
One the biggest frustrations I have are pieces that…. Just sort of… well. Something that really annoys me is… I’m not sure. What do you think?
Yes, people who don’t have the courage of their convictions. Who have an idea, but don’t let it blossom. Who have a voice, but deliberately stifle it, for fear of giving offence, or only appealing to a few people, so everything's a bit watery, or even more annoyingly, not fully fleshed out. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – no one is ever going to achieve universal popularity. Not even Michael Palin. So why seek it? If you care enough to write about something, then care enough to deliver your message in full. I’m going to end this paragraph now before I add a picture of a snowflake falling over a rainbow at sunrise whilst a unicorn races past a shower of glitter confetti with comic sans lettering urging you to ‘Be Yourself. There Is No One Else You Can Be.’
Which sort of leads up to the point I was supposed to be making when I first started hammering this out. Writing only works when it’s honest and direct and written without a filter. I’ve spent far too much time in recent months reading pieces by Other People that leave me cold, unmoved, and frankly really rather bored. Because they are written always with an eye on who’s going to be reading, who do I want to see this, who do I want to impress? So the words fall down because they’re too carefully picked, or they’re not really what the writer was thinking, or they’re just strung together in a way that is too artificial.
There is no magic guide to writing. None. All there is is the voice inside your head that decides what you think and feel, your inner narrator. And when you read the writing of others, you are giving them headspace. And when I write, when I can actually be arsed to share what I’ve written* then I am, briefly, inside your head, providing the voiceover. That is all that writing is. A voice inside your head.
*to prove my point, I wrote this about six months ago, and only found it again today, having forgotten all about it. This happens quite a lot.