Monday, 25 January 2010

#6 - Life is Very Long (When You're Lonely)

Dear Morrissey,

I think I am wasting my time.

Lately, two lines have been rushing - like express trains - through my mind.

The first is from the American TV programme, True Blood. It is something one the characters, Tara Mae, a young black woman living in the South, says to a police detective:

'College is for white people looking for other white people to read to them. I thought I'd save the money and read to myself.'


And the other is from Good Will Hunting - specifically, the part where Will is challenged by a group of Harvard students. In response to their despicable cleverer-than-thou arrogance, he explains:

'... in fifty years you're gonna start doing some thinking on your own, and you're gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don't do that; and, two, you dropped 150 grand on a fucking education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.'


Sometimes, when I think about what I'm doing here, or about this creative writing dissertation I've lumbered myself with, it strikes me that Will Hunting is right. Wonderfully and heartbreakingly right.

Academically, I've learnt nothing at university that I couldn't have learnt by reading. On my own. For a few hours a night.

The Real World is waiting for me.

It's 'out there' - beyond the Butlins holiday camp that is Manchester Metropolitan University.

I have only a year left now.

A year to turn myself into a creative and original writer.

And the worse thing is:

I could have done that for free.

Yours Poorly (in Spirit and Soul),

Jack x

Sunday, 24 January 2010

#5 - Cemetry Gates

Dear Morrissey,

I am going to read a story out loud to some people.

I think.


I've booked an open mic slot at a reading night in town, and I intend to turn up and perform.

I think.


It's bizarre, actually, how alien standing up and reading something out can be to the writer. It's not as if publicly performing is literature's natural end-point. Most of the time (and this is both a wonderful and frustrating thing) a person writes down some words, prints out some words, passes the words on to someone else and quietly moves on to the next thing. They need never even meet the reader.

So why, then, do I want to stand up in front of a bunch of people I don't know (and some I do - which will be worse) and say unto them: 'Hullo. Sorry to bother you, but... I wrote a story. and for the next ten minutes you will have to listen to the story. I ask only two things: don't laugh and don't leave. Please.'

There are five possible answers to this question:

1. I want to be loved/adored/praised/talked to.
2. I think I have something interesting and/or important to say.
3. I want people to listen to me. And look at me. And like me.
4. I am a twat.
5. All of the above.

What do you think, Morrissey? Don't hold back. I won't be offended. Honestly.

Jesus. It's not for another week and already I am uncontrollably nervous. I'm not even sure what I am going to read yet.

Maybe I won't read anything.

Maybe the crippling anxiety and crushing panic will, at the very last moment, prevent me from sidling up to that stage, and to that microphone.

Maybe I will run away.

Maybe, in front of all those gathered, my throat will close up and I will be unable to speak.

Maybe I will die on stage. And not in a turn-of-phrase sort of way. Not like: 'How did Jack's reading go?' 'Oh, awfully. It bombed. He simply died up there.' Not like that at all.

I mean actually die. Literally. In full view of everyone. Like Tommy Cooper. (Is that insensitive? I don't mean it to be.) Expire. So that the following conversation might take place:

GIRL: How did Jack's reading go?
BOY: Oh, awfully. He had a heart attack and stopped breathing. It was horrible.
GIRL: God. Is he alright now?
BOY: No. He's dead.

I really hope this doesn't happen.

I don't think it will.

But you never know.

Perhaps I should have thought about all this before I booked the slot.


Jack x

Friday, 22 January 2010

#4 - Take Life at Five Times Your Average Speed (Just Like I Do...)

Dear Morrissey,

I fear I am in danger of living life entirely for cryptic crossword clues.

They are taking over. I am dreaming about them.

This morning I was dragged from slumber by the following words:

'No diamonds in Venice - time to get even?' (6)

All night, in a state of semi-consciousness and restless agony, those same thirty-one letters stalked the bedroom. Finally, at 5.47am, finding myself fully awake and already in motion, I pushed back the covers and headed for the kitchen table.

And there it was: yesterday's cryptic.

It wasn't until 6.23am - by then wildly caffeinated and buried deep in concentration beneath the dim light of the extractor fan - that I twigged.

Venice with no diamonds - no 'ice.' And time - 'age.'



A six letter word meaning 'to get even.'

It was too late to go back to bed. Instead, I waltzed - spring-heeled - to the newsagents and bought today's paper.


Crossword No 24, 914.

Set by Araucaria. The most impenetrable of them all.

It is presently 23.41pm in your homeplace, Morrissey. And it is here that you find me, still caffeinated, still haunted, with only five clues solved.

It's going to be a long night.

Love, Peace, Harmony,

Jack x

Thursday, 21 January 2010

#3 - If You Must Write Prose or Poems...

Dear Morrissey,

It is only five days until next I venture back into the writers' den.

And I have no idea what I'm doing.


It used to be so easy. Wrapped in a youthful, meloncholy candlight I would scrawl and draft and (barely) edit until what I had on those hand-written pages resembled a Stephen King novel, or a Tarantino screenplay. It was only when I realised - perhaps a little later than most - that originality was the key to an interesting piece of fiction that things started getting complicated.

Today, in the campus shop, one of the women behind the counter said to her colleague, 'Money doesn't make the world go around, but it helps.'

Well, I suppose the same is true of good, creative ideas.

They're not always essential.

But they certainly take the sting out of being boring.

Peace and Plagiarism,

Jack x

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

#2 - These Things Take Time

Dear Morrissey,

Woody Allen was right. The best an idea gets is when it's in your head. If it wasn't for these comforting and destructive words, I would have left university at 3.45pm today and returned home to write some actual real-life words.

But I didn't.

Instead, I headed straight to the union where - holed up in a window seat - I spent three hours looking over the Guardian cryptic crossword. I still can't do them. I'm not even close to perfecting their peculiar coded science. And yet, with cloudy head and cotton mouth, I dedicate these slow alcoholic hours to the pursuit of of a single answer.

I could be writing. Scripts or screenplays. Poetry or prose.

I am not writing.

When, finally, I stumbled into my bedroom, I sat at the end of the bed and wrestled the laptop from its carry-case to find the wires in a state of terrible disorder.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they untangle electrical cable. Some people find a thread and follow it patiently until there are no more knots; until order is restored. Me? I grabbed and pulled and tugged and forced before realising that a gentler, more considered approach was needed.

Writing is the same. I keep looking for a shortcut.

And there isn't one.

Yours Gracelessly,

Jack x