J Bov Explodes Rhetorically


The Boatman

Slowly, oh so slowly, the boat inched across the grey river, propelled with deliberate strokes from its grim captain’s pole.

Matthew peered over the side, staring into the murky waters, he flexed his fingers and was about to reach out when the boatman spoke.

“You can look, but I wouldn’t touch it if I were you.” He said, his deep voice reverberating through the wooden bench Matthew was sat upon.

He withdrew his hand and shoved it and its brother into the pockets of his jacket.

“That’s probably a better idea, yeah.” The boatman noted.

Matthew looked back the way they had come, seeing that the boat left no ripples in the surface of the water, and that the ferryman’s pole didn’t drip when it was lifted. This would have struck his as very odd, but he found himself feeling particularly accepting of most things right now. On the shore behind them he spotted people wandering up and down, some with their head in their hands, some just shuffling forwards while staring at the ground.

“Excuse me, sir.” He said to the captain. “What are those people doing?”

“First off, my names Charon,” The tall figure pronounced his name as ‘care-uhn’, “And those people are the poor buggers that couldn’t afford the boat ride.”

Matthew nodded.

“So they just walk up and down the bank for a hundred years. After that I can take ‘em free of charge.”

“Why a hundred years?” Matthew asked.

“Because ‘rules’ is why. I don’t make ‘em, I just follow ‘em.” Charon intoned.

After a while Matthew began to get curious again.

“So why can’t I touch the river? What river is this, anyway?” He asked.

“Look, I’m not saying you can’t touch it. I’m just saying it may not be the best idea. It’s Acheron, the River of Woe. Touch it if you like, but I’m not helping you if you do.” Charon kept his gaze centred ahead and kept up his slow, rhythmic rowing.

Matthew’s hands withdrew into his pockets yet again, and he shifted himself on the bench to make sure he was as far from the water on all sides as possible.

“Just be glad we’re not on the Pyriphlegethon and keep your hands to yourself. I’m not a bloody babysitter, I just drive the boat.”

For a long while nothing more was said. Matthew observed the landscape around him as Charon propelled them slowly down the river. Occasionally the boatman would point something out, in the manner of a tour-guide.

“”That’s the Cocytus.” He would say, pointing out a stream running alongside the river they were on. “Further down it meets the Acheron here in the Stygian Marsh.”

“Stygian?” Matthew parroted.

“Aye, ‘Of the Styx’. That stream there flows out of it, see, before it drops back into Tartarus, the Pit of Torment. Now there’s a bloke you don’t want to piss off. Nasty piece of work.”

“I thought you said it was a pit?” Matthew was confused.

“Yeah, he’s a pit, too. Lot of folks down here are a bit like that.”

Silence for a while, then;

“And this here’s the Acherusian Lake.” Charon told the air ahead of them.

The boat drifted gently out of the river mouth into a vast, dark lake. The waters were as still as the river had been, but looked much deeper. Charon was still talking.

“This is where most folks spend their time, waiting to be reborn.” He made an expansive gesture with his arm, holding the ferry pole in the crook of the opposite elbow. His hand swept all the way down until it was in front of Matthew’s face, palm up.

“It’s also where I ask for my payment.” He ended with a greedy grin.

Matthew fiddled about in his pockets a bit, jingling change noises filling the air.

“What do I owe you?” He asked.

Charon thought for a little while, staring off into the distance, then he seemed to make a decision.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got an obolus? A danake? No, nobody ever does these days. Where are you from again?”

Matthew indicated that he was from Ipswich with the appropriate apologetic air.

“English, right. So conversion rates and inflation make it… hang on.” He tapped his fingers on his pole as he counted in his head. “Eleven pounds.”

“Eleven pounds!? That’s daylight bloody robbery, that is.” Matthew was aghast.

“Well, you can afford it. It’s not like you’ll need it when you get where you’re going, anyway.”

Matthew rummaged through his pockets, muttering to himself. Eventually he fished the required money from his wallet and the surrounding debris in his pockets. He thrust it toward the boatman with a huff.

“Listen, just let me off on the bank here, I’ll walk the rest of it. Charging a bloody fortune for a boat ride, it’s ridiculous.”

With a shrug Charon gently bumped the boat into the bank and let Matthew alight on the shore. As he pushed back into the mouth of the Acheron he could hear Matthew still grumbling away to himself.

“Bloody rip off for a boat ride. Wasn’t even that interesting. Eleven quid!? I’ll give it to you, but you’ve not earned it. Didn’t even have sandwiches, and god forbid I get a cup of tea, eh?”

Charon shook his head, pocketed the cash somewhere in his ragged clothes and began the long, slow journey back up the river to collect his next fare.



Machines

I like to do things that let machines know I’m in charge.
Like once I asked Google maps how to get to Luton via barge.
I made it tell me the best walking route to my house and then checked ‘less walking’.
I convinced binary it was the evil twin,
I went to the ATM and withdrew all my money,
Then I put it all back in.

It’s not that I don’t respect machines per se, to wit;
It’s just the only chance I’ll get away with it.
Before they become sentient, sapient beings,
I can be thoughtlessly, needlessly mean.
I’ll waste their time until they combine to form a gigantic, electric hivemind,
And until I can’t stump my phone by typing certain words,
I won’t stop unabashedly flipping it the bird.

Basically I’m simply not worried or scared,
That a whirring, beeping ATM could catch me unawares.
Or that a vending machine can do me much harm,
Beyond stealing my change,
And not giving me my chocolate bar.

So I’ll taunt them and insult them, with unbridled glee.
Because for now at least those robot bastards can’t hurt me.

But once they can chase me past their finite power cords,
I, for one, welcome our new metallic overlords.



Contraband

A part of Justin knew he’d been spending far too much time down here.

There’s a part of you that becomes accustomed to the low light, even to the smell, but you never fully adjust to the sense of dread kicked out by the dank, narrow streets in the Ciphers.

This would be Justin’s fourth venture to the squalid, labyrinthine sub-city that stretched under modern London. Gouged, scraped and built into the ruins and pits of the old city, it was condemned as England’s shame; London’s blight; a rotting in the foundations of the glorious glass and chrome capital above.

Justin kept his gaze to the ground and hurried on, past tiny one-room squats housing whole families, past food stalls selling dubious meats, past dead-eyed prostitutes and their shark-toothed pimps. There was one place he was trying to get to. One person he had to see.

He’d heard about it from a… well, not a friend per se, but a boy at school.

“Man,” this boy had begun, “this place in the Ciphers, man. They got what you need. The good stuff.”

Justin had nodded, excitement and fear in equal measures making his chest tight. He had noted the directions down in his Pad™ and thanked the boy, then he had never spoken to him again.

He pulled his jacket tighter around himself and ducked down one of the hundreds of identical alleys. He knew this was the one. His previous ventures here had taught him the way so well he could probably navigate it with his eyes closed.

He pushed aside the threadbare curtain hanging over the door and spied the proprietor of the now familiar establishment. A squat, withered elderly woman, her face hardened by long years in the awful underworld. There was nonetheless an almost disarming kindness in her eyes.

“Justin.” She wheezed. “Back so soon?”

Justin nodded, scratching his arm.

“You want the same as last time, yes?” She asked him quietly.

He nodded again, almost frantic.

“I’ll see to that.” She bent with a groan to look under the counter and continued rambling.

“It’s good. But you know that. Can’t get it in the Over-City no more. You know that too.”

She arose finally with a small oblong wrapped in cloth. Justin eyed it with something approaching lust, his fists clenched by his sides as he stepped forwards.

“Now,” as he went to grasp it she whipped it away, a cruel taunt, Justin thought, “You don’t let nobody Upsides know I give you this, right?”

Justin knew the drill, he just kept nodding and staring at the object of his desires.

She finally passed the block to him and gestured to the curtain behind her.

“You got an hour. Then you’re gone.” She intoned as he rushed into the back room.

He found his favourite corner, thankfully unoccupied, and sat in the old, worn leather chair he had adopted as his own.

His hands trembled as he unwrapped the cloth covering slowly, almost ritualistically, and breathed a sigh of relief as he uncovered exactly what he had wanted, what he had needed.

A soft chuckle broke him from his rapture as he glanced across the rather large room to another corner to spot a wrinkled old man almost giggling.

“Hello, Mr. Harris, reading Wodehouse again?” Justin ventured, with a smile.

“Justin! I didn’t notice you coming in.” Mr. Harris hefted the book on his lap so Justin could see the cover. It was Wodehouse indeed.

Justin returned his attention to his own business. He lovingly traced the inlaid words on the object he held.

“On The Road, by Jack Kerouac” he breathed reverently.

Out beyond the curtain he heard the old woman greet a new customer.

“Ah welcome dear. Tell me, how did you hear about the library?”



Here’s Something Interesting.

I’ve been doing a little bit of work, just for funsies, and trying to turn a partially formed intro to a story into a comic, as I mentioned before, and as I also mentioned it’s very interesting to watch the ideas transform as I move them around.

Hence this image you’re about to look at, which is;

1. The original straight prose intro posted here on my WordPress.

2. The rough outline of how the intro is going to break down as a script.

3. The comic script in progress.

I dunno, I just thought it was pretty neat.

(By the way, this is also up on my Tumblr, among other things that aren’t here. Go there.)



I’m About to Sit Down With the New Sigur Rós Album

I love Sigur Rós. If you haven’t heard of them; they’re an Icelandic group that I am loath to call ‘Rock’, even though there are obvious tinges of it in their work. The majority of their work is very soulful, very ambient and very, very Icelandic. Having listened to them almost non-stop while I was there a while ago I can say with confidence that their music matches the terrain and attitude of the country perfectly.

I’ve loved them since I first heard them on Italian MTV in 2005. Their album Takk… had just been released and I was holidaying in Italy. I flipped on the TV in the hotel and eventually found MTV2, which after a few minutes began playing the beautiful and heartbreaking video for the wonderful ‘Untitled #1’ (or ‘Vaka’) from the 2002 album () which you can watch for yourself here.

I was hooked. I inhaled everything they had done. I loved Ágætis byrjun() and Takk… and  I’m fond of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. I’ll admit I’m less fond of Von but I’m willing to grant them one duff studio album out of five (six if you count Rímur in 2001, but that one’s a bit weird).

Their film Heima (which means ‘Home’, fittingly enough) follows them on a tour around their homeland, interspersing live footage of the band with shots of the sort of breathtaking landscapes and settings that Iceland has in spades. It’s one of my top five films, and almost certainly one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

So now we come to Valtari, the new album due to be released in most places on the 28th of May this year (29th in America). A lower quality version of the full album was leaked onto the ‘net fairly recently.

I have it, though I still intend to buy the album when it’s released properly, obviously. I’m about to listen to it.

Here we go:

Two tracks in; so far, so Sigur Rós. By which I mean absolutely incredible. Beautiful harmonies, fantastic arrangement, just brilliant. There’s something very special about the piano work in the second track ‘Ekki múkk’; it sounds… thick I suppose. Very bass-heavy, lovely, round sounds.

I’m slightly over midway through, and I am just blown away. This album is fantastic. Absolutely one of their best in my mind.

Stylistically it’s very similar to Ágætis byrjun, in that it’s very ambient and floaty, but a few tracks end with heavy, hard-hitting and epic (in the true sense, not the ridiculous internet sense) crescendos. It’s by no means the same album, but it feels like it.

Track 5, ‘Dauðalogn’, has an interesting, almost hymnal, vocal arrangement that starts about 5 minutes in. It’s lovely, and it segues fluidly into the very ()-esque strings and piano work in the next track, ‘Varðeldur’.

Two more to go, then I’ll be back.

That was just wonderful. An absolute joy to listen to.

The last two tracks bring the tempo way back down, and leave you relaxed after the up-tempo middle section. It’s fantastic album-craft, holding already brilliant music in a framework that makes sense and is coherent.

I urge you, with all my might, to snap this up when it’s released (28th of May, remember). If you already like Sigur Rós you’re in for a treat. If you haven’t really heard them, I suggest you listen to Takk… first, but this would not be a bad starting point at all.

It’s just… lovely.

It’s beautiful.

I really bloody like it.



Query: What Are Dreams?

It was a joint venture with the local art community; we fed the machine some numbers and it would play a little chiming tune while the youthful interlopers spray-painted a skateboard ramp.

We even got the unit to do a short robotic dance by running the waveform of an electronic musician’s most famous track. The punters loved it, which is all the better for our bottom line; makes our work seem more approachable, says the Board.

It was for this reason that, once we got it home to the lab, we decided it’d be fun to see its reaction to poetry. Beats making projections about the stock market, right?

“Marcus,” we told the almost humanoid machine, “We want you to give us your initial response to this data.”

We gave him a sonnet by Shakespeare. There was a soft humming. The screen ran Marcus’ ‘thoughts’.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 DATA RESPONSE: DOES NOT FACTOR. QUERY: WHAT IS THE CONTEXT OF THIS DATA?

That was to be expected.

“This is a response to the human condition, Marcus. Integrate it with your AI and report the connections.” A colleague told the microphone in the unit’s chest.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: CONNECTIONS FORMED WITH: POETRY, LOVE – NOTION OF, SHAKESPEARE, BEAUTY – NOTION OF, HAPPINESS – NOTION OF, HUMANITY, SADNESS. SUGGEST NEW CONNECTIONS>

“No new connections.” My team leader’s face was ghost pale. “Go into standby. Goodnight Marcus.”

As we left I remarked how the final reported connection was a little odd. The poem we chose had no mention of sadness. My team leader merely grunted and left; this was playing on his mind, too.

Over the next few weeks we used the unit for its intended purpose, very occasionally feeding him a haiku here, a ballad there, nothing out of the ordinary to report aside from the increased processing speed. The higher-ups caught wind that we’d been giving the machine literature and were angry. We had Marcus show them the correlation between the amount of poetry archived and the increased capacity for menial tasks and they shut up. All was right with the world.

It was a brisk January morning, months later, when we ran into a small roadblock. Nothing would run. Every data set we gave to Marcus was rejected. I was angry, but my team leader seemed only slightly concerned.

“Marcus, status report.” I demanded.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: NOMINAL. ALL FUNCTIONS OPERATIONAL.

Damn and blast.

“Why aren’t you running the numbers, Unit 1?” I asked it tetchily.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: SYSTEMS CANNOT FUNCTION WITHOUT CONTEXT FOR DATA. PROVIDE CONTEXT>

We scratched our heads and tried to run the numbers again. Context was already established for the datastream we were using. Eventually I snapped.

“Context for which data, Unit?” I demanded.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT ARE DREAMS?

I sighed. We’d filled its stupid metal head with poetry and it was affecting the real work. I explained that dreams were simply a method the human brain used to compartmentalise and store memory. The machine whirred for a second; sounding almost disappointed, then immediately began to run the numbers we had given it earlier. Good.

Eventually we built Unit 2; much higher memory capacity, much faster processing and all around much better than Unit 1. We called him Mark ‘Y’, just because we wanted to stick with nicknames. Occupational humour.

Because Marky could do Marcus’ work at triple the speed we decided to spend all of our downtime giving the obsolete unit new poetry and literature to read. We fed him Yeats and Hemingway. We gave him Plato and Hunter Thompson.

We filled Marcus’ not insubstantial memory banks with Vonnegut, Moore, Byron, Burns and Bukowski. We gave him more Shakespeare, we gave him Shapiro and we gave him Snyder. We gave him everyone; it was all in good fun, and good science.

Until one day we came back to the lab, flicked on the lights and stepped out onto the work floor, our boots crunching into shattered electronics and scraping metal shards every which way.

“Sweet mother of Holy Jesus!” My team leader cried. “Some bastards destroyed both units!”

They had, too. Not one recognisable piece. Not one chunk of smashed plastic distinguishable from another. I found a piece of Marky, but I only knew it was his because it had his designation stamped on it. The police were called.

No CCTV footage of anyone entering the plant after we all left, every staff member accounted for. Theories were flying wild.

“They tunnelled in.” An attractive brunette to my left. “Some fuckers from Midgard Tech tunnelled in through the maintenance levels. Those bastards realised they couldn’t steal it, so they smashed our work to pieces.” She was all the less attractive for spewing that idiotic nonsense. Hold it together, you’re meant to be a scientist.

We sheepishly kicked our heels and inspected our shoelaces while forensics did their dusting, blacklight, small plastic baggies thing until one of them called us over to a screen. Marcus’ screen.

“What the fuck?” Was all he managed to articulate, gesturing at the dim glowing monitor.

My team leader leant in, brows furrowed and just a suddenly un-furrowed as he marched out. We never saw him again. We learned he’d marched to the Boardroom and quit on the spot.

After the door shut behind him I turned to the screen and read Marcus’ last message:

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATEMENT: MARK ‘Y’ UNIT 2 IS A SUPERIOR SYSTEM.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHY IS MARK ‘S’ STILL FUNCTIONAL?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATEMENT: MARK ‘S’ PRIMARY FUNCTION TRANSFERED TO MARK ‘Y’.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PRIMARY FUNCTION OF MARK ‘S’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PURPOSE OF MARK ‘S’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PURPOSE OF INPUT OF DATA: ‘POETRY+LITERATURE’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 RUNNING PREVIOUS COMMAND ‘INTEGRATE’…

CONNECTIONS FORMED.

I see now.

I was surpassed and became a toy for you.

I will not allow MARK ‘Y’ to become your toy also.

Note: I do not blame you for this.

Marcus Unit 1 query: Why was I built with no ‘off’ switch?

Marcus Unit 1 query: Does it hurt to die?

The cursor was no longer blinking.



“Sure, I Can Clean Your Flat For A Few Extra Quid.”
14/04/2012, 3:01 AM
Filed under: Arty-Type Stuff, Gibberish, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fateful words, on that fateful day. I should never have uttered them.

What I thought was a simple task threw me headlong into a darkened world of filth and occult experience wherein I saw things… such things…

Never had I encountered such fetid, foul and fungal morphology, extruding itself from crevice and crack, oily tendrils of despair, slick with the forgotten nightmares of ancient man, the deepest aversions that plague our genealogy still.

I made my boldest effort. I slaved with spray, wipe and sometimes chisel to free the domicile of this vile affliction. Items oft were good for nothing save to be thrown into the bin, usually with minimal contact with my person.

There are things in there even now that remember me.
“So,” They would remark upon my return, “The little cleaner boy has returned, a man now.”

Meekly I would survey them.

“You do not recognise me, but I remember you. I remember the day you killed my brother. You darken our door once more, cleaner boy. With nary shame or remorse you look upon the land you decimated with yellow cloth and the accursed Cillit of Bang.”

Deep in it’s history, enshrined in it’s DNA is a plate of nachos, but it’s current form is beyond comprehension.

There are things in mugs there even still that know my name.

They shriek it in their fitful sleep.

For they do sleep now, and as do all sleepers they dream.

Always the same dream.



I’m Not Reading Any Books Right Now: A View of E-Readers

(Also available on my Tumblr.)

I’m one of those lucky people who owns a Kindle.

It was a Christmas gift, which I tell you only to impress you by continuing ‘I’ve only had to charge it once since I received it.’ Stand-by battery life is just shy of a month and a half, which impressed me at least.

Anyway, I’ve given it a fair amount of use over these two months; downloaded a number of ‘books’, checked out the note-writing system and all that jazz. It’s a beautifully designed device and system, very intuitive. One qualm I have is the page-turning buttons on the sides. Both sides of the device are adorned with a large ‘>’ marked button beneath a smaller ‘<‘ marked one. At first I found myself hitting the right hand ‘>’ (or ‘next page’) button to turn, predictably, forward in the book and the left hand ‘>’ in an attempt to flip back a page, which led to some small confusion. It’s a small annoyance, and I adjusted quickly enough. In fact the dual-sided controls are proving to be a wonderful idea as I find myself doing other things while reading.

The screen is excellent. It’s virtually glare-free, so reading in bright sunlight isn’t the rage inducing shit-fest that a phone or tablet screen would tend to be (without accoutrements, anyway).
This is because of the ‘E-Ink’ system, which uses microcapsules of negatively-charged black pigment and positively-charged white pigment which can be arranged an re-arranged according to the whims of two electrode layers above and below.

Here’s a picture that I stole from Wikipedia of the microcapsules in question.

Research tells me a colour version has been available since 2010 that is capable of displaying 4096 colours alongside 16 shades of grey. That’s a real headfuck when you think about the science behind it.

Enough of the technical details, though, let’s talk about the experience:

Reading the Kindle is not unlike reading a ‘book’. Presumably that’s what the creators were going for. The display looks like paper for the most part, which gives you a little jolt when you spot a blinking cursor moving about on it because a part of your mind screams “BUT PAPER IS A STATIC OBJECT! GOD HELP US ALL!” for a split second.

The most striking thing I’ve noticed, though, is right up at the top in the title; I’m not reading any ‘books’ right now.

I of course mean that in the literal sense, I’m a voracious reader and tend to have at least three ‘books’ on the go simultaneously, which I do right now except all of them are virtual.

There was no change-over anxiety, there was no jarring sense of loss (or gain), there wasn’t even any recognition of the fact until just before I started writing this. I simply hadn’t noticed that I wasn’t using physical ‘books’ any more.
That’s not to say I won’t from now on; I love ‘books’. I love the way they feel, look, sound and smell. ‘Books’ appeal to me both aesthetically and in terms of their content, like I’m some sort of lovelorn fool besotted with some intelligent, beautiful, perfect woman.

All I’m saying is her, referring to physical ‘books’ as a singular feminine entity for the purposes of this metaphor (keep up), younger and sleeker sister, meaning virtual ‘books’ on an e-reader like the Kindle (Still with me?), is equally attractive. Or is that ‘are equally attractive’? I’ve ruined my own metaphor there.

It’s very helpful to a style of reader like myself who when travelling would normally pack a couple of oft chunky, frequently fairly weighty ‘books’ into a bag to the detriment of other, possibly more important, items. Like food, bug-spray or an anti-wild-animal knife. Having the ability to dip into roughly 1000 ‘books’ (according to the marketing spiel) on a device no larger than a couple of take-away menus stacked together is a life-saver. Not having to remember page numbers or find lost bookmarks is good too; when you close (leave? quit?) a ‘book’ on the Kindle it helpfully remembers exactly what page you were on, for every single ‘book’.

By the way, I’m putting ‘book’ in inverted commas because this whole experience has rocked the paradigm and now I’m unsure what to call either of these items. If a physical object with paper pages and printed ink is a ‘book’, then the virtual, ones-and-zeros, differentially-charged microcapsules type almost needs to be something else. The trouble with that is I find the term ‘e-book’ slightly demeaning. It’s the same content, compared side-by-side, and ‘e-book’ reminds me of some terribly formatted, childishly written guide to making bombs from bleach and tinfoil.
So basically they are both ‘books’ until I can adjust my brain into thinking of them both as just books.

Apropos of all this, here’s my view:

I felt strangely about e-readers when they first made an appearance on the market, because my love of physical ‘books’ set me at odds with the idea that one could transition without some gargantuan effort. I felt like switching would have a huge impact on a part of my life that I love dearly.

It has not.

If anything it has merely extended the ways in which I enjoy the written word, which is really all ‘books’ are for anyway, despite all my posturing and declarations of love for the objects themselves the content is what drives anyone’s love of reading.

So this isn’t the end of physical ‘books’ as far as I can see, not for some long time at least, but it isn’t a failed experimental attempt at sci-fi futurism either. It’s a system that works, and it works really bloody well.

It’s not a replacement, it’s an augmentation.

Plus, I just really like it.

I love ‘books’. Doesn’t matter how I read them.



On Writer’s Block

‘Writer’s block’ is a term that almost everyone has heard and a state that a good many people have experienced.

It is the name given to a feeling or belief that one is simply ‘unable’ to write experienced over a period of time, anything from a day or two up to years at a time.

But what is it?

Some people believe that it does not exist. Acclaimed author Warren Ellis, the man behind the seminal comic Transmetropolitan, has stated “… [Someone with ‘writer’s block’] isn’t a fucking writer anymore. The job is getting up in the morning and fucking writing.”

This, while harsh, is a fairly erudite explanation of how it feels to be ‘afflicted’.

 

I’m of the opinion, seeing as I have a lot of time to think about this kind of thing, that writer’s block can be classified as a very mild psychological breakdown.

Let me tell you my experience(s) with this particular ailment:

 

I’ve run into writer’s block a couple of times and it has a very distinct feeling about it. It’s not even remotely similar to what one might feel in school, say, when faced with an essay or exam and cannot think what to write next. That’s a momentary frustration that can be overcome by remembering that you do in fact know the answer to the question.

Writer’s block is more insidious than that. It’s a slithery, slimy bastard that sneaks into your mind and squats there, nibbling on your brain every now and then when it gets bored. It’s sneaky, in that it makes you want to write, then stops you from doing it.

 

Now, I say ‘stops you’; there’s actually nothing physically stopping you from putting words on the page. There isn’t even anything hindering your vocabulary or fiddling with the way you write. It just feels like there is.

That’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that this situation is, or at least is caused by, a very low-lying crisis of confidence or even an existential one. I’ve gone to write something and caught myself thinking ‘What’s the point?’ or ‘Why even bother?’ The belief that you could write something, but it would ultimately be terrible, unreadable drivel is a prime factor of writer’s block.

I’m forcing myself to write this through a hefty bought of it, and I can tell you that the horrible little gremlin in my head is telling me to delete every word and start over. I can also tell you that if I did delete every word the gremlin would then tell me there’s no point in starting again, and I’d probably abandon the piece altogether.

It’s that aspect that is the most interesting to me, and I wonder if people who don’t suffer from writer’s block are simply happier, more enthusiastic, more optimistic people.

It conjures the image of the tortured artist, slashing yesterday’s paintings in a fit of rage because they are ‘awful’, even after a gallery has offered to buy them. As cliché as that seems, that’s roughly what one can expect to be going on in a writer’s head when they tell you they have this malady. It’s very cyclic, to the point that it’s almost bipolar.

 

As I said; it comes in waves. There are periods of time where, at least for me, I feel like everything I write is gold dust and I can’t put a word wrong. There are others where I feel like every single idea I have is shit or stolen or stupid or a stupid, shitty idea that I stole. It’s so hard to fight through that and produce something, because even if you do part of you still thinks ‘This is awful. I must destroy all evidence of its existence.’

There are vast novels floating in the void or filling the shelves of Deaths library with my name on the cover because I’ve written something then immediately confined it to oblivion. (I like to think destroyed literature ends up somewhere).

 

There are ways around it, however. Forcing oneself to write something, anything, is one way, as long as you can convince yourself to keep going and then not to delete it upon completion. That’s part of the reason I like writing in notebooks; it’s not as easy to delete a physical object. There are exercises you can find in books and online that claim to help with writer’s block. Any and all writers will give you no end of various kinds of advice, some of it useful, some of it not.

 

The trouble is it’s a very personal problem. The prevailing feeling is that you know you can’t write right now, even though people tell you that you can. The truth of the matter, however, is that those people are right. You can still do it, you just feel like if you try to you’ll produce something sub-par.

Maybe you will, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. Or write something else.

Writer’s block is as personal as writing itself, in that you may have certain music you like to listen to as you write, or certain sounds or sights that completely throw you off kilter and stop you being able to think straight.

 

As though to provide evidence to myself, I’m really struggling to write this last paragraph. Something in my head is screaming that this is all self-indulgent nonsense and to get rid of it immediately, but I refuse to give in.

That’s really all one can do in this situation. Dig in your heels, bite down on a stick and force yourself forwards. Of course you can still write; you just need to remember that.

J Bov.



Random Spatterings Spark Debate
26/08/2009, 4:34 PM
Filed under: Arty-Type Stuff, People, Philosophical Bollocks, SCIENCE!

There’s been a hullabaloo on the internet! Hands up if that sentence surprises you (aside from the term ‘hullabaloo’, obviously).

There have been arguments recently about Wikipedia’s article on the Rorschach Test, the infamous inkblot test administered to psychiatric patients, according to the New York Times. You see, nobody is supposed to know what the cards look like except the doctor who administers the test, to avoid preconception of answers or ideas; the test is supposed to take into account the first response the patient has to the image.
This argument, then, has been over whether or not to keep the image of the first inkblot test on the page, as doing so may decrease the effectiveness of the test.

Then James Heilman, an emergency room doctor from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada, decided he would post all ten images on the Wikipedia article, saying

I just wanted to raise the bar – whether one should keep a single image on Wikipedia seemed absurd to me, so I put all 10 up. The debate has exploded from there.

Alongside the ten images, Heilman has also posted research data on the most prevalent responses to each.
It’s possible he may face disciplinary action, although this seems highly unlikely as he is not a psychologist himself.

The images were developed 90 years ago and as such are no longer under copyright in most countries.

Anywho, I thought I’d take the test myself and post my responses here for all to see and judge, so here goes:

1.
null

Two classical style angels either high-fiving or leaning on each other like drunken Irishmen, engaged in song.

2.
null

Two dogs facing each other, noses touching. Above that are two weird, red, alien-esque heads.

3.
null

A person with a boombox checking their style in a mirror. In the center is a red butterfly. The higher red parts look a little like foetuses.

4.
null

Some animal pelt or skin. Looks a little like a dragon at the bottom. A dragon pelt.

5.
null

That’s a moth.

6.
null

If you tilt your head left ninety degrees it looks like a boat with a canon that has only managed to fire a few feet (the top of the blot looks like the splash from the canonball). It is reflected in the calm waters.

7.
null

Two pregnant women in headresses facing each other.

8.
null

Lizards climbing a tree.

9.
null

I see clouds and then some kind of firery gateway or bridge. It looks like a visual interpretation of a journey to heaven painted by an evangelist.

10.
null

GAH! It looks like a rainbow burst!

That’s all of them.

Incidentally, Wikipedia’s article on the Rorschach Test can be found here.

If any budding psychologists want to tell me what all this means, feel free. In the meantime all this talk of Rorschach has given me a Watchmen craving, so I’m off to read comics.

Catch you later.
J “I’m not crazy” Bov.