Categories
Journal

Fuck Around and Find Out

The more you fuck around, the more you’re going to find out – a basic concept eloquently illustrated by a man with a graph. 

Austin Kleon shared this TikTok clip a while ago and captioned it “The creative process.” It is the simplest summary of creativity. You fuck around with an idea to find out what works and what doesn’t. 

Whenever I fuck around, I find out what I already knew but insist on forgetting time and again. I rediscover that novelty is always exciting, coming up with many ideas is much more thrilling than nurturing one, structure sucks and it’s far easier to start a new project than finish an old one. 

But whether I’m lacking self-discipline or I was just born this way, the challenge stems from an insistence on fitting a mould that wasn’t made for me.

Giving yourself permission to break away from the conventional and invent your own framework is something every creative must learn. Yet despite several years of writing experience, I’m still learning to trust my creative instincts and not rely too heavily on the affirmation of others. Whether that affirmation arrives via explicit praise from my peers or more implicitly through how closely it resembles what other art has come before. 

Not even my blogging or newslettering has been safe from such doubts. Taking inspiration from a range of content writers, I have tried several times to impose semi-rigid formats on myself. The goal was to create a familiar structure, easily replicated time and again, to gain your trust as a reader. The intention: every time my name pops up on your screen, you know what you’re getting. 

Only every time I outline a template for my writing, I become quickly dissatisfied shortly after its implementation. I find far more joy in creating structure than working within it. 

With this in mind, I’m going to try and throw out all attempts at a singular repeatable format and see what comes. And so I wanted to use this post to share a bunch of random things that have interested me in the past few weeks…

Categories
Reading

Recent Reads #1: Great science-fiction

In addition to my yearly roundup of favourite reads, I’d like to write semi-regular reading posts like this one when I’ve read a handful of books I’d like to talk about.

Originally, this was an excessively long post covering 10 books. But I’ve dropped discussing The Right to Sex here because I’ve already reviewed it, and I’ve chopped up the other nine across three posts.

For the first three, I’ve decided to group all the science-fiction novels I read together…

The Martian paperback cover with Matt Damon

The Martian
Andy Weir

When a book is described as “hard sci-fi”, I’m immediately put off. Stories with compelling characters are what draw me in, and a plot heavily reliant on talking about real science sounded like a snoozefest to me. But I had been assured that The Martian was a different kind of hard sci-fi, and I’m delighted to say those who recommended the book weren’t wrong. I loved this novel.

The protagonist Mark Watney is a funny, loveable guy with an infectious pragmatic optimism. When we first meet him, he’s alone and stranded on Mars. From the outset, his situation seems impossible to survive and it only gets worse. Describing something as a page-turner is such a tired cliché, but Weir does tension so well that I found myself speeding through the book because I was so eager to see how Watney survived the latest disaster.

I also loved the book from a craft perspective. We get Watney’s first-person POV via the logs that make up most of the book. But we also get a broader view of the narrative thanks to third-person perspectives from the Ares 3 crew and the people at NASA. It’s a style I’m keen to attempt in my own fiction writing.

How The Martian came to be is also an interesting story. From giving chapters away for free via his website to serialising the novel on Amazon to eventually signing a book deal and making the bestsellers list.

I’m making no commitments, but serialising a novel is on my checklist of things to do.

Categories
Journal

Sunday Sharing #10: Persepolis, Close to Me, blurring the lines between work and play and more

Christopher Eccleston and Connie Nielsen: the stars of Channel 4’s Close to Me

My last Sunday Sharing of the year (and potentially ever). I’ve got several other blog posts I’d really like to focus on this month, plus I’m considering a more flexible and interesting approach for next year.

As this is the last, I’ve packed this one full of content more in line with the fifth, sixth and eighth editions of this limited series. I hope you find it worth your while.

If all you’re interested in is the list of 10 things I wanted to share from the week, you can skip to the end.

Categories
Journal

Sunday Sharing #5: We All Hear Stories in the Dark, The End of Evangelion, The Nightmare Artist and more

Me holding the Limited Edition hardback collection of Robert Shearman’s 3-volume We All Hear Stories in the Dark

Trying something slightly different for this week’s Sunday Sharing. This post will be longer than October’s lists of 10 things, but if all you want is a list of reading/viewing recommendations then you can skip to the bottom.

Currently, these weekly sharing posts are experiments for me. I want to establish a regular writing habit that has something of value to whoever reads it. I enjoy the lists of 10 format, but I thought I’d revisit the structure of my first newsletter. Whilst I felt it was too long for an email, I figured it might work well for a blog post.

Plus, it would function as a weekly log of my work, which means I’ll actually have to work in order to log it.

As with the last format, it’s subject to change. This is an experiment for me to work out the best way to use this blog. Some might argue it would have been better to work it all out in advance, but I find it’s often difficult to see what’s shit and what’s gold until it’s in front of you. You have to try making something before you can judge if it’s a broken mess.

Categories
Journal

Ten lessons I’ve learnt so far from starting to write a novel

A month ago, I would not have envisioned even attempting to write a novel at this stage in my career. But then a literary agent asked if I had 25 pages of a work-in-progress to share, and I realised I wanted to say, “Yes.” So I’ve started to write one.

It’s very early days, far too early to share any concrete details publicly, but I thought it was worth writing about ten lessons I’ve learnt (mostly about myself) since I started writing it.

1. I’m not much of a gardener

My project has grown in the telling. Initially, it was conceived as a single short story. Then I decided to make it a trilogy of short stories. But then I had more ideas, so it became a collection of interconnected stories. It has now settled into its final form (I hope): a novel.

Therefore, I had a lot of key plot points and characters worked out quite some time ago. So I wrote my opening line—also worked out months ago—and I was confident a second line would follow.

Not only did the second line not come easy, but the next several were a physical pain to type.