But my comfort zone is so comfortable…

Oh, the bliss of a weekend at home! Which isn’t to say the past two weekends, out and about seeing friends, at weddings, having fun, haven’t been brilliant. They have, and now that I’ve run out of solid dates to be travelling across the country I’m missing everyone badly. But all the travelling and visiting and socialising is exhausting and I’ve been badly in need of a couple of days at home.

(Side note – I know there are people waiting for me to do some things for them, and I swear I will get on to those things this week. I just need one weekend!)

Three things this week that have involved stepping out of my comfort zone. First off: after a very kind offer of feedback on some of my poems a few weeks ago, I finally built up the courage to send three poems to my old uni tutor. I’m discovering that there’s varying levels of fear when it comes to putting things out into the world:

Continue reading “But my comfort zone is so comfortable…”

Friday night with Frankie and Johnny

Friday night and I’m at home alone watching Frankie and Johnny –  a film, appropriately, mostly about a couple of lonely people who have no one to spend the evenings with. It might be my new favourite film. Also I’m being unnecessarily dramatic about being at home alone – I was invited for cocktails, but didn’t notice the message until I was already home and settled, and the Coffee Monster is out watching Black Sabbath. We would have been seeing Neil Gaiman at the Barbican this evening, but did some ticket juggling and are going tomorrow instead. Continue reading “Friday night with Frankie and Johnny”

This is not a miserable diatribe, but it was close

Oh, hi, I didn’t see you there… no, no, don’t mind me. I’m just noting a few things down. I mean, I fully intended to just send you to other people’s writing this weekend, and not do a complete entry, but that’s a cop out, really, isn’t it? So here, have some of the stuff that’s on my mind. Why the hell not. Continue reading “This is not a miserable diatribe, but it was close”

The week that was

So this entry is actually last week’s entry. If I hadn’t made my own arbitrary rules saying I’d do at least one a week, I’d be skipping this altogether (rather than writing two entries in one weekend to make up for it, which is what I’m doing).

Thing is, skipping this entry – excusing myself because I was busy actually doing things rather than writing about doing things – would open the door to endless excuses and no writing for the ages. Which would be sad, given that this blog is almost at its one-year anniversary of regular writing. Continue reading “The week that was”

If music be the food of love, make jam

I wrote some really, truly terrible stories when I was younger. I’ve been going through the Folder of Old Stuff, which contains things written from age 19 or so upwards. I was looking for something in particular, but got bogged down reading, as you do. The folder is full of stories mostly written for creative writing classes at university (a very useful, career-oriented degree). I feel very, very sorry for my tutors.  Nicholas Sparks ain’t got nothing on me at my most maudlin and over-sentimental. Sledgehammer sentences abound.

Continue reading “If music be the food of love, make jam”

“What have you heard? What have you seen?”

I think I was 10 years old when I saw Edward Scissorhands for the first time.  I was young enough and clueless enough that I knew who precisely none of the actors in the film were. It was the first film that I can recall sweeping me up into the story and being really beautiful and really sad at the same time. It probably screwed up my perception of romance for life. I carried it around in my memory as a favourite for a really long time without seeing it again for years, before I obtained my own VHS copy (and later, inevitably, DVD.  Eventually I even had the chance to see it at the cinema). Continue reading ““What have you heard? What have you seen?””

Extra extra: Sinead O’Connor and Miley Cyrus (opinion)

I can’t believe I’m actually writing an entry about this when there’s a whole mess of other more important things out there, like, for example, every dodgy thing the current British government is saying and doing. But in the same way that a week of emails at work marked ‘urgent’, ‘urgent URGENT’, ‘URGENT URGENT URGENTIST’ has completely numbed me to the concept of urgency, so my sense of outrage has been completely ground down by current happenings on the political front. So where I used to get angry, now I just shrug wearily and think Of course they said/did that. Of course. And fret about who the hell I’m supposed to vote for in the next election. I’m seriously thinking anarchy might be the way to go.

Anyway. Because of that sense of resignation and inevitable fucked-upedness on the Important Things front, today, instead, I am getting my tuppence in on the Sinead O’Connor/Miley Cyrus shitstorm. No, I’m not linking to the letters, facebook posts or tweets – google away. It’s all out there.

I’m not sure why I actually feel quite strongly about this. I know two O’Connor songs and I couldn’t name any of Cyrus’s (though, yes, I probably have heard some of her stuff at the gym or something). So this isn’t a case of favourites. I’m a fan of neither.

Here’s the thing, though. I think that O’Connor, in writing that open letter at all, starts out in the wrong and then stays there. It’s concern trolling of the worst kind. I think that Cyrus’s twitter response was classless as well, but Sinead got in there first, so. To the bullet points!

– In its most basic form, what’s happened here is that a young, hardworking woman professed admiration and made a bit of a tribute to an older woman, only to have that older woman take to a public forum and tell her that she’s doin’ it wrong and compare her to a prostitute (the word pimp is thrown around a lot). It’s a presumptuous, patronising letter that implies she is being fucked metaphorically and literally by everyone and that she has no self respect. That sort of response from someone you admire would be bad enough, but sent out as an open letter? What a kick to the gut. It was harsh and irresponsible.

– If O’Connor were really that concerned about Cyrus that she couldn’t just shrug and take the intended tribute as a compliment, she could have skipped the ‘open’ aspect of the letter and contacted Cyrus privately. She didn’t. And I don’t believe that she wasn’t aware that posting a presumptuous and critical missive to the current pop culture scape goat under the guise of ‘advice’ would stir up a massive media shitstorm.

– Did O’Connor really think Cyrus would or could ignore that letter? Or read it and proclaim that, My God, she’s right! And abruptly change her ways? Of course she wasn’t going to do that. Cyrus is 20 and on top of the world and was just humiliated, in public, by someone she (previously, I’m guessing at this point) admired. I’m not defending (or condemning) Cyrus and her music or her style with the ‘Ah, but she’s just a kid’ argument. She’s 20, she’s a woman. But I will point out that I have known very few people who had their shit together and a solid sense of self at 20. Of those people, a couple had had their wild years by the time they were 17, and the others had various experimental meltdowns in later years. No one escapes a period where the world is judging them for their suddenly, apparently extreme, life choices. Everyone has a period of figuring themselves out.

– I am condemning Cyrus’s twitter response though. It was as low and graceless as O’Connor’s initial ‘reaching out’. And O’Connor responded straight back with the good old ‘you’re nothing but an ignorant prostitute’ argument. Neither of them are coming up shiny in this particular situation. It’s bloody ridiculous but could have been avoided if…

– O’Connor had just paid attention to her own 2012 album title and applied those wise words accordingly…

"How about I be me (and you be you)?" Yeah, about  that.
“How about I be me (and you be you)?” Yeah, how’s about that.

God knows you can’t expect other people to listen to you if you don’t follow your own advice.

Beautiful yesterdays

I’m 31 and I had never been to a music festival until last weekend. I’m not sure how this basic rite of passage slipped past me. Maybe it had something to do with most of the festivals I’d heard of being unappealing and unaffordable (tonnes of mud, disgusting toilets, bands I hadn’t much heard of or didn’t much care for) or else appealing but many hundreds of miles away, and therefore also unaffordable (Burning Man). Continue reading “Beautiful yesterdays”

Aimlessly creating stuff

Disclaimer – I wrote this on a train without wi-fi yesterday, and have come back to it about 12 solid hours of drinking and three hours of sleep later. So, typos, errors, no fact checking.

I’m a bit at a loss as to what to write in this blog these days. When I had a specific day carved out and it had turned into a basic training blog, it was far easier to ramble about stuff that wasn’t training when I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to be writing it. So expect no real direction or schedule to my writing for a while – it’s going to be as aimless and castabout as I am, for the time being.  As a result, I’m expecting my fairly steady reading numbers to drop, because self-indulgent twaddling is really for a private diary. I mostly wrote that last sentence as a challenge to myself not to write self-indulgent twaddling.

My spare energy at the moment is going towards song writing, which I haven’t worked at with this kind of energy and focus since university, when I had no piano access and knew three chords on the guitar. So my approach was to pick the chords I knew, and then wail over the top and maybe there’d be a song from that. My style was limited at best.

So, last week, I pulled out the various scrubbings and scratching of lyrics that have happened over the years and sat down and thought, Right, time to make something. Normally, I start and I write something I don’t like very much, and I can’t formulate a decent tune (or can’t get my voice to carry the tune I want) and then give up for another year. This time though, I gave up on using an instrument. I sat with a pen and the beginnings of a song and a crappy recording app on my phone (unfair – it’s actually decent enough, just riddled with adverts).  Then I scribbled and sang, and worked, and sang and drummed badly with a pencil, and lo, I had the bare bones of a still-needs-work-but-actually-I-like-it song. First full song in decade, written unhindered by which chords I can play on a guitar.

Then Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ speech reappeared on various social networks yesterday. It’s making the rounds again (if you’ve never watched it, see below). I love the speech. It is inspiring. 

It also got me thinking. Once this song is finished, what do I do with it? I mean, I can work on it (and others), and play it a couple of times, and maybe make a passable recording – but I have no musical ambition. What happens to a song that’s been written with no reason to be played? Maybe I’ll put it up on the internet, but I have no desire to have strangers tell me I can’t sing and shouldn’t give up my day job. Open mike is out of the question – I have horrible, horrible stage fright. Less so than I did, but no real desire to get in front of an audience, no desire to do anything with music other than write it and play it at home occasionally.

 

Which begs the question (overlooking that I’m hesitant to call the stuff I write art): is it worth spending time making art if no one will ever see it or hear it? Can anyone ever really be satisfied just making art for themselves, or does everyone really want their work to be seen and/or heard? I mean, isn’t that the point of art? I wish this blog had more readers, because I really would like to hear people’s opinions on this. It seems sad to work so hard at creating something just for it to vanish into the ether – something far more likely to happen to music than drawn art, since at least once a picture is drawn or a story written it is committed to paper and can be discovered. Music, though, unless you know your notation and can commit it fairly accurately to paper, if you don’t share it, then it’s gone forever – at least the song as you intended it to sound. It seems like a waste.

A drawing illustrating my general suspicion of enthusiastically sharing art.
A drawing illustrating my general suspicion of enthusiastically sharing art.

That’s ‘as you intended it to sound’ is modern concern, though. Back before regular and easy recording, music was far more of a shared, but personal thing. It was always a form of collaborative art. Last year, Beck released a folder of (beautifully presented) songs in sheet music form (complete with parodies of the adverts that appear on the old sheet music you can still find in second-hand shops and some music stores. I haven’t checked whether the album version is released yet (I believe one was/is planned), but the point was to hearken back to the days when this is how music spread: there was no definitive version of a song. There’s also a website with people uploading their interpretations of the sheetmusic. The point is, once a song, or instrumental, was written and committed to paper, people took the penny sheets and performed the pieces how they thought they ought to be sung with whatever instrument they had to hand, and through that interpretation made the music personal to them. Maybe they heard somebody else sing it like that once, but music belonged to the masses. If it sounded the way the singer or player wanted it to sound, that was ‘right’. The writer’s intentions had fuck all to do with it by then. To steal from a different discipline altogether, the author was well and truly dead back then. Recording and publishing, I suppose – selling the finished item rather than the building blocks, made things more exclusive for a while. They fostered a right and wrong way to approach things that hasn’t died off, but thanks to the advent of digital production, youtube, blogs, is on the way out.

Which brings us to the internet and the amazing collaborative projects available out there now. I guess there’s no such thing as wasted art if you have the guts to fling it out there. Someone will see it, maybe someone will love it. Sites are devoted to people sharing their work and building on the work of others. People do what they want with what they hear and see, if it strikes them, and maybe you’ll never know who wrote or drew the original version – but in someone’s life, it’s left a mark. The internet has, to some extent taken us full circle – art belongs to the masses again. And that’s a good thing. It’s just a case of being brave enough to join them.