Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Hello, jambalayas. Here's a little exercise from the online fiction-writing course I've been doing recently, just because I know I've not been giving this blog the attention it deserves. The exercise was about describing our ideal writing environment, and then an environment in which we'd find it difficult or bizarre to write. Second guy is a bit of a cheap Bukowski clone, but whatevs. 

Picture it: the quality of sunlight when you share the world with only insects, the nascent light filtering through the glass, the cottage still cold. Coffee sings on the stove. Karen is asleep upstairs, you can just bet doing that thing with her feet skewed out from the tangle of sheets, splayed like a spider. Let her lie. Down here the computer is on, but only so Stan Getz can play to the empty morning. You open your notebook and leaf through pages, breathing in the smell. The carpet is freshly hoovered, the floor clear. Open space in the middle, jumble around the edges: like your mind. The desk is wooden and ancient; it remembers. The chair is modern, though tempered by cushions Karen has knitted in Yorkshire wool. Post-it notes, colours sucked by time, plaster the walls. A newspaper-clipping photograph of a lonely Greek island. Smudged ash of incense on your arm. Soft pencils. Old mugs. The cat home from crepuscular wanderings, paws damp, eyes bright, mewling to be fed. Everything else in here is books.


Carl was three or five beers down and looking at an ice-cream cone upended and melting into the mud. Nothing sadder. The neon of the Screamer flashed in the distance as its left arm dropped. A maddened, robotic giant, beating the ground in forlorn death throes, Carl always thought. The smell of rancid burgers wafted.Yelps of kids, guffaws of teenagers scaring their dates. The grass was trodden away here behind the stall, and Carl's plastic chair was digging into the dirt. The magic of the carnival was gossamer-thin at best, but back here the veneer was non-existent. The utilitarian sadness of the insides of attractions, unfinished pine and leaking sand bags and old tins of paint. Carl slugged his beer, leaned back. The grease and astroturf and ticket stubs and scum of candy-floss were ugly, yes, but they were his ugliness, as intrinsic to him as the hair on his toes or the brush of acne along his brow. He needed it all, needed the dirt to write his dirty stories, so beloved of those small publishers in Europe. The glow from the burger van washed across the cheap notebook, and Carl bent to it. He'd be here all night.

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