Friday, 29 July 2011

My name's Andrew,I have a fetish.

I’ve been writing for years...years, and years, and years. I’ve most probably lost more writing than I’ve actually got stockpiled. I’ve never really sent anything for publication or consideration. That is, apart from one short story that won a BBC competition. It’s never been about the publication, it’s always been about the writing, about the process, the way the world closes off and you’re in the page. Hell, the way you can make yourself both laugh and cry as you’re busy putting imaginary lives on paper. I think it’s an obsession. My wife thinks so. But that’s all for blogs to come, this blog’s dedicated to my fetish.

You see, if I’m obsessed with writing, my fetish is procrastination. It’s something I’ve realised recently. Well, that’s not very honest. My procrastinating practices have been going on for some time. Like any fetish it’s something that’s built out of habit. The problem with a fetish, the fetish takes over, it’s always there, this dark place you know to be bad, you don’t talk about it, you hide it, do anything but admit it’s where you’re at. The problem is, the problem that I’m admitting to, the fetish is getting in the way of the obsession.

If I go back, way back to when I was eight or nine, the boy in school who had extra reading, who couldn’t quite understand how others could get this maths and reading thing, and then couldn’t understand why everyone else found the drawing and craft things so hard. Right around that time my parents happened to read a newspaper article about dyslexia. They went through the signs and symptoms, put little ticks against each of them. Mentioned this to the school. The school said, no such thing. What would a school know? Through the dyslexia association my parents found a private tutor. I had the tests. I had them all. Back then, they were the only tests I’d ever passed. Your son’s dyslexic, said the private tutor. The school did their own tests. I passed those as well. I got quite good at passing tests.

The dyslexic label changed my life. The private tutor showed me how to take all the indecipherable rubbish taught in schools, and turn it into something I could understand and remember. Okay, I had a battle with a new school that pushed me into a remedial class because of the label. But, those were the eighties. Things in education have changed – thank god.

The biggest thing to come out of all that dyslexic tutoring, the best thing, the tutor introduced me to books. Not those Peter and Jane, Janet and John, books the schools never let me progress from. No, the tutor wanted me to try and read books suitable for my age. It was a struggle, took some time, but, what do you know, books have stories. All those pictures I could see in my head and draw, well words could build those pictures too, words could make those pictures move, words could take you to worlds far away, and words were bloody wonderful. It was a new world. It was a world I wanted for myself.

That’s when I started to write. With pen and paper I filled exercise book after exercise book. I remember filling four books over one weekend and handing them in for English homework. The teacher read every single page. Is that a true story, she asked. No, imaginary, of course. She said my spelling needed work. If she’s still alive, I think she’d say that now. Andrew, your spelling needs work, she’d say and smile then ask, is this a true story? God I hope not, I’d say, I hope life’s fairer than that.

My writing switched from pen and paper. I went out and bought an electronic typewriter. I typed reams and reams, story after story. I typed short stories, and a couple of novels.

My writing switched from the electronic typewriter. I went out and bought my first computer. The computer had two great big slits in the front, slits big enough to receive five and a quarter inch floppy disks. I had to go and get me a printer as well. I typed page after page, filling that black screen with green text. If I swapped out one of those floppy disks for another, what you know, the computer would even run a spell check for me. Technology, it’s bloody amazing.

Computers got faster, got themselves colour screens. None of this green text on black anymore. Now you could have yellow text on blue (wonder if that phase is why I wear glasses now?). And, with MS Word, you could spell check without having to change the disks around because, now, there were dedicated hard disks inside the computer. I typed page after page, filling up those white pages with black text. My typing got up to around 120 words a minute. Things were good.

It didn’t last.

Something happened.

Computers had themselves a connection on the back. The media buzzed about something you could plug into that connection. This little device that buzzed and pinged, popped and crackled. Some electronic wizardry to connect you to this thing called the World Wide Wed. With an acronym and a dot, you could traverse the world. Soon this company called Google came along. My fetish developed nicely, thank you very much.

It wasn’t page after page I wrote. It was the occasional page. But, I was sitting in front of the computer, so that was the main thing. Word was open in the background so, really, I was writing all along, wasn’t I? Turns out, no I wasn’t. New web pages were springing up, thousands a day, always more banality to find. I had a fetish for turning blue links purple, one after the other, after the other. I read about writing, I read a lot about writing, I joined forums about writing, and I wrote that I was writing, and posted that I was writing, while all the time not writing.

It wasn’t simply a fact of not writing, the word processor brought with it something neither paper nor typewriter had...the constant edit. On a computer you can read over everything you’ve written, and you can hone it, and you can clip it, and you can shuffle it around, and you can do this constantly, and you think you’re writing, and you convince yourself you’re writing, you tell people you’re writing. You’re not. You’re nurturing that procrastination fetish. Because, while you’re constantly editing, you’re posting that you’re writing, and you’re off following those links about writing. But, now, it’s not just links. The big ole WWW dot has gone social. Now you want to know what everyone else is doing, everyone, even that person you met at a party – how many years ago – the one you friend requested when you were drunk, the one you don’t want to de-list because you don’t like doing that, you know how much it hurts to be de-listed yourself. You even read updates from people you don’t know, because, somehow, they’ve made it to your friend list but, who are they? They seem to have the same school friends as you. Were they in your class? Worst, do they know you but you daren’t admit you don’t know them...the social stigma of it, eh?

Procrastination’s a fetish, a fetish nurtured by technology, fed by technology, rubbed, suckled, and stroked by technology. Procrastination’s masturbation for the mind.

I’ve had enough. I’ve made a stand. Yeah, I live technology, I love technology, I consume technology. But, I’ve had enough all the same. I want to write page after page after page. I want to build worlds. I want to populate those worlds, and get that population doing stuff. I want to write like I used to write. I want to write reams and reams. Fill book after book. Use up the pen and replace it with another so the ink comes bold and strong.

So, I’ve done it. I’ve left my high-tech writing tool of choice and gone all analogue, all 80’s retro. I’m in aeroplane mode. I write on dead trees (paper made from pulp sourced from managed forests, of course). And, I’ve never written so much in twenty years. The buzz is back, the hunger returned, the obsession shines above the fetish. The fetish is locked away in the dungeon, obsession its keeper. What you know, you can take paper and pen anywhere, write anywhere, there’re no batteries to fail. It’s that first draft I want, that elusive first draft that needs capturing and taming. So far, this whole pen and paper retro thing’s doing the job. The fetish is dead, long live the obsession.

I’m off to write, real writing done with pen on paper. Publishing’s gone all ebook, and it could be the writer’s world out there. But, that’s another post...