Yesterday evening one of my friends, apparently having had a read through of the stuff I’ve posted up, asked a couple of questions about the stories and whatnot I’d written: “Where do they come from? I mean, the inspiration?”
When I sat down to reply, I kinda realized that to give a good answer (one that isn’t just a standard faux-wisdom-one-liner or somesuch bollocks), I needed to actually have a think. In the past I’ve thought about this for other people (it’s certainly a question that gets asked of artists a lot), but I don’t think I’ve ever tried to ask it of myself. I suspect the answer is (roughly) the same for everyone, but let’s have a looksee.
Actually, those are two quite different questions when I look at them. So I will try and give a good answer to them both.
Where do they come from, my words. The answer, in short, is from all the various parts of my mind. That’s an unhelpful answer. The more accurate answer is they come from everywhere. I read a lot, and have done for a long time. In the last seven years I have watched a lot of television. I listen to a lot of music. I speak to a lot of people. That’s not even covering walks I’ve gone on, memories of places I’ve been to and, basically, everything I’ve ever experienced in any way ever. There’s a saying that I might’ve mentioned before; “no one composes in a vacuum”. And it’s absolutely true. Everything I have experienced is, potentially, sloshing around in the back of my skull and at some point, in some way, it could interact with something else there. You’re walking down the stairs one day, and the slight body-shock of your foot hitting the next step sparks a thought about impacts. By the time you get to the bottom of the stairs you’re imagining a world without friction. Blam. This is how all of our minds work. Any thought, at any time, ever, could be important. In all probability, it won’t be, but it could be.
So for me, my City At Night thing was written, at night, when I was remembering all the times I’d gone on midnight walks when I was at university. It was my favourite time of day because everything was quiet, there was no one around. Those walks were usually when I felt safest, just walking along empty streets. The Acid Drip is a more recent one, I wrote that about a month ago when I was just having a batshit day, a day where my own brain was eating itself and I was wound so tight I was ready to snap at anything. I wanted to write something brutal, something visceral, anything to get the crazy out of my head. Sweat was written on a day where I really, really, really didn’t want to write, but I was forcing myself to because I kept not-writing, and I didn’t want to give up on it. I sat in front of my computer for about two hours, and I couldn’t think of anything at all to write about, and I’m pretty sure I was just staring at my own arm. So I wrote about an arm.
The other thing to remember of course, is that the only stuff posted is the stuff I chose to post. Sure some of it’s scrappy – I think Erin in particular is mostly bollocks, but I shoved it up there because it was fiction. What isn’t posted up there is all the diary-style stuff I’ve written. I haven’t posted all the of thousands of words I’ve written that don’t even make coherent sense, it’s just me desperately trying to beat my brain into writing something. I haven’t posted all of the stuff I’ve deleted over the months either, all of the stuff that got absorbed into something else that I have written. In short, I only posted the ‘good’ stuff. For every word I posted, there are three that I didn’t.
So my words, they come from everything I have ever experienced, blended and sliced and sautéed inside my brain until something, anything gets me to start spitting them out. The only difference between me and anyone else is that my experiences are unique to me, and the filter I viewed them all through are unique as well. But hell, everyone else has their own filters, their own experiences. You’ve got your own words too.
I think that (roughly) answers both questions, in it’s own messy way, so I’ll finish off with a more general point.
I think it is a hugely pervasive myth, a Hollywood-ism, this whole idea of a ‘flash of inspiration’ that makes everything else fit together. Sure, people do have breakthrough-moments, but it feels like (a lot of the time) we are sold the idea that when you have this moment, this mental-eureka, that everything else just flows and snaps into place. And that’s bollocks. Sure it looks good in a montage, maybe with some uplifting music, but it’s still grade-A balls. I object to it because it cheapens what happens after that moment you might have, which is namely that you have to work your arse off. For every good sentence you write, you have to write ten bad ones. For every mathematic equation you work out, you have to screw up twenty. Nothing just springs forth perfect, in anything. You mess up in a million different ways until something works out. Hollywood lies to you, and it’s fine for a film. But if you want to get better at anything, anything, you have to do it badly first.
For as much as we remember Archimedes for screaming ‘Eureka’ and running around naked, don’t forget that he had to have a lot of ideas that were complete shite before he got to that moment. Eureka isn’t the sign of a sudden, perfect solution that springs from nowhere. It’s the sign that you have finally hit upon something that works.