Work in progress

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

― Ira Glass

I think this phase may last quite a while…


Art as a life raft

I’ve always thought of literature and the arts as a kind of life raft. They help those of us less inclined to do well at life to understand the world, people, and ourselves. I used to feel comfortable with it, a part of its community, until I suddenly felt inept. Feeling so clumsy with words it seemed easier not to speak at all, I turned it in to a self-imposed disability – ‘I can’t write’.

What do you do when your life raft turns to rope that’s wrapping tighter and tighter around your neck? Prise it off and let it go, or choose to let it throttle you unconscious, numb you to any feeling too deep and too close to the core. I used to like maths because it never got too close to the core. I never cried at the sadness or beauty of whatever the hell X or Y turned out to be. You learn facts, processes; this happens, so this happens, then this happens. A1, B2,C3.  It follows on, it’s logical, it makes sense. It’s not at all like life. It tries to quantify things, but we haven’t got far enough to explain everything away with science and logic. As it stands, there are some things that we cannot quantify.

Literature and music and movies are here for looking at those illogical actions and feelings. Telling us that they’re okay, they assure us that we are not crazy. Maybe everyone’s kind of the same in a comforting sort of way. Maybe you’re not a social pariah. Maybe everybody feels awkward sometimes. No, you don’t have to know what to do when you’ve just accidentally insulted someone’s dead grandma or doodled unicorns on someone else’s textbook by mistake. You don’t have to know because nobody really knows, and it’s important that you at least know that. This knowledge is sometimes what makes people realise that they can speak out, go out, and deserve to live life just like everyone else. I wonder how many times someone’s come home from a party unkissed and, feeling utterly dejected, let How Soon Is Now rock them to sleep knowing they felt it too.

It is this universal feeling, our most basic wants that are addressed in the arts. This is why they’re so important; so that when we feel like wanting to be loved is asking too much, that we’re silly, that we’re so different from anyone else how can we imagine even having these things others have, we stop. We put on a record. Read a book. Watch a play, a show, a film.  We are reminded that we are a straight down, right on, fully-fledged citizen of the world and we are not alone.  For a brief moment we forget about all those equations and historical figures we don’t know about and the essays we are incapable of writing. I think that good culture might just offer us a snapshot of a feeling that’s a bit like love.

Man in the arena

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

The Woulds

A meeting place for those who

Wish to avoid meetings;

A mesh of colours with the pervading sense

Of nature, order, things being

As intended.


Greedily wolfed down by small, thoughtful

Walkers. A sea of kindred spirits wash

Over each other without a word.

Perhaps ‘morning’, a smile…

Mourning a smile.


A nod signals welcome respite

From their old herd.

Their ears prick up at sounds

Of the mother,

Otherwise unheard.

Baby pink

Wry smiles greet dirty little Jack home

A few shades browner than when he left.

Little girl dirties her dress; when in Rome…

Cleans herself up, quick, quick, must be deft.


Pinched cheeks. ’She’s spoilt for choice!’, they coo.

Staring at her toes, she nods the rose,

Every choice an illusion: his too;

Royal blue was not, once asked, what he chose


Petty talk of what’s proper, right and wrong.

None of what it’s worth.

Petticoats surround the golden gong.

Rose tinted glasses prized from pink hands at birth.


Health’s red cross, above her halo, crowning

Tall strangers squeal delight at teddy’s bath.

Caring nature, they take it, no clue he was drowning.

She could well be a sociopath.