Tag Archive: writing


imageWriting for a living throws up an odd dichotomy. On the one hand writing is at its best when it is left to go where it will, when you can let the pen guide you and take you places you might not have thought about visiting, like an endless train journey with each daily destination chosen at random. On the other, you need to earn money and so have to be discipline enough to follow a, sometimes very precise, brief.

The middle ground, however, is an interesting place. It is the middle ground where I do most of my writing, which these days generally falls into one of three areas. Music, travel and games, all of which, to some degree or another, allow you to build worlds in which your writing can flourish.

Music is easy, you are guided by the sonics but the interpretation of the music is the key and it is when you look for context in which to set the music that you find yourself building small scenes and scenarios to explain it, real or imagined. You can find new angles of attack and new arguments to make. After all, no one wants to just read a lame journalistic description of the music…and anyway, no-one has been dull enough to do that outside local journalism since 1987. A music review should be used to call the tribes together, to share the passion, to connect with like minded souls, a literary stone dropped into the still waters to ripple outwards, it should also tell the reader just why they need this record, how it will change their life, what the artist was trying to do, even if said artist didn’t realise that was what they were trying to do. Why you can not live without this album in your life! That’s the bottom line.

Also, any review containing the word Beatle-esque should be burned immediately…even if you are reading it on your lap top.
Travel writing might take place in the real world but it can heighten the focus of your attention to otherworldly altitudes. I was recently commissioned to write a series of articles designed to promote various locations in Montenegro to the western tourist. The resulting pieces were a cross between a TV travel show and a field guide to the less mystical parts of Middle Earth. Why describe and dictate when you can amuse and amaze?

Games writing is the best. When someone says to me, I have built these games mechanics for my RPG (sadly most are just re-inventions of the D&D wheel) but need someone to flesh out the world it is set in, my eyes…and occasionally my bank balance…light up. It’s like writing the background to your own novel without having to worry about a convincing plot line. I get to literally build worlds –  describe cities, explain the history of the place, set up backstories and complex political relationships, invent religions, evolve new races and fallen gods, narrate past wars and conflicts set to happen, travel the oceans and climb mountains. And with the next job I get to clean the slate and build a different one.

I think what I am saying is that even piece-work such as mine can revel in the extraordinary…if I get it right at least, words can build worlds. That’s a t-shirt slogan right there.

imageThankfully, my work is fairly flexible and although writing about the music and arts side of things has taken a dive, I have picked up a bit more work writing travel site content and particularly writing text for role-playing game and tabletop game components. I guess, certainly in the case of the latter, many of the people designing games are hobbyists and with time on their hands during the lockdown are getting stuck into their labours of love. And when they need ideas for quest cards, read aloud descriptions for dungeon adventures or even whole worlds created they come to people like me. Makes a refreshing change from waxing lyrical about Tel Aviv dream-pop or the latest low slung rock ‘n’ roll crew to be setting Minneapolis on fire.

Thankfully, the one side of my back bedroom empire which still functions okay is buying and selling records, which thanks to the post office still functioning (a massive thank you to them) means that I can still keep a few quid trickling in.

I was out today doing undertaking my early morning quest of dropping post off before hunting and gathering for Camembert, bacon and Shiraz…you know, the essentials…and Commercial Road (pictured) was wonderfully empty. I would have felt like I was in some sort of dystopian thriller if it wasn’t for the traffic wardens! Traffic wardens? Key workers? I guess now that every is parked outside their house, or at least trying to there will be a slew of cars parked in zones which are short stay or for which they have the wrong permit. Nice to see that the council have their priorities straight!

Banksy-Nighthawks-810x399Writing is a very solitary process that’s for sure. And as much as I like being the master of my own work space, that breaks come as and when I chose, that the coffee pot is three feet away from me and I don’t have to deal with any awkward encounters whilst waiting for the toaster to ping, it can start to send you a bit stir crazy. There has been more than one occasion when I am sat at my desk perhaps scribbling another short review of an American alt-country band who may not be quite reinventing the wheel but are reinventing Ryan Adams, and I realise that I feel off-kilter, ebbing and that it probably stems from the fact that I haven’t left the house for three days. Not good. It is at these times when I head into The Railway Town and find a place to be sociable (at a distance), get some air, a change of scenery and watch the world go by for a while.

It is usually an excuse for a fried breakfast and whilst there are some nice places to chose from I usually aim a little down market and head for Pappas. (You will have worked out by now that I’m using the Kerouacian system of changing the names of people and places, local readers will work things out, non-locals won’t care.) In my head, I’m a writer of note slumped over a plate of chilli, getting buzzed on black coffee trading quips and cigarettes* with Tom Waits (hence the title) in a late night Denny’s, in the early 80’s …and for some reason it is all happening in black and white. The reality is very different.

The reality is I’m surrounded by bald men in big shorts and Bench t-shirts having burgers whilst their wives bang on about the shopping, the housework, the holiday, the kids and every niggle in-between. At least two of the tables will be spouting Brexit rhetoric, deriding anyone who looks different from them, despite being in an eatery run by a Turkish family. There’s a table of white street gangsters, their whole speech pattern seeming somewhere between Hounslow and South Central…fa real, blud!…and between it all the botched and the bungled, the lost and disenfranchised all go about their unadventurous existence.

Still, they do a great bacon and eggs and that’s what really matters.

*I’d take up smoking just to compete the picture **

** I’d forgotten just how much fun footnotes are ***

*** I’ll stop now. 

They say “Writers write” a statement to the fact that you can only really consider yourself a writer if you are actually producing work. And write I do, music reviews and promotion, travel articles, local news, even content for games designers is part of my working day. But where as that is how I earn my living there are so many other things going on in my head, mainly inspired by my walks into town to get lunch that I thought, as a form of exorcism, I should use this blog as a receptacle for such wittering. It’s not important, I doubt if anyone really cares to read it but sometimes I just need to empty my brain of the niggles and nags of life so that in its uncluttered state it can world more freely.

Writers write…and so shall I.