04 November, 2006

Loose leaves

Paul Morley once wrote a magazine piece which, as much as for expediency as anything else, was entirely given over to the processes which he went through to complete the said article, down to the state of the used teabag he had placed on the side of a saucer when he typed the first word and which now, on completion of the text, was as useless and as barren as the gist of this incredibly long sentence.

For me, writing has always been as much a means as it is an end. Whatever I write is a struggle, because I always see it as more than simply the business of committing words to a particular medium. The way those words are assembled, for even the shortest of phrases, is I believe something that and should be imbued with the utmost care and attention.

You can evoke such rhythmical pleasures, such linguistic delights, such unexpected poetry and unforeseen music out of simply the arrangement of words upon a page. And once you know that this is possible, you can never not set out to try and do it again.

It's a lifelong commitment. You can't opt out of the practice of trying to achieve good writing, because your conscience won't allow it. The evidence will always be there, even if you throw the page away or delete the document, at the back of your mind. Moreover, it will come charging to the front of your mind as soon as you sit down and try to write again.

So whatever and whenever I write, regardless of the context, while entertaining as trivial a subject as the deterioration of a teabag, always ends up requiring an injection of substance and sincerity that comes through intelligent, sometimes over-clever, composition. And it is a blessing and a curse.

In my life so far I have written millions and millions of words. I hope that I will be able to continue to do so. Ultimately, though, words alone, just like ideals, won't pay the rent. Obsessing over a simile or a neat piece of symbolism won't fix that grouting around the bath or appease an empty stomach.

That most cruel of choices, between self-expression and self-sufficiency, plagues and persists from dawn to dusk. Maybe one day the ideal compromise will present itself. Maybe one day I will find myself in such circumstances where I live to work rather than work to live. Maybe one day I will go to bed happier than when I woke up.

Just not today.


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