The Others in our Heads

At a writing event the other day, someone read something out during which the main character licks their third left molar ‘and does all the other things we do when we’re uncomfortable’. As the rest of the paragraph washed over me, I automatically licked my own (having calculated at lightning speed which molar the author meant; third from left, third from right?) and observed several others around me discreetly trying the same. Yes, we all agreed in silence while not meeting each others’ eyes; this is what we do when we’re uncomfortable. We lick our third left molar.

Details make for good writing, which is all about truth, whichever brand of truth particularly on offer.

I looked up a book today after a personal recommendation (a book recommendation is a sort of gift; it should never be fobbed off lightly) and read some online reviews. The book had been shortlisted for a massive international prize. ‘Boring boring boring’ said one dissatisfied customer under a 1-star review (zero isn’t an option, as another reviewer noted) entitled ‘Stupefyingly boring’; she went on to announce that she ‘will never again buy novels about men living inside their own heads’. At this point, and after some other reviews (some adoring, some more mixed) mentioning themes of displacement and genre-defiance, I was positively salivating and I couldn’t order it fast enough. Continue reading

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On showering; or how I hold the world together

Climbing the grand steps of self-labelling, there are many levels to nudge oneself through (one is both a person leading the horse on a piece of rope, and the horse being urged to proceed through each narrow gate) before one can truly feel comfortable calling oneself ‘a writer’. There is the ‘I’m not really a writer unless I have published my fourth novel and won another prize‘ brigade, and on the other side of the scale there is the horse-before-cart, self-actualising, The Secret-loving, manifestation-willing, glory-expecting camp of those who enthusiastically consider ‘being a writer’ merely to mean ‘sometimes I think about stuff and definitely will write some of it down one day; it’s gonna be good.’ Somewhere in between, there is this trusty landmark: you can’t call yourself any kind of writer until at least one person has asked you where you get your ideas from.

When some people shower in the morning, I imagine they think about the way the water feels, how they need to replace the shampoo soon, or what they’ll have for breakfast. On one level, I’m doing all this too (luxuriating in bergamot and orange homemade body scrubs, etc.; though I definitely have already had breakfast; I wake up starving each morning and have to eat immediately) but on another level, while the water runs over my body, I’m merrily and involuntarily living several other lives in my head like an absolute weirdo. Continue reading