thoughts about writing



Well, I'm bored – and you must be too, if you clicked on this, so let's go for a bike ride and talk about creativity, shall we? If you shit in the roses again, you're going back to Portsmouth. I don't know what that means, either. I love you !.. You will find endless resources out there about how to make and edit videos, and I don't know anything about all that anyway. But not a lot gets said on this platform about writing, and that seems kind of weird – because quite a lot of good content is good writing. So, I'm gonna say an overdue "thank you" for the arbitrary subscriber milestone a while ago with a rather uninformed, self-indulgent, and misguided rant about how at least I go about writing. And I hope – for someone – it helps. And since I have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, I'm gonna condense all of this down to five handy sound bites that I completely pulled out of my ass, and add long words and jokes to lend myself the brief illusion of credibility. Devise a personal science. If you go on a creative writing course, they generally talk a lot about the writing, but rarely the creativity part. Which is odd, because that's how everything starts. Myself – I go running in the mornings, drink 15 pots of coffee, do some housework, and sometimes, if one is slept properly, and Cthulhu is in a good mood, you will misread a line of text or mishear something in conversation, and suddenly, for no reason, you've got something. Ideas are fickle bastards, and they float above in the ether laughing at you, and they will only come down if you aren't looking directly at them. In my experience, ideas do not turn up fully formed, anyway – they usually come to you as little embers that you have to fan, and sometimes they go nowhere, and other times, for no apparent reason, they take off by themselves. For every excuse for content I personally put out, about four or five scripts go in the bin. "Mom! Mom, come here, I fucking got it!" But you didn't got it – it was ridiculous, and it didn't work. A surprising amount of doing this isn't actually writing – it's letting go of stuff you thought might work in preparation for something you hope will work better. However, I believe there IS a science to creativity, for finding the optimal conditions for having ideas. The problem is, it's a science of one. It's entirely personal to you. I would encourage you to watch the inside of your own head and notice when the fireworks go off, and try to recreate those conditions. We live in minds we do not understand, but one doesn't have to understand the machine to determine the optimal conditions for use. It just takes a bit of experimentation and self observation. Look at shit other people have made. Everyone I know who went somewhere creatively got into their respective fields because they initially loved the field itself. The painters have their heroes, the writers have their saints. And because they started as fans or lovers of their field, they know a lot about what people have done before in those fields. No one can read all the books or visit all the galleries in the world – there'll always be gaps in one's knowledge. But to have a half-decent overview of what's come before not only gives one a sense of the craft, but it populates one's toolbox, allowing for plagiarism. but it populates one's toolbox, allowing for p̶l̶a̶g̶i̶a̶r̶i̶s̶m̶ borrowing tricks from the greats. At the same time, there's nothing wrong with trying to get into a field one knows very little about – one will learn on the way anyway. But if I could be so bold, I'd say that in either case it must be from love. Because if one loves the art form, love will keep on working long after deadlines and coffee have run out. Look into how other people made shit in the first place. I love "2001: A Space Odyssey". It's the first serious film I ever saw. My dad showed it to me when I was very little, and for the next week or so I apparently just kept screaming if we didn't rewatch it in the evenings. The film took on this kind of religious quality in my childhood, and a few years back I had the pleasure of going to an exhibition full of the original props and stuff. That was fun, but what was really neat was reading the letters between Arthur C. Clarke, the sci-fi writer, and Stanley Kubrick, the director, and realizing – oh! There was this massive period of time before the film was made when they had no idea what the fuck they were doing. Because it's such a perfect movie to me that you can just kind of believe it made itself, or that they filmed it in a few weeks, and bada-bing, job done. But in reality great work takes years to bake sometimes, and great artists generally don't have much interest in bragging afterwards about how much preparation went into the cake itself. I would strongly urge you to find out how artists you respect made their stuff, because there's always a story there, and it's usually a very difficult one. But the end result looks effortless. For the writers out there, my Bible for a long time now has been "Zen in the Art of Writing" by Ray Bradbury. I hope you enjoy it. There's some kind of long-enduring myth that great art usually just turns up fully formed, and if you're having trouble – it's because you're not naturally gifted or something. WOWIE, what a load of bollocks! There are ENDLESS resources for help with arting, if you will only seek them out. There are artists who started at 50 or 60, there are artists with debilitating diseases, there are artists living in war zones. Great art is possible in almost all conditions. And don't even think about taking up smoking, please! There is no shame in making simple shit. We're living in a rather paradoxical age of media. It's never been easier to get one's work out there, but as a result, people's attention spans have probably never been shorter. I was at a conference many years back, and I come to listen to a debate between two philosophers about the point of life, And what happened instead was lots and lots of long words, when in fact they were talking about very graspable stuff – "What are we doing here", "what's the point in being alive", etc., And I sat there for hours thinking: "You could just talk like normal people. Why aren't you talking like normal people? The meat of what you're actually saying isn't that complicated." And I realized those folks on stage were probably scared – scared of being seen as stupid. And so instead, they'd ended up being all obscure with big silly long words. But really, isn't it way more impressive to say a complex thing in a simple way than a simple thing in a complex way? If you're writing or making something that isn't working, it might be because you're worried about being called stupid, and you're making it too complicated. I do this all the time! I reckon it's way more awe-inspiring to watch a cartoon and notice the thing goes deeper than you first realized, than to read something patting itself on the back for being "high art" and notice there aren't actually any decent ideas in there underneath all the pretension and pomposity. If I may be so arrogant – if you're having creative problems, I would recommend being as simple as you can, and no simpler. People really, really appreciate humans who talk and act like humans. Your mileage may vary, of course – it's all a question of taste, and it's just a thought, and what the fuck do I know, anyway? Your subconscious is smarter than you are. I can't stand it when people bang on about their own stuff to illustrate the point, but just allow me a small episode of self-indulgence here. I was in the US a while ago, wandering around a museum, and I chanced on this gorgeous statuette of a Hindu deity – sorry, I don't remember which one – but it had many arms, and it was metal, and the metal was such that it looked quite sci-fi, and I thought: "Huh. Be kind of cool if that was a god of the future." And the idea would not go away. Everything I tried to work on subsequently was boring, because I knew, or I hoped, there was something in that initial idea in that museum. So I gave in and tried writing the script – first person, second person, third person – it was shit every time. But it still wouldn't go away, and I was starting to go a bit mad. Weeks of this, and finally the script… sort of worked in the third person? But by then I realized I couldn't fucking animate the thing, 'cause I can't fucking animate. So that was another three weeks of trying every approach I could, and going quite properly reclusive by this point – and only then did an approach sort of turn up. And finally, about four months after starting the thing, it was finished. If you've seen it, it was the one about the old woman and the snake on the mountain. Whatever. But I'm just saying: if you intuitively have some sense that something is there, and it won't leave you alone, It might be a long process of trying to make the thing real, but it's almost always worth it in the end, it really is – if even just to have finished the thing, good or bad. Refine mercilessly. So, you've made a thing, or you have a first draft or something. Well done. Now, unless you're Mozart, you probably didn't just write or paint or code a classic on the first try. One has to go back and prune, and prune, and prune. The trick, if you have time, is to wait a week, or a few days, or even just sleep on it, and go back to the thing with new eyes. When the pride of finishing the thing has faded, you can suddenly see it more objectively, and be willing to remove stuff that's miscellaneous. Just like Papa Hemingway said – "the first draft of anything is shit". There are some folks on YouTube I follow very closely, and I've noticed the one thing they all have in common is really good signal-to-noise ratio. Whatever they're talking about, they're being quite careful not to waste your time. They've clearly gone back and edited out the parts that were irrelevant or peripheral, or refined the script or the idea over and over. One only ever sees the end result of hard work, but in reality good shit usually took endless go-overs, and rewrites, and revisions. Far as I can tell with other people's work, anyway. If your thing feels like it will never get properly polished – good; that's exactly how one feels before polishing something up. The hard part is already over. You'll be fine. You'll be fine! You don't choose where the cat sleeps. Some time ago, I purchased a not inexpensive bed for my feline life companion, for those rare moments of downtime during her terribly hectic life. Oh, another busy day, is it?! She was briefly interested in the fancy bed, but preferred to just sleep next to me in the human bed, and that's fine. Recently, though, a cardboard box turned up in my apartment. For whatever reason this became the cat's overwhelming preference for a sleeping spot, despite having a lovely soft warm bed to retire to, and I've just fucking given up. Well, making stuff is a bit like that, too. You can jiggle and rearrange words trying to trick your audience into coming away with a particular feeling or sense, but they know when you're bullshitting, or trying to be a smartass. I've heard this time and time again on YouTube, and found it myself – if you make something trying to pander to what you assume is popular, people always know somehow. Whereas sometimes you have an idea on the bus you assume only you will find funny, cobble it together on a rainy weekend, and occasionally there's this disproportionate response to the thing that makes no sense. Maybe you struck a chord, and you have no idea why, and you'll NEVER know why. You can acquire a cat; you don't get to choose where the cat sleeps. You can spend as much time as you want on making a thing; you don't get to choose how the audience reacts. Obligatory pseudo-intellectual high note ending. Occasionally, people will make out that passion is a lie peddled by Hollywood or life coaches. They will advise you to only put artificial sweetener in your tea, and insist that the world is organized and uniform, and don't waste your time following things you love! Mmm, cooking chocolate! The best dessert! But passion is a thing. It's a massive, massive fixture of the human experience. And if one is lucky enough to have a particular ambition or passion – well, I think we've all met people who didn't follow the thing, and subsequently regretted it forever. Obviously, there are plenty of starving artists out there. I'm not saying "sell all your worldly possessions and start painting Hieronymus Bosch triptychs with your arse". But if you think you might be a – quote – "creative at heart", and making stuff makes you happy – or worse, NOT making stuff makes you unhappy – then why not see if you can really properly pursue the thing? Everyone who did a cool creative thing usually gave it long nights, and early mornings, and all the energy they had. But if it's what you enjoy, it isn't really a struggle at all – it's just love in disguise. *Bleargh* It can be done alongside a sensible job, in a sensible way, playing as a real person by day, meanwhile building something like a maniac at night. I naïvely believe that one day our descendants will look back on our condition as tragic. We are very clever animals, and very stupid super-beings. We're held hostage by our brain chemistry, by the dice roll of our birth conditions, by the constraints of our history. It will probably seem amazing one day that we even managed to live like this, and eventually, we will be something different – and, hopefully, better. but that era is not now. Alongside the picnic days of life many of us are, of course, predisposed to angst, to despair, to trying to ignore what looks like a hole in the bottom of everything. But I would like to put it to you, if I may, that in arting, in trying to make a new thing, in trying to say something true about the weird experiment we're running down here, it is possible to collect up some of the angst, and despair, and fear, and externalize them. And even if they're not gone then, at least we know we're all on the same road together, and that there's plenty of road ahead, and one day the view will be nicer. I believe that is probably the main function of art: to lie as truthfully as possible, and to try to capture some aspects of our condition that we all suffer with, but haven't addressed together yet. And that is quite enough pseudo-self-help from me. If you're perpetually waiting to start making something you think only you could make – then please, would you start now? Impose deadlines, captain a ship of one, go wander about in the forests of your own weird subconscious. Link below for some stuff that helped me out, anyway. In all, I really just wanted to say thanks, and I have no idea why you're watching my excuse for work, but I'm just very, very grateful indeed. You won't need it, but all the same, just in case – with your creative adventures ahead, all the very, very best of luck. And once again, please stop procrastinating… Now.

50 thoughts on “thoughts about writing

  1. I have a constantly gear turning brain but I can never sit down and write. Every idea hits me at once and it's ridicolously hard to focus.

    I make music and I write and I love both of them but I never finish anything because my ADHD snaps me out of one thing and puts me in another.

    I do love the video and I will take in every word as fully as I can but any advice on distractable creatives would be good too.

  2. "Isn't it way more impressive to say a complex thing in a simple way than a simple thing in a complex way?" -exurb1a

  3. Dude ur killing me with the same Shakey footage of the bike ride on repeat. Dewwd… Eh it's fine I'm still hype as FUUUQ about getting exurb1a notifications. More vids plzzz

  4. Pal, art is incompatible with a senseable job. I've struggled with the burning desire to make comics for 8 years. But since I graduated from college, I've been trapped between paying my bills and my mom's bills and getting money to pay those bills. I take commissions every chance I have, and it's the most unfulfilling work in the world. It's so horrible that I rather stay in my fulltime job as a security guard than having to draw what others want me to draw. It's horrible, it drains your spirit one day at a time, while you fall down in guilt and regret for having studied art. I'm severely, suicidally depressed, which only makes it harder for me to make what I want. The only possibility to be creative is to be born in, at least, the middle class of a first world country, have your parents to help you while you take off, and have an immense amount of luck ☹ I'm probably going to die ignored, but if anybody tries to play the smart ass and tell me I'm lazy, because you know someone who did it in my situation, fuck off, and who the fuck are you anyway… 🐢

  5. I swore I wouldn't watch another exurb1a until after I started feeling better again. Then this shite posts a video about writing.

    Thanks a lot! Now I'm both unhappy AND my frustration about not writing is magnified by 100.

  6. Thank you… I haven't sketch anything in over a month and is video made me sick to my stomach in the best way. That's my guilt pulling at the back of my throat. Or maybe it's my heartstrings trying to pull my voice toward it. Either way it hurts and I love that after this video felt like I had screamed and yelled at myself. That's how i know was good advice… when it brings on a thick coating of self-loathing but I can't wash away get the taste out the back of my mouth. Does it taste like pennies? No. You didn't give me a nosebleed. But you came pretty close buddy. So thank you once again. My name is Joseph. And I have this story in the back of my mind that's been there for over 10 years I have all how many characters. I know them all too well. Because I draw them in my dreams. And I wake up and I'm pissed off that there's nothing to page through afterward. So you see that my subconscious is saying things. I don't animate but I can try and I would love to Come up with a concept drawing of any ideas you have. I'm always around. Somewhere

  7. i just listened to your music and just saying, i think its really good. i might want to learn piano now..

  8. Oh my lord, after hearing how much trouble it was for you to make "and then we'll be okay" I really thought you'd like to hear that that's my favourite of your videos (I hesitate to call it anything but art. as with most of your videos in my opinion), it has me in tears by the end, every time.

  9. Stop thinking and working and let yourself get bored. Like REALLY bored. Do literally nothing for as long as you can stand it and then keep going. I'm talking staring at a clock bored. I'm not working in a creative field, but I have to use creative problem solving at work that involves a lot of lateral thinking. Apparently meditation allows your brain connection regulation center (thallamus, maybe?) to slow down and allow multiple connections across the brain that don't normally happen in unison. Similar to taking psychedelics. This works every time for me. Maybe it will work for you too.

    Veritasium did a video on this in the last year or so called "Why Boredom is Good For You".

  10. If you like the "god of the future" vibe, you might like the work of Dominic Elvin

    http://dominicelvin.net/site/

  11. I've had an idea now but never could be assed to start anything with it. I'm now working through it and I've worked on a small draft.
    Now I'm doing shit again that I wouldn't have. Long story short, I'm gonna write some shit

  12. I recently was thinking, "wow, I'm doing a great job in my life. My younger self would be proud of me." and then I remembered that all baby Liberty ever wanted to be since I was old enough to hold a pen all the way up until my first college-level writing class was an author. Then college came and I decided I sucked at writing and I hadn't tried again for years. Baby Liberty would be happy, but disappointed that I didn't follow my life long dream. So, I decided to re-connect to what drove me all my life until college took a giant dump on my creativity, but I felt like I didn't know how to write any more. Just today, I watched a video of yours and a little thought in my head said "why bother being a writer when you will never be as good as this random fucker on the Internet?" The next recommended video was this one.

    TL;DR all of this is just to say that this video was so astonishingly exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it, and I am incredibly grateful. I hope you see this comment because I am astonished that a YouTube video has made this much of a difference, and I hope knowing that it has means any where near as much to you as it does to me.

  13. I literally stopped procrastinating the second you told me to. I found this video incredibly helpful, thank you so much for making it!!

  14. On even days I love my ideas for the book I want to write and I take notes. Then on odd days I hate everything and destroy my notes. It's 2 years now. I don't have a cat nor a bike. Maybe that's my problem.

  15. I started writing a few novels months back and this inspired me to actually finish the damn things, thank you C:

  16. “You don’t get to chose how your audience reacts”.
    That sentence. I have no idea why. But it was as if a tension in my brain was just lifted and whatever it was is now gone. It must’ve been something I was subconsciously always thinking about when making art perhaps.
    Idk tbh.

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