Over the years there’s something I’ve noticed about writing. It might not be true for everyone else but it certainly is for me. I find writing requires a certain mindset, a certain state of being. You really do need to be in the mood. But the mood for writing is something intangible and fleeting. It can be upon you in an instant like a summer storm. In that time a deluge of ideas will fall upon you. Inspiration will flash like lightning across your brain. You’ll feel as if there is no single being or obstacle in the entirety of creation that can stop you from writing the greatest work of fiction that man will ever read. You’ll dash upstairs to the computer or lunge wildly to the biro by the fridge, snatching up the envelope that the water bill came in. You’ll ready yourself to slash that pen across the page like a sword across the heavens. You’ll touch it to the paper and then…nothing. It’ll be gone. Just like the storm it will have passed, there wont be a cloud in the sky and the only reason you’ll even believe the storm happened will be the lingering wetness of your clothes. There’ll be little traces of the ideas you had, the ghosts of genius rapidly fading second by second. You’ll but down the pen and it’ll all seem futile and pointless. The mood’s gone. No writing for you. Not today. No matter how hard you try you can’t conjure the mood, just like you can’t conjure a storm. Unless you’re a wizard, but if you’re a wizard you’ve probably got better things to do than write fiction. Like fighting dragons or battling that warlock in the next valley who borrowed your spell-book and never gave it back; bastard.
I always find it difficult to write when the mood isn’t upon me. It’s as if my brain gnome Mr Taber just crosses his little arms and says “sorry, not today mate”. It’s doable sure but it’s a battle, slogging through prose that just doesn’t want to be written; managing maybe a couple of hundred words an hour. I write because I enjoy it, it’s a hobby and a distraction. Forcing myself to do it takes a lot of the fun out of it. I don’t have deadlines to meet or a cloven-hoofed demon of a publisher to appease with word based sacrifices so there ultimately isn’t a great deal of point in forcing myself to do it. But then again if I don’t nothing will ever get written. The ideas swilling around in my head will wither up and die, they’ll get forgotten and remain unused. A there’s something fundamentally criminal about letting an idea die before you’ve really explored it and given it a good run around.
The urge to write isn’t something that grips me often. Usually when it does it’s random sputtering and short lived, ultimately disconnected from any actual tangible emotion. But then there’s the other times… The times after a hard night’s drinking, in the wee hours of the morning when I’m all alone and no ones around. When the horrors of life and the futility of everything I do become the most prevalent thoughts in my head. When I realise I’m all alone spinning through a cold and heartless void at a million kilometres an hour. When depression starts to sneak in round the door-frame, only to be knocked sprawling by onto its face by anger. When Mr Taber starts to hurl bottles around my head and angrily stomps over to his bellows and his little brass typewriter. Then together we pour our hate out into words. The key strokes ring out like the hooves of a hundred horses racing across cobbles of a deserted city. In that brief fleeting moment words come unbidden and unstoppable. A torrent without end for the anger that fuels it comes from a reservoir beyond imagining. Thousands of words will be committed to paper in the space of a scant few hours. Then I’ll start to flag, there’s no coal left for the boilers, the writing’s burnt up all my anger, the fug of alcohol and the need for sleep will take over and I’ll be forced to stop. The things I produce in this window are always different to what comes out in the happy, sober light of day. I’ve got four chapters of steam punk space opera, all grit and sorrow, that have been written exclusively while in this mood. I will readily admit that the things written in the mood are not my best work, but it is perhaps my most interesting. I feel like I’m painting with words. Making broad brush strokes of images coming straight down the Brachial Plexus Memorial Highway from Brain City. Admittedly, in the cold light of dawn, it’s very bizarre writing. It feels like it belongs in a century gone by, scrawled on the inside of a madman’s cell. But god do I find it fun to read. Problem is that this mood is not really something you want to artificially engineer. For that way madness lies. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is nonetheless the truth. There’s also the additional downside that those who have read these torrents of verbiage have questioned me as to whether I went completely off the sanity reservation into the crazy badlands beyond. I’d say I probably did, if only for a little while. There is after all, no tea in the badlands.
Despite all of this talk about the fleetingness of the writing mood. I am finding I’m writing more and more these days. I’m not sure whether it’s something that age has finally brought about. Or whether it is because my social calender is now more or less empty. Perhaps the mood for writing just needs to be coaxed out of the brush like a shy deer, until after a while it has no inhibition to making itself known in all its glory. It could be a combination of all of these. All I know for certain is that there was a time not so long ago that I would struggle to knock out a couple of thousand words over the course of a year. Whereas now I seem to be quite happily rattling off a thousand words in the space of a night, just for kicks. I do worry however that this may in some way cheapen the thrill I get when mood is upon me. As the saying goes, through repetition the extraordinary becomes mundane.
Before I draw this ramble to a close I would be negligent in my blogging duties if I left you all with out some tantalising glimpse of the alcohol fuelled Void Sailors.
“I do not know how long I wept, perchance it was longer than a man rightfully should. But those who ply the great void sea are not like other men. Those who are not sailors of the void could never conceive of just how different we are, spending so long slaved to a small metal box amidst an infinity that would not hesitate to swallow you whole. A thin skin of metal being all that stands between you and the unending oblivion, whole parsecs between you and the next living soul. That kind of life changes a man. It hardens the skin, tempers it, makes it thick, but leaves the inside softer. To all, we void sailors are colossi striding across the heavens, ancient and immutable, far beyond the ken of man. We are the incorrigible exemplars upon which the wheel of humanity turns. We are like unto steel. This exterior of ours, this face we present to the masses, the very thing that makes gods of us mere men, is naught but a lie. For when our shell fractures, when that visage we have wrought wavers and our step falters… That is when the dyke finally collapses and all that we have buried within spills out and leaves its perverse and putrefied mass bare for all to see. It unmans us. It proves we are naught but the men we so divorced ourselves from. We break hard, for we fall from such mighty heights. When we bare our souls, that softness at our heart is so tender, so beyond compare. It is however, an indulgence. We can ill afford such moments, as our unmanning can spell our doom. For the void is as cruel as she is cold. All that we can do when we fall off the mountain is stand up and start to climb again. I am Sisyphus, and it is the struggle itself towards the heights that fills my heart.”