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November 20th, 2005

I've always viewed those how to write books as pointless. Seriously. You put me in a room with someone who swears by one, and within about five minutes I'll have to clean my shoes.

It's not that people can't get anything out of them, because I know people who have, and do, and that's all good and well in the grand scheme of the universe and shit. But me, I've always found that prescribed way of doing things to be a bit stifling, and I've always found that the books aren't really teaching you how to write, but rather Person A's Way to Write, and what do I care about Person A? I don't want to be that person, I don't want to write like that person, and I'd pretty much just rather stumble along working things out for myself. That usually means taking twice as long as anyone else, but it's my life, and I don't much have use for the time otherwise. But the other thing I've found is that there are also so many ways to write, and so many different kinds of writing, that it's really kind of ridiculous to sit down and put it into a book and say, here, this is how you should go about it. Smile and bless me as you do.

Take for example, me and academic writing. Now, I fucking hate academic writing. Seriously: right now, right this instant, I've nothing but hate. It's about the most non-creative, prescriptive and suffocating kind of writing I can engage in. It skirts plagiarism as a whole with a hair's breath and feels, in a way, built to limit original thoughts from emerging. At least, that's my feel of it; others obviously think differently; but of more importance here is the fact that all my fiction writing skills are completely fucking useless in it. Absolutely useless. The language required for it is different, artificially jacked up by jargon that it could quite easily scrap half of it. And, just as an example, it doesn't once allow for me to say, "Michel de Certeau was an arrogant Jesuit fuck who stood on the World Trade Centre and said, with black humour that could only be added years later, that he saw a city of explosions below."

That kind of thing would bring me right back to academic writing. I'd be right there. If I could just fill it with swear words, much in the way I fill this blog, I'd be a bit happier. But I can't. Instead, I find myself making endless notes before I even get to writing, laying out essay structures, planning arguments, putting everything together before I even get to the keyboard; and then, then, printing it out and pulling it apart, and rebuilding it so that it can be a simple little argument that, lets be honest here, is built out of the work of other people. This is entirely different to how I write fiction, which sometimes uses notes, rarely has structured plans, rewrites a lot, vomits first drafts, and usually finds me looking at the voice of each individual piece and finding how I can change that. All of which is done, more often than not, on a subconscious level. Done without thinking. Done without frustration. Done with that disappearance of self that, for me, signals that connection to that internal creative centre. Which sounds like all wank, but it's what makes writing fiction the thing it is for me.

But with academic work I feel every inch of it, every word, and at the end I look at it and think to myself, "Where's my voice? Where am I?"

Fucking thing.

I have spent the last week and a bit trying to make an argument work in my thesis. It is progressing slowly. Painfully. Right now you're all getting a feel for my frustration because I feel like sharing. Here, this is me sharing. I'm sure you're all pleased.