Where do they come from? The words? The poems? The stories? The books? From the booze, the fags, the sex, the despair? From happiness, ecstasy, joy and hope? From the dreams we never achieved? From the voices we hear in our nightmares, our jealousies, our fears? Because we see things we hope will never happen? From a desire to escape our realities? Because they are too painful to confront? There is no happiness in writing. Even a happy ending does not promise better things. There is always betrayal, decay and death beyond the final sentence.
So, why write if there’s never a happy ending? Because we have to. Because we want the answer to all our questions. Because there has to be an answer. Something out there that makes all our moments and seconds worthwhile. Because we’re on a quest. In our books. In our thoughts. In our lives. Because what keeps us striviing is the need for redemption. For ultimate salvation. For knowledge of what comes next. Although we will never know. That’s what drives us.
Every book is a quest wrapped into another story. Every poem. Every sequence of words ordered into the semblance of a sentence. A greater whole.
I can’t stop the words. They appear out of nothing. In dreams. In shapes. In colours. In sounds. The voices never stop.
Take an empty notebook and a pen. Carry them around with you. Listen in on other people’s conversations. On buses. On trains. In cafes. In restaurants. In the street. Walk slowly. Loiter. Mishear lyrics from songs on the radio. And write it all down. Cannibalise the world around you for every ounce of mangled word you can gather onto your paper. Scribble. Jot. Doodle. Invent.
Go into a pub. Buy a drink. Sit outside and light a cigarette. The people who talk to you while you’re smoking are infinitely more interesting than the non-smokers inside. As you drink, the people who walk by without talking to you will become more beautiful, more weighed down with secrets and meaning. And all the time, scribble, scratch, draw. You may even fall in love out there.
Allow yourself to be tortured by your thoughts. Don’t be pragmatic. Don’t accept the world as it is. Fight it. Fight to change it. Gouge holes into the present’s fabric. Distort it. Bend it. Nothing is real.
You will wake one night, with or without someone by your side, your head full of sentences. You will have left your notebook in the other room. You must resist the temptation of the warm bed or body. Jump up. Race to your desk, and scrape those sentences into any piece of paper you can find. And don’t stop with the words that woke you. Carry on, carry on, until you are no longer able, until your hands tremble with exhaustion. And then go outside into the coldness of just dawn and wash your face in the breeze that always guards that time of day.
One day you will be happy. That will be the day you can write nothing useful. Nothing that matters. Nothing that will mean anything. Happiness breeds empty pages.
We are incomplete. We are sinners, and not necessarily in the religious sense. We commit, every day, crimes against those who share our lives. And not just against the people we know. We are guilty of not caring, not paying attention, not agitating. We carry the sins of omission with us forever. As do our characters. And through them we seek redemption. Feels like heaven. Then crash and burn.
Don’t look around. Don’t stop when your words make no sense to you. Keep going. Keep going. You can always change your mind later. But you can’t change yourself if you stop. The moment is gone then. If you stop, you might never write that great line you were meant to. Then it will all have been for nothing.
There. A fully-formed character jumps into your life. Suddenly. Without warning. And then another. An enemy. A lover. A child. They will decide what to do. You cannot guide them. They will guide you. They will drag you through their lives. All you have to do is to write it down. And you will fall in love with them. Become a part of them as much as they become a part of you. And you will remain intertwined for the rest of your life, past the last page of the book. And then? Only death will tell.
In a darkened room, a solitary light. A bottle of red wine. A half-full glass. An overflowing ashtray. Paper upon paper. Mountains of paper. Desk. Floor. Bed. Everywhere. And a shadow. A moving, chasing, writhing shadow. You.
Allow the words their balance. Read. Read. Read. What others have to say is part of your journey. What others have suffered. What the suffering of others has created.
Allow the words their rhythm. Dance with them. Scatter the dust. Scatter the ashes of the dead. Dance with your ghosts. Fast and slow. Hate and love. Say what you feel, not what you feel you should say. Shout. Skip. Scream. Dance. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Live. Die.
Where is the truth? There is no truth.
Where is the answer? There is no answer.
When will the words come? When you least expect them. Ninety-five percent of the brain’s activity is taken up by daydreaming. So daydream. And don’t throw away a single word. Even if you don’t use it.
I’ve locked myself away now.
Being on the outside was too much to bear.
All the wind and noise,
All the confusion of living,
Of loving and being loved.
The pain is ended.
The glistening torture
Of dreaming shadows into being
A single room.
A single bed.
A single light.
This is where I live now.
This is where I die
When the last page is turned.
Richard Pierce, 15th April 2009