The Curse of the Man o’ Letters

I’ve taken a lot of time away from prose writing in the last few months. I’ve written some philosophy, but my soul is telling me it’s, to one degree or another, a bit of a waste of my time.

I don’t understand myself, not really. I’ve tried the Substack thing out, but couldn’t help finding myself drifting back to my own server and site. It seems I like the neon-fungi lit cave of my own place. Here’s where I can really be me. And who is that?

I’ve tried a lot of stuff in my life. I thought I wanted to be a firefighter, a footballer, a skateboarder, a games programmer, an astro-physicist, an AI researcher, a philosopher, a rapper, a jiu-jitsu instructor… I’ve wanted to be all that. But none of it ever paid. I make my money writing software, but I’m not in the games industry.

Despite all my adhd-powered whims, I have always written fiction. It has never left. I am, and always will be, a novelist and storyteller. It’s one of those things that is deep in my bones. When I am writing fiction, I am not alone; I am in a space before the world wakes and there is no noise, no bickering, no-nonsense.

But it doesn’t pay.

And there is me, the anti-money man, realising that yes it is a gruesome good, but money is a good nevertheless. All it really is is a means to an end. I live in the city I grew up in. The city my family lives in. To move is anxiety, to stay is the rent trap. But let’s not idle here for too long. My belly is very much full and there is plenty of tobacco to smoke.

And so I am drawn in two like a man between the horses. Part of me wishes to throw in the towel, to go ham on programming, to make my million bucks in the financial world, and be happy and heavy and suicidal.

But the voices, man. These voices find you. I don’t know where they come from, but there are these characters that live in my head, pleading to me to tell their stories. And I am their humble servant. Whether I create these characters or not is not for me to say. But I know very much what the work takes, and so, with every piece of writing, I can at least smile at the work and know I did my bit, my absolute best.

I have never, ever given any pursuit as much time as I have writing.

Orwell, a dear friend who I never got to meet, wrote,

All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

And when asked Neil Gaiman rejected the notion at scale, saying,

Do I agree with Orwell? Not really. Generalisations like that tend to be incomplete and unsatisfactory ways of describing the world.

I agree, at least for myself, that this is how it is.

I am vain, selfish, and lazy. I honestly couldn’t put it any better. And so here I am, fighting the pull of the horses, a neurotic mess of doubt, wanderlust, and the up-and-down enthusiasm for the imaginary people that live in my head.

Welcome to my world.

Please leave your coat and shoes at the door. There is a seat by the fire and coffee in the pot; if you smoke, smoke. Now, let me get down from my soapbox and tell you a story … and maybe one day these bitter words of mine might pay the rent.

Written on August 31, 2022