A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?



Fear Itself

I'm scared. What am I afraid of? All sorts of things. A while ago, I read "Write for Your Life" by Lawrence Block (this is the kindle edition – mine was an illegal download from Pirate Bay, justified at the time I suppose because it had been years out of print. It's a sobering book in many ways. Firstly, because it's probably the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth book on how to be a writer that I've bought – none of them having the effect that I'd have liked them to have – of somehow actually inspiring me to put in the effort to write a book.

My favourite is this "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg – because at least it cheers you on and gives you the courage and confidence to write and keep writing. My least favour is probably "Story" by Robert McKee wow. That guy's a dick. But Lawrence Block's book is somewhere near the top of the list, because like Goldberg's, it's kind and (sorry Natalie) more than Goldberg, Block is someone who's written a lot of books.

Writing down the Bones

Another way that the book is sobering is that it unpacks the economics of running seminars as a way of making a ton of money – it just doesn't work. Which is a shame, because every now and then, that's a fantasy of mine.

And it probably isn't that good a book about how to write books, for two reasons – one, that I didn't write a book as a result of reading it, two I only really remember one exercise that's described in it, though I think, having done it as an exercise by myself, rather than in a group at the beginning of the day, as Block describes, it's pretty good.

Like the clowning exercises that I've been describing for the last couple of nights, it's a very simple exercise. You just write down everything that you're scared of. And then people in the room are invited to share their fears with other people in the room – nobody's forced to share any of the fears that they've written down – just invited to share them.

And apparently, it's a very good way of making people relaxed and comfortable at the beginning of the seminar. And to some degree, everybody realises how stupid they are to be frightened that they'll be the only woman over fifty (unless they're going to a stand-up comedy class) or the only one who didn't go to high school, or whatever it is. And of course, in some sense, it's almost impossible to write when you're afraid, although of course, in another sense – that must be impossible, because we're afraid all the time.

I myself am scared of all manner of things. I'm a total hypochondriac, I'm always afraid that, in the words of Wood Allen "this time I've really got something." And I'm afraid that as a result of whatever it is that I have, I'm going to have to give up work and then I'll be poor and on the street and dependent on Food Banks and found dead in a snow drift because Esther Mc-fucking-vey.

And I'm also afraid that any day now that my beautiful long suffering wife will finally ask herself the question I kept asking all the way through watching "The Hours" – "What the fuck are neurotics for? What good are they?" And leave.

Money. Do you know how inordinately worried about not having any money I am at a point where I'm earning more money than I ever have at any other point in my life? I know right. There's probably a lesson there right. Fuck off.

And I'm frightened of all the "liberals" and feminists who seem to think that if only we practice just enough Stalinism, the world will be a better place. And I'm frightened of people knowing that I don't agree with feminists. I keep wanting to side with feminists - but logic - and they keep siding with the fucking patriarchy. Talk about fucking daddy issues.

I'm frightened that I'm a white middle-class, educated, middle class male and I'm not in the patriarchy.

I am truly terrified of transgender pronouns (although I have no problem with transgender people – and I'm frightened that people know I have a fear of one will allow them to assert that I have a fear/hatred of the other).

And I'm frightened of all this NSA, snoop on everything, facebook knows when you're about to go down with the flu stuff.

I'm frightened of what they did to Aaron Swartz and Lenny Bruce.

And I'm frightened of a lot of other stuff that I'm too frightened to admit to in public.

Fuck. That's enough. I'm certain of that. And a little uncertain if that's too much. Do I feel better? A little.

I'm a bit frightened I won't know how to finish this. Actually, not really frightened. Just a bit worried. Fuck.