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Xero. Distilled.
Simplification.
Of course, every time i write here you know I've probably not been writing elsewhere. But then, if I miss a day (and I will) you won't know if that's because I have managed to get round to writing something creative, along a more productive story line (sorry), or because I was just a bit rubbish that day. There will be days when i simply haven't the time (I think) and there will be days when I just don't feel in the mood (unfortunately), or have company (it happens, sometimes), or am writing furiously on one of my projects (hopefully). Or I might desert this whole thing for another half a year or more, which would be rubbish but not entirely unprecedented...

So, my sister lives in Norwich now, which is very cool. And we get together sometimes, and we have -good- conversations. A little bit about ourselves, about her work (she's studying at the same university I did, but doing Fine Art) and about other things. A few years back we realised we were both interested in similar psychological philosophies, like transactional analysis and the work of Eric Berne, amongst others.

OK, aside, that's random, I went away, then Opera went funny and then LJ restored an older draft, escept now, when I come back to it, it asks me again and I think 'what the hell, why not' and it restores the newer draft, this draft, how odd.

Anyway, I was rambling about my sister and I, meandering towards something we talked about the other day. About commercialism, and how capitalism oppresses artistic vision by making it difficult to survive as an artist unless you produce comercially viable (i.e. socially acceptable) artwork. There are probably exceptions to this, but it is only meant as a generalisation.

Now, if we consider this to be true of a capitalist society, then you also have to consider us as a stage 2 capitalist society (ok, so maybe there are other stages, but basically, stick with me and I'll explain what I mean). Initially you can only have a local market, so if something is acceptable to 1 in 1000 people, then you're not going to be able to make a living but, if you expand the market, with the invention of some kind of global network, whereby money and ideas can be exchanged on a massive scale (i.e. the internet, of course) then 1 in 1000, even 1 in 100,000 suddenly becomes a commercially viable prospect, even if not on as large a scale as may be potentially accessible if you were to produce more acceptable work.

And by acceptable, I'm not just talking about whether something offends or not, but I mean what is accepted as art. Some accepted art is very offensive, that's kind of the point, but other people produce their own visions, without regard to what is current, or what is selling.

This discussion comes about because part of art school is looking at other artists and creators and using their work to contextualise your own. The bane of many students' existences. So the point is, the only artists you can really look at are those that produce something that falls into this notion of 'acceptable' artwork (an expanding field, granted, for the reasons above), so in effect you have to justify your work related to other commercially viable work. Which makes sense for the art school, they are looking to produce commercially viable artists, artists whose work will sell. And, to be honest, a lot of the students going there will want exactly that, even if their sentiments are anti-establisment. After all, many artists' works sell precisely because they're edgy and highlight issues with the current government, or society, but they would be completely unsuccessful in conveying that point if they were not at the same time commercially viable so that the message can actually get out there, so that their art will sell and people will pay attention to them.

Which moves me nicely into the endzone, but before I finish I shall make a brief diversion into the territory of exceptions... The other way of getting your message across, of course, is to play up to another part of the system, to create your art in such a way that it gets the media's attention, that is, if you don't mind other people getting money in order to put your point across. Because if it will sell papers, or get more viewers, then it will get in the news, and people will see it, but it won't be you that gets paid, it'll be the media types...

So, the point is, my sister was talking about stepping away from the 'influence' of the commercial world, to step back from all the comercial art that surrounds us everyday and concentrate purely on your own vision, on producing a purer art that is not dependent on the whims of currency and societal opinion. Something like an artists' commune, which exists on the fringe of society (it is impossible to escape entirely of course, the government will want a piece of you regardless), something that will concentrate only on you developing your art and taking it to a higher level, unrestrained by commercial neccessity.

My point was that that becomes a more selfish route. While idealistically it may seem to be raising the art itself, if you remove yourself from society then no one but you and your immediate compatriots in exile will benefit from this 'enlightenment'. So, forget about changing society and think purely of art itself (although some may argure that changing society is the point of art), in order to raise art to a higher level you could step outside of society and create something purely for your own edification, or you can remain within society and be subject to its restraints but raise art for more people than just yourself.

Raising a single person is far easier than raising a group, and it becomes harder the bigger the group. (this whole idea is obviously working on simplified levels, different art affects different people in various ways, one person's artistic enlightenment may just be another's waste of meat and formaldehyde)

So, remain within the machine, work within the machine to make it a better machine, or remove yourself from the machine to exist as a better individual. Working within the machine may be harder if what you are trying to do is rework parts of the machine, mess with the works as they spin without getting caught and tangled and lost, but ultimately, while outside you may reach greater heights, if you remain inside could you potentially produce something greater in scale?
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Has anyone else noticed these are getting earlier and earlier each day?

I'm not entirely lacking inspiration, by the way. I have lots of story ideas, even some stories written, from back awhile, that need typing up, redrafting. I suppose it's the motivation that I'm trying to cultivate, the habit of writing, and not just that, the naturalness of it. Which may not be a word, but that, I suppose, illustrates my point in a way. Use words more regularly and they flow much more easily, you get stuck on a sentence less often, and the piece moves quicker and slicker; if you have to keep stopping every few lines to think of the right word and the right phrasing then the piece becomes sticky and less comfortable (no simile I can put here is going to be clean, just see what you can come up with for yourselves, I know your minds, they're just as dirty as mine, I'm just less restrained when it comes to vocalising them...)

A sentence doesn't need to be perfect, that can be sorted out in the redrafting, but it needs to be there, it needs to be something at least approximately right, so you can move on.

My final year piece was pretty much the only thing I wrote during that year, and I was not regular in my writing. The most natural parts of the whole thing were the behind the scenes bits that I wrote to describe the experience and explain the motivations of writing it. Which no one but my tutors will ever see. The piece itself was good in parts, but not inspired, and it didn't really gel as a whole because I chose something far too ambitious.

I knew I was choosing something ambitious, I did it on purpose to challenge me, but I was so unmotivated that year that the writing itself was enough challenge without also trying to be so ambitious plotwise, jumping between time periods, genres and dialects.

Looking back it seems to me a lot of the course was more like evening creative writing classes, than a solid degree. Units like genre-writing could have been replaced with more time spent concentrating on creating a whole cohesive plot, and the progression of a story through a lengthy work, when you can spend time drawing a scene out and when a scene just needs to be faster paced, when to introduce plot elements and how to control them. We certainly touched on these things, (and this is of course slightly hindered by the fact that you simply can't write and receive critical feedback on a longer (say novel-length) piece in a week or two, even a month or two) but we didn't spend enough time really getting to grips with it, or studying other full texts. When I speak to UEA students and they are required to read so many texts compared to the amount we had to (or didn't have to) it makes me wonder...

The reason I pick on something like genre-writing, and this comes back to my comment about it being more like an evening class, is that while there are certainly some lessons to be learnt from different genres, one sesion per genre is no way to teach that kind of thing. Either do an entire unit dedicated to an individual genre, so that we can learn it in full, dissect it properly, or accept that people want to work within certain genres and incorporate that into other units.

Which is not me searching for an excuse, looking for something to blame, because there's too much of that these days. No, regardless of the course I could have written more, should have written more, but I didn't... I just think that while I learnt a lot on the course, it wasnt as much as it could, or should, have been.

But then, now's the time to fix my own shortcomings, and, baby-step by baby-step that's what I hope I'm getting round to. =)


Going back to Christmas, for those of you who also are yet to feel particularly christmassy despite December looming large and cold on the horizon, think on this, I have until the end of day this friday to finalize the POS order for the January Sale. Yep, all the bright bits and shelf bits and stickers and so on. I have to decide what we will need for the post-christmas period. For me, Christmas is over before it has begun.

Nah, I'm just being melodramatic. Still, it did kinda make me take a step back...
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So says Simon R. Green...

Woah, three for three... Don't worry, it won't last. For example, I already don't know what to write. So, taking my own advice, I should start by writing, 'I don't know what to write', which appears to be what I have done... ;) And via the wonderment and flexibility of the electronic medium I could always begin there, spiral outwards into other regions of wordyness and then delete this intro, erasing any evidence that I was ever stuck for words.

There was a time when people would have been amazed that I couldn't think of something to say, maybe some people still would be. I suppose I find it a strange thing, to talk about anything physical, to discuss things that are so transient, like what you did the other night, like something that happened when you were younger, or drunk, or playing table tennis. It all seems so mundane, when you can have conversations about thoughts and the human mind and the way everything works, or even just the way people work... the way things work, religion, literature, jokes, people... now that's interesting.

Not really sure what I'm trying to say there, or, to be more precise, I am sure, I'm just not so sure how to express it. I think. ;) It's just in conversation where I used to blather on I kind of think nowadays that it is just blather, telling the same story for the third, fourth time, which in some ways is the brilliance of things like facebook and LJ - when we're all connected then we won't need to tell the same story again each time we meet people, we tell it once and everyone knows. We only need say we got dumped and people know not to mention it and dredge up feelings in the retelling of the story, or we only need once say how amazing a concert was, how stressful a day was at work, how much we're looking forward to the weekend's parties. And stories won't get exagerated each time they're told, because they are told once. This has all been a distraction from what I was originally trying to say, that I suppose I find myself less conversational because I increasingly find other people's conversation somewhat banal, and don't want them to start thinking the same of me.

I'm thinking of no one in particular there, and to be honest it's not something I've noticed so much recently. Possibly because, as previously mentioned, I have no life, or possibly because there is just a higher breed of conversation from Waterstone's staff. Oh look, I sound pretentious, there's a f*cking surprise ;)
That did actually sound a lot harsher than I meant it. But it's not any particular time period I'm thinking of, or any particular person, I just think I can be naturally socally paranoid because i grew up without a lot of social interaction so I become over-aware of how I am, so I notice when I hear myself saying something that I think is dum, so it sticks in my mind. or when someone else says something that I think is dum, and I don't want to make the same mistake.
So in conclusion... ;) what I'm probably trying to say is that everyboy says things that are a little dull from time to time, I just maybe notice it more nowadays, remember it more (which is odd, cos I never remember anything that is actually useful...).

Was there a point to any of that. Not sure, but, it proves that a basic beginning can lead to a rambling chunk of writing, and since the point here is more just to produce some writing than to actually have a point I would say that this has been, in some small way at least, a success, even if it makes no sense, isn't that interesting and may in fact be slightly insulting... sorry ;)
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So says W Heath Robinson.

Well here I am a second night in a row, with even less of an idea what to write! =D

One day, you know, people will recognise my awesomeness, I only need to work out in what way I am awesome so that I may communicate it with said people. Take my left eyebrow for instance, the subtle and various expressions it can produce are near infinite, it is a facial feature at the height of its form, Dame Judy Dench herself would weep to see what my left eyebrow could convey with a mere twitch and an arch. Not the right eyebrow though, my right eyebrow is a sluggard and a bore, too concerned with its own comfort to do more than the occasional stretch and resettle.

If you know what you want, but you also know you can't have it, is that confusion? I mean really can't have it, not like, could have it if you went for it, or if circumstances changed, I mean if what you want doesn't exist anymore. Are you confused yet? Because I feel confused but at the same time I'm really clear about it. Does that make sense? ;)

Even I am no longer entertained by the inside of my head, and it has been but two nights.

I feel like I'm holding back, being held back, by myself. I don't know what I'm feeling and I don't know if that's because I really don't feel that much, or because I'm burying it so deep.(is this bitterness? I did promise not to, should I stop? Or is it just moping, although I'm not unhappy, so maybe this is ok...) I keep kind of probing the depths and there is something there, I think, but I don't know if I've hit the bottom, or if I've hit wiley beasties that lurk down there pretending to be the bottom, that hide there. I don't know if I've found the bottom, or just found -something- and am too afraid to keep on pushing in case it isn't the bottom and I startle some tricksy mean slick thing that'll snicker snacker its broken teeth into the fragile flesh of my mind. Does that make sense, or am I hiding behind language, language - my old reliably fickle friend.

That's me being as candid as I'm gonna be right now. i think.

So lets talk about happy things. Like snow. Snow is good. I like snow. It feels like christmas is coming now before it has even reached december. Retail manages to steal the christmas right out from underneath you if you work there. It's a bit like being the magician's assistant, there can't be any surprise or wow because you're been behind the scenes and you know how it's put together, how it's pulled off. Gift ideas are not gift ideas, they're the things everybody wants so they're the things you suggest to everybody else and so everybody ends up with the same thing because that's what will sell so that is what is promoted (if you work in retail you know what I mean, I hope, if you don't then don't worry).
BUT, and here's the thing, you are imbued with your interpretation of the world throughout your childhood, and cristmas IS exciting, however jaded you get you still know that there is magic in christmas, and when the world suddenly turns around in November and gives you snow, even if you're stuck in work and can only look out a world obscured through a partial filter of white flakes sifting to white floor from white ceiling, even if you can't go out in it, it's still magic, it's still christmas. And I don't feel excited about christmas now, thinking about christmas, but thinking about the weekend and the snow and what it felt like to look out at the shoppers in that weather... that feels like christmas.

Some people buy comfort food - tasty, unhealthy things that make them feel good. Cos what they need is to feel good. I buy comfort books, which is, I suppose, retail therapy more than anything else, cos I don't even necessarily need to read the books. So today I bought this year's W Heath Robinson collection, not as good as last year's, but it has its moments. And I bought the Cream of Tank Girl artbook, which is lush but also kind of makes me sad cos it makes me think of people who would enjoy it with me, people who don't exist anymore, metamorphosised on the winds of time into other people that just look the same. And I bought the Taschen collection of the complete Gil Elvgren pin-ups, cos who wouldn't be cheered up by surprised girls in slinky little numbers? At which point you should all imagine me with a single finger to my slightly parted, pouting lips, my eyebrows raised in surprise over my wide green-brown eyes (note the artfulness with which the left eyebrow plays its part). Think of me surprised and breathy that you caught me all unexpected in just my lacey things (which reveal everything to the imagination without actually revealing anything to the eye)...

Are you feeling slightly awkward at this point, maybe a little queasy, maybe a little turned on... then my words still have some degree of power, and I'm barely even flexing them yet...

Sweet dreams... *^_~*
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OK, so, due to being really -quite- rubbish it has been about a month since my last entry (or entry-ette, tiny as it was). And that was when I was actually writing stuff, which I didn't really do again till last night, when I wrote a couple of thousand words of actual 'stuff', rather than just notes, which is more 'actual 'stuff'' than I have written in the six previous months. Not including RPG rules, which I have also been writing.

The point, anyway, is that I intended, and intend, to write something everyday, a pretty mundane and common claim/ goal/ thing, but something I really need to do, either to write something here, or something along a creative pathway (there are several I have scouted out, now I just need to do some trailblazing and get my mental machete stuck into hacking down plotline and character type vines and creepers. or something).

When I used to write here loads, and I may have said this before, my writing used to flow a lot easier. Even when it was nothing more than nonsense about my life (god knows what nonsense I'm going to write here now, apparently I have no life anymore), sorry, even when it was just nonsense about my life it was still words, in an order, and the more you turn over words in your mind, and beneath your fingers, as with anything, the better you become at it (to a point), but it's a skill I've let slip somewhat. So I apologise, because what appears here will be reflections from the inside of my shiny white skull, and (if all goes to plan) they will be appearing regularly. So feel free to skip them, just glaze over them, and in return, for those of you that do read them, I'll try not to let too much of my bitterness shine through... but it's hard just being happy around other people, it's other people that bring you down ;) (there, I promise that's all the bitterness for this post)

It is past my bedtime now, I have worked the weekend and will continue with more of the same tomorrow, and when I'm trying to gether myself too. But, instead of using that just as an excuse to put this off for another day (seriously, like every day I've thought about writing this note, to begin this thing again and every day it hasn't happened), instead of doing that, I'm actually writing this before I go to bed.

So, goodnight and, hopefully, me and my brain will be here again tomorrow.
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John is creating.

The firmament writhes helplessly beneath the molding, shaping pressure of his caressing fingers. Secretly it likes his touch.

His mind is an open wound from which mutagenic ichor pours forth; virulent, potent droplets splatter across the white nothing and where they land worlds spring forth, peoples and gods and histories, loves and hates and jealousies, powers and technologies and freedoms appear; life that has never been seen before, that can be seen everywhere if you only know how to look.

He has been searching, diving the infinities within and seeking the pieces scattered throughout, tying to fit them together, trying to see the picture, wondering if it isn't just enough to have a single piece and let it grow.

John is creating. It has been a while.
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I have a marathon movie plan...

It's for tomorrow (Sunday) so it's probably too short notice for a lot of you, however, this is it:


1.00 ish:
Bourne Identity - HD DVD at mine.

4.00 ish:
Bourne Supremacy - HD DVD at mine.

7.00:
Bourne Ultimatum - Big Screen at Vue Cinema.

Pizza:
at some point in the afternoon.


Let me know via here/ email/ txt if you're going to come (or just turn up, but you may only get pizza crusts due to me not buying enough).
Alternatively, if you just fancy turning up for a bit (like the cinema), that's cool too.


Sorry it's really short notice, but what I did originally have on tomorrow has now been moved to the 9th September, which means I'm busy for the next three Sundays after tomorrow and I don't want to miss doing this before Bourne Ultimatum finishes showing at the cinema.
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Short, short stories; micro fiction; nano fiction... whatever you want to call a story that will fit onto a single side of paper, a screen, a matchbook, anywhere - so long as it's small.

I've always thought the point (and there are always exceptions to any literary idea), was that as word count decreases the information density has to increase. You're never going to develop a story or a world or a character as much as a full story, even just a standard short story. So you have to be as evocative as you can. You have to make the reader tell some of the story in their own head, you have to extend the story backwards and beyond the time covered by your few words.

Here's the best example I can give, from Ernest Hemingway (you may have heard of him). The complete story (don't worry, it isn't too long):

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Which he called a complete story. It is awesome, so evocative. It tells you so much with so few words.

There's some recent sci-fi attempts here (from known authors, and William Shatner! FTW), and I've seen various others before, but none ever seem to do it for me quite as well as hemingway's original.

I'll give it a go myself at some point soon.

It's worth saying, while we're on the topic, that this is where poetry and prose collide. When you reduce the words available, and increase the meaning-density, your use of language often becomes more creative, and the prose-prose poetry-poetry blur becomes foggier than ever.

Personally I wouldn't say Hemingway's falls into poetry (though I'm sure some people will disagree), but then I think some of the ones on that Wired link above do come close. Especially when people start dropping pronouns and articles.

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It would be awesome if people could read and comment on the previous entry... as short as it is (and it really is at approx 500 words), it's the first non-degree related piece of fiction I've finished in a while. It ain't perfect, but hopefully it'll entertain and spark something in yu filthy* fantasy addicts.

(not, like, sex-filthy but, like, literary-filthy... I mean this is kinda junk food fiction, there's no complex plot or character development, it's a greasy, dirty couple of bites that you probably shouldn't like but kinda can't help liking, secretly, deep down. That's the idea, anyway.)

Biggest news is that I have a new job. I have moved back into retail, heading more corporate, more mainstream, but not selling out too much, I hope. I work for Waterstone's. Just started.

It seems pretty cool, and the tills and stock systems/ searches are all pretty familiar. I've only worked one shift so far... there may be pitfalls and booby traps as yet unsuspected, but it seems OK. The sheer volume and variety of books is a little overwhelming, but nothing I don't think a little time and familarity won't solve.

I am finishing at the Hog (what, like I'd work two jobs!?! I am a student). But that does mean that this week I am working two jobs, so Friday will consist of 8.30 to 5.00 at Waterstone's and 6.00 to 1.00/ 2.00 ish at the Hog. Oh, happy day.

I will actually miss the Hog, somewhat. I'll miss the easy atmosphere, the whole barworker-drinker camraderie and the other staff (who were mostly all cool in that easy-to-get-on-with, 'matey' way. And they all had a decent sense of humour - not to say the Waterstone's staff won't have. And I guess they're all young too, which helps because I've never really grown up that much, despite how far my life's come.) I won't miss the late hours and the lost weekends (although I might miss the money that saved), and I won't miss not knowing what days I'll be working from one week to the next.

Most of all though, it means I get to spend more time chilling at home with little Mz_Pink, and as soppy as that might be I'm looking forward to it. =)

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A little dirty pulp fantasy from John Xero.



One Arrow, Thrice Spelled

John Xero


Giant hraefn circle overhead, like dark vultures. The feathers at their wingtips are splayed as they soar on updrafts of heated violence. It is said they do not follow war, but that war follows them. That they lay their eggs where a battle is to come and those eggs will hatch only when the lifeblood of two opposing warriors pools thickly about them. They are distractionsCollapse )

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