I’ve not been writing recently. It feels like a chore, like something I have to get through in order to be finished, rather than something I do for the fun of it. Part of it is my day job: I’ve just been through the busiest time of the year, where far-too-few staff and I work our arses off to stage a major open-air sculpture exhibition on the local beach (more of that later), but it’s more than that. I’m between milestones in a major way: the Corpse-Rat King journey is done and dusted, the publication of Magit and Bugrat is something like 9 months away, and with two novels sitting in my agent’s in-tray waiting for him to come out of his coma and notice them I’m a long way from any sort of progress on any sort of front, and frankly, the idea of starting anything new just fills me with a case of the giant whatevers. Be honest, even writing this blog entry is a bloody chore, but then, given I’ve done fuck all around here in ages, you’ve probably figured that one out for yourself.
Then Luscious and I went to see Russell Howard at the Regal Theatre a couple of weeks ago. And as brilliant as he was, the former comedian in me took special glee in watching him riff ten minutes of angry material at a moron in the audience who was ignoring the strict ‘no photography, no filming’ rule, only to realise he’d been starting a fight with one of the floor lights leading to the exit. It was brilliant, off-the-cuff stuff, a spiralling flight of mental fancy that impressed me as much as it amused me.
Then a Facebook link led me to this youtube video. It’s Stewart Lee, possibly the most inventive and intelligent British comedian of the past 20 years, and one of my favourite comic thinkers of all time. And he’s not being at all funny. He’s delivering an address to the Oxford Union on the way writing comedy has changed over the last two decades, and how his own personal evolution has been affected by the changing landscape. It’s basically a TED talk for writers, and it’s wonderful:
And then one of my work mates sat down and blew out a monster sigh one morning, and we had this conversation:
HER: Anyone get the number?
ME: What number?
HER: The number of the truck that ran over me this morning.
ME: Dunno. I couldn’t see it from up in the driver’s seat.
And my little corner of the office broke up laughing. Immediately. And told me how quick I am, and how clever, and all that little egoboo jazz it takes for me drag my increasingly weary bones through the day.
And it’s all rather crystallised: I miss stand-up. I miss the immediacy of it, the jazz-riffing-rim-running skating along the edginess of it. I’m sick of delayed effect, bored with working for months on a piece only to realise it into the wild and watch it sink without a trace. Make no mistake: I was a shit stand-up comic. But I could write a gag, oh I really could. I could write material. I just have no way to make it all fit, anymore.
Dunno what it all heralds, I really don’t. But being halfway between fish and fowl seems to be my way of life. Damned if I know what that means for my writing.