Monday, 5 October 2009


It is autumn, and although summer only ended a couple of days ago, it already feels like a distant memory as I sit in a tracksuit on my bed, scarf around my neck, dog-ears hat on my head, computer on my lap, with the smell of my clean washing in the tumble-dryer wafting down from upstairs, or hanging to dry on my bedroom walls, from the picture rail.

Winter is coming. I don’t want it to be like last year again, when the cold froze me quite to the marrow as I sat at my desk in two jumpers, scarf, fingerless gloves, dog-ears hat and two pairs of socks in shoes, as I tried to write, every so often checking the thermometer by the kitchen door to see if the interior temperature had crept above nine degrees.

The difference between this year and last is money. This time last year I was about to quit my full-time job. Currently I’m easing myself into a new one, the concentration and dedication required for which has been responsible for my literary hiatus. It pays well, but detracts greatly from my mental energy, menial and creative efforts seemingly unable to dovetail in my attention, and I collapse into bed at night with a brain full of visual fragments for which I lack the techniques to realise – a writer surely deals in words, not pictures. The inspirations behind these visual fragments include Beverley Bennett (line, repetition), James Tuitt (colour), Donald Judd (compartmentalisation), Dan Flavin (light), Anish Kapoor (carnal dirt), Cy Twombly (grids and collage) and many others whose details aren’t at hand.

I seem to be striving towards the emergence of a totality, in which all my influences and experiences converge into a lifestyle and line of production. As with Gilbert and George, everything should be just so – my life and work should be the same thing. I should treat my personal life with the same respect as I do my job, professionally, with a healthy fear of failure, studying aptly and putting what I learn into practice.

This evening Donald Judd and the idea I have attached to him, of compartmentalisation, have inspired me. Earlier this year I wrote a semi-automatic splurge on mess and clutter called ‘The Box’, in which one box contains everything belonging to its inhabitant, including such unlikely items as sheep noses and matted moose hair. ‘The Box’ and the work of Donald Judd oppose one another. In ‘The Box’ there is no order, the inhabitant consumed in trying vainly to organise his mind and time, at the expense of either creativity or quotidian efficiency; one cannot create art when there are so many other things to take care of, especially with authority figures scrutinising and waiting for an implosion. If the inhabitant were to see the work of Donald Judd, for example, at the Haunch of Venison gallery, he might be inspired to reorganise and clarify his mind and environment, by shelving and boxing everything that exists in his world.

But there is something wonderful in mess, wallowing in one’s own shit, trapped under the rubble, alone and unreachable. That may sound insensitive, but only in chaos can I retreat into pure creativity. Destruction is pleasing to look at. Wrecked buildings and dead landscapes are warming. Dark, dirty holes are comely, flesh and blood, tasty. Our entire world is a trash can, the contents of which can all be sorted and recycled, but let us have a little play in it first.

There has to be found a balance. I have a job in which I have to present myself as an unwavering professional, through fear of losing it. I must operate cleanly and precisely as a robot. At work, my environment must be spotless and free of intrusion; every task must be completed promptly and any appliance used cleaned immediately after use, otherwise I cannot work, and therefore, as I am a cog within the machine, the café cannot work. I have a space in which to work, to complete random tasks within a set framework, and the more time I spend in that space working automatically, the better the results. My smoothies are uniformly thick and creamy, and look how smoothies should, yet I use no instruments for measurement, as my mind and actions are automatic.

In contrast, I have a hobby in which I can do whatever I want, and wallow in my own shit. At home, where I spend very little time, I throw things down and go straight to bed at 1am, only to jolt awake at 5.30 at the buzz of my alarm, pick what I need out of the rubble (shower gel, face wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel and a bathmat), before going over a mental checklist upon leaving the house (keys, phone, money, fags, travelcard, lighter, lip balm). When I find myself at home for half an hour or more, I am not thinking about order and the expedient completion of tasks, I am sinking into the warmth of my chaos and daydreaming. Home is where my ass sinks into the sofa and I become part of my own environment, participating in the visual manifestation of my own mental chaos.

If I am to become a writer, however, I must find the space, somehow, where these boxes overlap. I must be able to glean from the joy of wallowing in my own shit, yet produce efficiently and regularly, work of fine quality.

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