I’m a writer. The moment I see that sentence, I fell the need to rush in to qualify it in some way. A lot of writers feel this way. A lot of people who write feel this way. How do I know? Because I read it in their blogs.
The psychological set up is something like this: “I am not currently writing a novel, play, screenplay, poem, haiku or feature article and therefore I am not a writer.” Some people have it really bad and they have the professional version of this malaise: “I will not be a real, proper writer until my work has been published, produced, broadcast – whatever – and I have been paid for my efforts.”
Far be it from me to discourage you from either variant of this point of view. This particular Monday morning, I feel like a blogger who writes rather than the reverse. However, as long as this potentially negative thought is a spur or a whip that you use to encourage yourself to write, then who am I to judge a masochistic idea that works?
I am cranking up to write again. My co-writers will probably be puzzled and perhaps a little annoyed to hear this and would be entitled to ask: “What the fuck were you doing before – while we were writing together?”
Faffing about is the answer. Being somewhere between one quarter and seven eighths of a writer depending upon the day. I have a bread and butter teaching job that involves other people’s writing. My head has been there. I have also been stuck in an existential funk so textbook that I want to sue my brain for plagiarism. It mostly involves waking up at odd hours and realising that life is but fleeting and nothing has any meaning or point whatsoever. Sure, there’s the gorgeous celtically inflected ballads of The Corrs and highball glasses are damned cheap at K-Mart Booragoon, and yet somehow this isn’t enough.
I fell asleep on the sofa last night and woke with what I loosely term Fear Of Death. Actually it’s more like Death Negates All The Good Things Of Life And Is The Final Victor In All Cases. It’s a bit of an SBS TWO title, I’ll grant you.
If you’re still reading this you may be thinking something along the lines of: “What a sad and narrow view of the shimmering tapestry that is LIFE, but then he is a single man without kids, a puppy or even a houseplant.” Good point, my cyber-confidant and Harold Pinter-esque interrogator. I am indeed unencumbered by attachments and unattached by encumbrances. Believe me, I’m not bragging, but nor am I commiserating, we make our choices and “we build a rut with our own two hands”*.
Once I was awake properly and focussed on the television, I saw Martin Scorsese’s biopic about Howard Hughes, THE AVIATOR was on. I watched about half an hour and found it by turns a slick piece of filmmaking and then suddenly as bad as anything Scorsese has ever committed to film. Hughes sees an old man pushing a filthy broom on the factory floor. GERMS! “Owen why is he looking at ME! I want him fired!” Showers of sparks light the set in flashes of brilliant white. “Show me the blueprints, Owen. Show me the blueprints. Show me the blueprints. Show me the blueprints. SHOW ME THE BLUEPRINTS!! Hughes tears up. Then looks as frightened as a child. He runs to his car. Sits behind the wheel and blinks. Eyes wide open. Blinks.
I think Scorsese was trying to let us see how frighteningly disorienting Hughes’ psychological state was. But the effect of this sequence was like the most expensive student film ever made.
Ooops. That’s torn it. I’ve offended someone for whom THE AVIATOR is a proper film, a seminal text, and a great Scorsese picture. That’s cool. I’m just some guy. Over the years I’ve been paid to write scripts, write about films, write film reviews, write about filmmakers; I’ve also been paid to look at other people’s scripts and give critical feedback and I’ve been paid to teach people how to write a script. And none of this means a damn when my digits hit the keyboard. I have no idea whether I could write a convincing biographical screenplay about Justin Bieber, let alone the iconic multi-millionaire Howard Hughes.
John Logan, the guy who did write it, has won an Oscar for co-writing GLADIATOR, won Tonys for his play RED about the artist Mark Rothko. He also wrote the worst Star Trek film, NEMESIS and according to the Wikipedia is set to write a film based on the videogame BIOSHOCK. He’s a well-credentialed guy in whom a studio would have a certain amount of confidence. The last thing I wrote before this was a smart-alecky Facebook status. Yet I am as entitled to my low-opinion of the slice of THE AVIATOR I saw as you are entitled to your high opinion of the whole thing. It’s nothing but taste. It’s not something provable or defensible in a court of law. It is merely opinion and taste.
I have a long-standing rule not to argue about matters of taste. Yet the opinion of a potential audience is so important to anyone who creates a work and puts it out there. Sure, we creative folk are our own first audience, but ignore the actual audience completely and you risk talking only to yourself. And that’s what blogging is for, surely?
All the risk that surrounds writing is why I’ve been so half-baked about it lately. It’s so much easier to snark about someone else’s work. So much simpler to facilitate someone else’s efforts as a teacher. Much less risky to arrive on the scene and make forensic pronouncements rather than risk one’s own heart, mind or ass.
So that’s what this blog is for. To create yet another online distraction from writing. And also to hang out my shingle as a writer. I don’t know exactly what the content will be, but it will be about writing and will contain your daily allowance of pop cultural riffing.
Thanks for your time.
Phil Jeng Kane