Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Hand-Knitted Electricity: It’s Quite Cheap and Fairly Funny

Have you ever been close to giving up writing? Lost that essential love of getting words down? Perry Iles, my guest blogger today, knows exactly what that feels like. But he found a way to get writing again - here's how he did it.

A minor warning - if you are easily offended don't read on.

Once upon a time I had a case of writer’s block that lasted for about three years. Are you asleep yet? You should be, because nobody wants to hear writers whinging on about writers not being able to write. It’s a fallacy under which we writers labour – that our lives and work are fascinating whilst yours are not, because you never start banging on about painter-and-decorator’s block do you? Or “darling, I just looked at the washing up. I was scared by the blank, empty sink and the full draining board, and I couldn’t do it; I swear I tried but I didn’t know whether to start with the cutlery or the plates and now I can’t face it any more, so would you now indulge me for five years or so while I get drunk and start shagging the neighbours for the sake of my art? I swear I’ll be able to wash up after that.”

It’s bollocks. We think we’re precious but we’re not. But, while I’m on the subject, one way of surmounting writers block is to write a book without knowing you’re doing it. This is what happened to me. First of all I invented a persona to hide behind, then I put that persona on every morning and lived inside it. This is the best way to write – you put your writing uniform on like some kind of a method actor, then stay in character until you don’t have to do it any more, which will happen when you realise you’ve reached the end. It’s a confidence thing. So no more hitting the word-count button to see if you’ve got a full-length novel yet, no more procrastination, no more thousand words of filler to make yourself feel better. If you really want to feel better, remember it’s the guy in the uniform that’s the control freak, not you – and he’s the one that’s in charge of character, settings, opinions expressed, all of it. You can totally absolve yourself of all responsibility, like a kid throwing stones at a greenhouse. It’s great fun.

Professor Darren Rimmer, for me, was the big boy who did it and ran away. The process came about via an online writing site on which somebody invented a word one day, and asked for other writers to think up a definition of its meaning. More than five hundred made-up words later, the contributors (of which I was one out of about half a dozen) found themselves in the possession of a two-hundred page book called Hand-Knitted Electricity, which had evolved under the auspices of the character I’d invented, a bogus professor of popular culture in a bogus northern university. To say that Professor Darren Rimmer is a bit politically incorrect is like saying Samantha Fox might have suffered from a slight case of nipple-slip before she caught God and turned her back on solids. Professor Rimmer is a ghastly creation who laughs in the face of all that’s decent and does raised-leg bum-guffs in the general direction of just about everything. But the book he created, I like to think, is funny. It’s funny in the same way the Viz Profanosaurus is funny, in the same way Keith Lemon is funny. In laughing at everything else, Professor Rimmer is inviting the reader to laugh at him. If you’re offended, you’ve got it wrong, but don’t expect Rimmer, or indeed his creator, to care very much.

And for me, I’ve written a book, so I can now run down the garden path humming a Cliff Richard tune, leap in the air and click my heels together, pick a gardenia and put it in my buttonhole and skip gaily to work, stopping only to pat babies and kiss puppies. It’s funny how empowering that feeling is, almost as funny as the sudden realisation that you’ve used a word like “empowering” and if you don’t look out you’ll be using words like “up-shift”, “burgeon” and “enhance”, when you mean go faster, grow and improve. The man in the uniform that I turned into for a few months has done me some good. He’s living in my writing node now, sticking a cattle-prod into my brain every so often and telling me not to talk like some kind of tosspot any more.

If you want to read Hand-Knitted Electricity, you can get it on Amazon in electronic or paper formats. It’s quite cheap and fairly funny. That’s me rattling my tin cup at you, in case you hadn’t noticed. Please feel free to tell me to fuck off and get a proper job, but don’t be surprised if I bite your ankle on the way out.

Perry Iles is a grumpy old bastard who people do complicated little dances to avoid sitting next to at dinner parties. Barely house-trained, he has gravitated to Scotland, where he feels at home. He suffers from bouts of frantic scratching and the odd outbreak of genital warts, and looks forward to a time when we all die horribly. 

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