Last night, I sat at this writing desk and realised that I write in a totally different way to how I did before I gained clarity. Not only has my writing matured but I am in a place where I can afford to spend money on a passion which I am fortunate enough to be able to call my job. After unpacking and positioning – OCD style – the day’s deliveries of CDs and DVDs, I permitted myself some time with a very thoughtful gift from a writer: I’ve bought myself a Filofax. For reasons which I refer to below, the notebook within the Filofax will be one of many but the cover which binds it will be the last I ever own; and this blog entry may be the last for a short while, for pleasant reasons. If I manage to keep my lid on, my end-of-year message, typed verbatim from my hand-written notes:
I think this is notebook number 12. I can’t be sure as some were lost or stolen in the confusion, like the drunken memories they might have been a record of. It’s gone: how symbolic.
I still have seven of what I think totalled 11, if this is indeed the twelfth volume. Among those which I retain is the very first: started two years ago, when I first found myself on the road. It’s a tattered thing, with a purple cover and a pink wire binding.
Even when I was on the streets, I would spend as much as I could on stationery. Often that would be a bookie’s pen and a pad from 99p Store but I had all that I needed as it turns out. Writing got me through whatever that thing was. I’m told it was a breakdown. Unable to understand it, I’ve embraced whatever this thing is it left me with. I’m suffering chronic PTSD: a year living rough will do that to you; attempts on your life, running, stealing, fighting…When you look back on something like that, it’s affecting. I was already prone and with a prior diagnosis of PTSD anyway, after being robbed at knifepoint and something else. Add some depression into the mix and you’ve got a bit of a recipe: let’s see how it goes from now on…
I’m writing in a Filofax, as one does. To anyone reading this in its original format (and there is only one who may), that is stating the blindingly fucking obvious.
This is the last notebook because the pages I’m writing on are just the notes section: pages which form one part of a greater thing. The Filofax – “My Book” – also has my contacts, to-do, diary…my life within it. The thing is, it works. What better way to start writing in it than to write about the very thing I’m writing in? The notes pages will never run out but the cover holding my life together is the final binding of my notes. My book pulls my metaphorical and actual all-over-the-place life together.
My Book is a thing of aesthetic, tangible and ergonomic beauty. It is A5 in size. The very nature of paper sizes is a thing of beauty and fascination for me and would be too to others, if they took the time to question and explore more. It is bound in leather and embossed with the Filofax legend: “The original. Est. 1921. Made in the UK.” The Union Flag (It’s only the “Union Jack” if it’s flown at sea) is an iconic symbol of unity, inclusiveness and diversity; an emblem of power, pride and venture. I don’t deny a past which I regret and much of which would be in conflict with what I stand for now but I will admit to all that I was involved in, to anyone who listens. I’ve been places where I can advise others not to tread.
The pen I’m using is an old faithful Parker ballpoint: black ink, medium tip: what a change from writing in a 99p notebook with a stolen pen. But life is still the same in many respects. It’s moving on but I will never be able to forget and neither would I want to. There are good memories made of good people but they may not be allowed to cloud the dark memories which are my non-custodial life sentence for all that I did.
It does occur to me that I’m still “In character”: I’m writing in the same way as the protagonist in my latest story – Helvetica Haus – would, with fine tools of the trade and with many other parallels between my thoughts and his. That story is due for online publication on 10th January.
I wrote this on social media:
There’s lots going on next year; things just keep getting better:
My new business cards arrived today: simple black text on white for the face and reversed-out text for the backs; printed litho (not digital) and typeset in Helvetica; paid-for too and not free ones, because I can afford proper business cards now. They are things of visual and tangible beauty. So too is my life in a portable book: my limited edition Union Flag Filofax.
I’m taking on a professional web designer to work on my site and maintain all of the SEO for me in the new year. That particular role is one yet to be fulfilled and I know that a couple of my friends are in the business: if you’re interested in a bit of modest paid work, get in touch.
The Paradoxicon (a book I wrote) will be available print-on-demand in the new year and there will be a limited number of printed copies delivered to me: I might even sign them.
A Girl, Frank Burnside and Hailie Selassie will be printed in the March edition of Writing Magazine (That’s the story which won first prize in a “Life-changing” short story competition for professional writers. Not long after that, it’s being made into a children’s book and going into print. I have a couple of illustrators lined up from my trade contacts but I’m keen to involve anyone I know, so that vacancy is being held open for a while, if anyone has faith in themselves, working with me as a writer and seeing something through. Just let it be known that I’m not fucking about: I’m a professional now and I’ll be in charge of the project as the author, most likely with an agent, or publisher. The publisher who’s expressed an interest is large and has their own in-house teams but if someone has the courage to come on board quick enough, I can pitch the pictures: my words are pretty much sold.
Forgive me No-one has stalled on the chapter writing because I have more immediate paid work on but my memoir is still due for release on Kindle at least, in May. I simply haven’t got to the pitching stage because there’s not enough final copy written. If other things go well, I may not have to self-publish.
Travels to The Paradoxicon is now 32 stories strong and therefore needs another ten short stories of sufficient merit to be written: this anthology will be ready sometime in the first half of next year.
All of which means that I currently have four imprints at the British Library: three ISBNs from two stories published in Schlock bi-monthly print magazine and the competition winner in Writing Magazine. I also have the ISDN for The Paradoxicon, filed and stored in the national archives. Next year, my footprint there will grow.
Helvetica Haus is due for publication on 10 January: when a writer’s motive for doing exactly as I just did by repeating a date could become more apparent to the inquisitive. Life imitates art.
Then I switched back to paper and pen:
I’m writing stream-of-consciousness, with the ink from a fine pen imprinting stories onto paper, where often those thoughts remain but this is almost like a live broadcast. This writer is fully furnished with the means to concentrate on various projects. The AV kit is now fully installed, tested and working: the stack of black boxes set up beneath the TV, together with the almost-complete DVD collection, means that the Savage Cinema room can screen any media. I have multi-region and NTSC DVD players, a hard drive and the few titles I’m missing from the DVD collection on removable storage. I have my desk-side fridge, full of snacks to allow me to keep going.
I have an even more massive music collection that I did before I came here: original albums by the likes of Strawberry Switchblade, Men Without Hats, Fuzzbox and many more, are playing the soundtrack to my life through cordless speakers while I jot down my thoughts: “Man child” by Neneh Cherry. I listen and when I do, I hear words.
Even though I still struggle to work out what the breakdown was all about, I know that it made me better and I’m repairing the damage I done while I was out of control.
I’m writing by hand, with my nice pen, in My Book.
Then social media once more:
It doesn’t matter that there are only a few days of this year left. If it were January 1st, the conversation I had earlier would be hard to beat as the one I’ll remember for a very long time. A few things I have to say at the end of a transformative year:
1. Those who continue to doubt me are in the minority now and – thankfully – not bothering me anymore. I wish them well with their own problems. I was a distraction for a while. Quite frankly, fuck them.
2. Judge me on my relationships: that sort of thing gives people things to do and fill their otherwise empty lives: glad to be of service. I would rather pull out my own teeth so that I can appear on Jeremy Kyle with those kind of people than have anything to do with them.
3. My “breakdown”, or whatever anyone wants to call it was a sustained thing which I didn’t understand: I still don’t fully understand what went on.
4. I ruined everything and I can never put things right: I live with that for the rest of my life. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it, given all of the doubting and abuse I get.
5. I don’t feel guilty receiving benefits. Given all of the trauma I’ve endured, is it any wonder I’ve got PTSD?
6. I fucking miss my kids, every day. That’s my fault: I get it. I have worked with my ex-wife to ensure that all is well with our children. Still though, people of a certain persuasion will continue to persecute.
7. Don’t judge me; have the front to question me and I will cut you off at the fucking knees with words alone. Many won’t have the courage or intelligence. Where others have hurt me temporarily with fists, I can do permanent damage with nothing more than a pen.
8. I’m a writer: that’s what I am now. I’m published, in print. I have imprints at The British Library: can any of my doubters make a similar claim? Can I be allowed to get on with it?
9. If you’re still around and can’t accept me for what I am and what I’ve become, just remove me from whatever list you have me on: it’ll feel to me like a venomous snake able to loosen its bite: fuck off and die slowly and painfully, before I eat you.
10. I’m a writer. I write mainly fiction. However, this exchange is quoted verbatim:
ME: “Would it be too late to change my plans for next Friday?”
MUM: “No, of course it wouldn’t.”
And my dad stood right behind her.
I am not proud of myself. I’m fucking proud of my family though…
Back to My Book:
…including the ones who became family through The Pink Hearts: friends and more, which only we know about and the true membership of which is down to me. Many may claim to be one by wearing one but only those who know, really know.
Life’s good. Thanks to all those who stuck around. I still have detractors: parasites who will eventually succumb to the effects of the venom in my pen. Those close to me know and share my poison and those who I choose to have close to me are intelligent enough to know the difference between poison and venom.
And if anyone gets hold of My Book, I’ve been through enough to be able to say with confidence, over my dead body.