The feeling I have at the moment is the kind one gets upon achieving something noteworthy: in my games of pool and poker, this is an eight ball clearance and a royal flush respectively, both of which I’ve managed. You can’t make a royal flush but you can play one well when you hit it. When I hit mine on the river card and improved on my nut flush, I did well financially. That was back when I used to play live.
Losing my religion was an achievement: every day spent as an atheist and able to contemplate something broader than would be permitted by religion, is enlightening. My breakdown was the antithesis of an achievement but that came with the recovery and change into someone better.
Where some things are dark or light, black or white, now my mood is a colour: that’s how I’m able to visualise it in my mind and it’s specifically Pantone Violet, just a shade between PMS2665 and 2685.
These things are events. My breakdown was discussed at length recently, when I spent a very agreeable Christmas Day with my parents and auntie. I still don’t know what happened when I lost it but almost everyone involved has come to the conclusion that with hindsight, it was the best thing which has ever happened to me. I always knew my IQ was high and had it measured when I was younger. I feared that the abuse I’d put myself through might have damaged it but I provisionally score 147: anything above 140 is officially “genius” and an Intelligence Quotient of 147 places me in the top 0.1% of the population for intellect. If I’d not killed so many brain cells with drink, it may have been higher but I feel as though the breakdown was some sort of boost. Something was triggered in my damaged brain, as though the whole thing was a massive seizure and it’s left me with a gift. This whole episode in my life is certainly an ongoing epoch event.
I’m due to taken a written, invigilated exam at Birkbeck College in London next month, to gain entry to Mensa, the high IQ society. I submit that it is partly an exercise in personal vanity, to have a framed certificate bearing a number on my wall, along with the two magazines I’m published in so far. As my writing continues to get more serious though, I’m finding that my business brain is waking up again. Of course, I do all of the things which any professional writer does: personal sales and marketing of existing work, as well as new material. Entry to Mensa though will gain me access to a network of intelligent and well-connected people. With everything else which is lined up for next year, 2016 could really be the beginning of me, where 2015 was the miraculous change and 2014, the breakdown.
The invigilated lab mouse thing comes at a financial cost, further confirming that this is indeed part vanity project. In order to sit the exam, one must take a preliminary test online, to establish a fairly rough score: Mensa don’t want people wasting their money and those of us in the top 0.1% are afforded the opportunity to be smug in the company of others in the top 2% of the population, which is roughly Mensa’s membership threshold. As well as the online IQ test, candidates can take a multiple choice personality test and take advantage of a consultation with a psychologist at Birkbeck College. I must admit that myself and those closest to me weren’t entirely surprised at the personality type indicated by the preliminary test.
It’s something which is exhibited not only in my writing but the other things which I enjoy. When I watch one of the many challenging films in my collection, my attention is completely focussed on the piece of work. As well as watching the film, I am listening to every nuance in the dialogue, absorbing the musical score, imagining myself behind the camera for some shots and generally admiring the director’s art. At least one person who has watched a presentation in the Savage Cinema with me commented that the world could have been ending outside and I wouldn’t have noticed, such was the depth of my concentration. This is why I appreciate affecting art and try to produce it myself.
Poker requires almost total concentration if one is to play well. Whether I’m playing live or online, my expression is the same: classic poker face. No emotion. I’m concentrating, on the current hand and those which went before; which players were involved, their actions at various points, this time and the last time we played. Of course I’m also analysing odds, the chances of my hand improving against what I’ve read the other players to have and whether the investment in chips is statistically profitable over the long term. I’m thinking about bet sizes, my position in relation to the dealer and a host of other things. There’s a lot of maths and psychology being worked out in my head when I play poker and it’s to the exclusion of any distractions around me.
It’s the same when I play pool and chess: I develop a kind of focussed tunnel vision and forget about my surroundings, concentrating on the pool table or the chess board. My mind is not just focussed on the shot or the move but those which my opponent and myself will play thereafter: I’m thinking ahead and imagining many different scenarios; alternate universes which I create. Often, I can’t be engaged in conversation, even when it’s a friendly pub league match of pool and always a game of chess with a friend. I’m locked out; I’m “In the zone”. My personality type then, is psychopath. As I’ve studied and written on the subject before, psychopathy is merely concentration on a single task and a means to an end, to the detriment of all else. There are elite soldiers in the armed forces who are clinically diagnosed psychopaths. There are doctors and surgeons, who perform risky operations which others might not. They can concentrate their minds on the task in hand, aware of the danger millimetres away from a crucial nerve or blood vessel and perform surgery on the borderline between life-saving and fatal. There are other psychopathic writers. One of the girls wrote privately some months ago but confided in me, her summing up of me: a psychopathic genius. That’s a teenager, who is completely at ease in my company. In fact, while she is here, I am usually working. The fact that there is a stunningly attractive teenage girl on my sofa, watching TV, is of no consequence to me: she is simply there, while I get on with what I do. This is why it’s doubtful that I’ll ever be able to let anyone into my life again as a partner. I am too much of an unknown quantity, even to myself.
Just because I am a potential psychopath, doesn’t mean that I’m going to act out any of the terrible things I sometimes write about: like the soldiers and medics, I’m not the stereotypical psychopath as portrayed in the media. A short story which I wrote recently, called Helvetica haus is due for publication in Schlock! webzine on 10th January: it is an exploration of psychopathy told in 4000 beautiful words. Any reader will understand the subject matter and probably realise that in fact, they know a psychopath. Just like the rest of humanity, I am capable of producing beautiful dreams as well as horrible nightmares, if we put our minds to it. I’m the psycho who paid such close attention to his work, with all disregard for how it might offend some people, in order to produce affecting stories: the “nasties”. I wrote the notorious The elephant in the playroom of course but also Solum oculos claude, Another nativity and the one which demonstrates the nature of my art the best, the beautifully written COGS. The writer who wrote all of those, also wrote the rather wonderful A Girl, Frank Burnside and Hailie Selassie, which moved a judge to tears, bagged me first prize in a writing competition and which will be published as a children’s book. What all of those stories have in common is that they have strong artistic merit: I’m pretty good at what I do, as well as being fairly competent at poker, pool and chess.
Christmas Day was not the challenge it might have been if it were a gathering of the whole family. If an invitation to such had been offered, I would still have declined. As it was, the four of us present had lively and interesting conversation. Naturally, I was the centre of attention but I wasn’t the elephant in the room, nor the black sheep of the family brought in from the cold: I was welcome. Whereas once I’d come with a parental advisory notice and my own portable atmosphere which could be cut through, now I’m pleasant and engaging company. The locale was certainly more pleasant than those of the last couple of Christmases, which were spent in a hospital bed, a police cell, or on the street. Monetary gifts were exchanged, appropriate to the occasion, the donors and the recipients. More important was the sentiment I wrote in my parents’ card:
I can never stop being sorry
But I never stopped loving you
I hope you’re no longer ashamed
when people ask you,
“How’s your son?”
Both of my parents were moved to phone me separately the next day to thank me for the lovely time they’d had. No gratitude was necessary because there was absolutely no effort on my part. Among the conclusions arrived at mutually was the one that my breakdown was something which was going to happen at some point. It did and from then on, I either died alone or I fought back. I always was a fighter and a literal ticking time bomb. It was offered, without prompting from me, that the events which caused so much damage to the family for a while have made me a much better person; better than I ever was before it all went a bit wrong.
I wasn’t fishing for compliments by taking copies of the two magazines which my writing is published in so far; I wanted to show my parents demonstrable proof of how their son had changed and hoped they might one day be proud; that it wasn’t all bullshit. I explained the significance of the ISBNs on the back covers, meaning that I am immortalised at The British Library. Thereafter, I retired to the garden to smoke a cigarette and say hello to departed family pets buried there. On returning to the living room, I was pleasantly surprised to walk in on my parents, both reading my stories. Dad read A Message and mum read COGS: “Bloody macabre but very well written…”, was the mother ship verdict.
It occurred to me recently that none of my recent stories are in the public domain: this is for the very agreeable reason that all have been accepted for publication and therefore copyright is temporarily with a publisher. So that I could self-publish something for promotion, marketing and practice, I offered to pen a story for free and received a couple of ideas which have become first draft works. Again though, what I’ve found is that almost everything I put my mind into writing becomes something good and finds a route to market. So the only writing I can self-publish now is this blog. I’ve wondered whether I should concentrate entirely on the paid stuff but the flow of the blog writing is good exercise.
The publishing schedule includes my latest, Helvetica haus, in Schlock! webzine on 10th January and I’m already revising it for inclusion in a forthcoming bi-monthly print edition. A Girl, Frank Burnside and Hailie Selassie is in Writing Magazine in March and shortly thereafter as a children’s book, once the copyright reverts to me. I have four works in progress for competitions, at least six pulp fiction titles and of course, the four books which are still in the background.
The big thing finally happened yesterday when The Paradoxicon was published in print. My debut novel (it’s borderline novella at 106 pages but with so much said and not written, it’s definitely a novel) is available to buy as a paperback. I published through Lulu because of the print-on-demand element and a means to sell my books through Barnes and Noble. The first ten First Edition copies will arrive with me at the end of the week and they all have homes already: I’m signing the first ten books and giving them to people who helped me – without knowing it – through the change. No-one knows who is getting the very second one out of the box (I’m getting the first because I wrote the fucking thing; I don’t love anyone that much) except me. I have a list of names, in no order of preference, other than there is a name at the top of the list. No-one but me will ever see that list because it’s in the book which contains my life: my Union Flag Filofax. No-one, absolutely no-one, goes in that book. My fold-up companion has an identical volume which I bought her for Christmas and I would expect her to go into my book no more than I would go into hers. Not even the girls are allowed in my personal book. It’s the book I carry with me and which contains my writer’s business cards: traditionally printed in black on white and using the Helvetica font, like the tattoos on my arms.
Another event within this whole happening, when I hope to have put everything I’ve gained to use, is due in 3-6 years. I have the mind capacity now to focus on studying for my degree in creative writing, starting next year and I naturally want to graduate with honours.
With just over 2000 words of thoughts turned into words, I feel I may excuse myself to return to work. The next one which is likely to be seen online after Helvetica haus, is provisionally called Strings: it’s a teenage fantasy, life message-type thing. “Bono”, “The Chicken” and other stories are still ongoing until I get them just right: word perfect.
As a psychopathic, genius writer, I want to be notable as a psychopathic, genius writer.