Hold onto your socks I’m off on another rant. It’s been a while.
I’ll start it with a phrase I’ve been considering for a while.
‘I believe that you have to have lived to be able to write.‘
Now, I’m sure that there will be people out there who immediately take objection to the above statement and consider that they are able to write convincingly from their bland lives as they believe they have enough ‘imagination’. Then I would counter that by asking them how much better their writing would be if they could add to that stew some flashes of genuine reality relocated into their craft.
I do not make any claims at being a great writer but I do push for that truth in everything I write.
For example, I may not have lived in a post apocalyptic world and drank in McGregor’s sleazy dive but I have been in a few fights in pubs that embrace dangerous personalities.
I may not have met and fallen in love with a prostitute but I have chatted to and laughed with working girls and I have fallen in love.
I may not have been an East End gangster but I have drunk and laughed and fought with and against them. Those complicated men and women are real to me, I can describe them in detail.
I may not have been a member of a ‘Monster Spotters Club’ but my son (and I) were in the scouts and we would go looking for animals (he loves hiding and spotting squirrels) as a 5 yr old. He would come up with cunning ways to hide without being seen all the while telling me to ‘Shush Dad’.
More and more these days I’m seeing a lack of reality in writing. No depth to the situations. No individualism to the people in or narrating the comic book stories. This problem stops the reader from being all in. It’s a disappointing trend that is making comics a laughable commodity at many glances. There is a lack of true investment.
I used to say that you had to fight a bull to write about it. I never ever meant it literally and there are levels of understanding here that can be picked apart. I’m sure that Alan Moore was never Jack the Ripper but I’m also sure that he’s met rough men, he’s walked the streets of the East End, he’s heard and internalised the stories of Detectives and he’s practised in the diabolical darkness present on the Eddie Campbell gloriously illustrated pages.
The experience never needs to be literal. I wouldn’t expect you to have met The Devil - however we all have our demons. Explore the experiences that have taken you down some dark alleys. Or alternatively to the top of some beautiful mountains. And if you don’t have those memories to explore then get out of your bedroom and live some life.
‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’ Ernest Hemingway.
We need to take a bite out of life to be able to describe how it tastes. We also need to be hurt to bleed. Feeling is part of writing and if you have never felt then you cannot translate it into words on a page. Being in love is unlike anything else in this world. That feeling in your gut and the moments you daydream about that other person are special and magnificent. So I ask you, how could you write about love in any of your stories without having had that experience.
To be a writer you have to understand the feeling of extreme moments and you can’t do that by sitting at a desk and watching Netflix. As an industry we will end up writing ourselves into a box of dull shapes, banal reactions and stories written by the slightest and unreal motivations.
It seems that at this moment in time we are more likely to get a comic about watching the recent Black Lives Matter protests on a television than from somebody who was actually there and has that truth to their work.
Is this beginning to make sense?
‘I feel ever so strongly that an artist must be nourished by his passions and his despairs.’ Francis Bacon.
Don’t we need to experience high emotion to translate it into art? We need to use our art to be part of that emotional process. Feed off that moment.
The adults have left the room and we are left with the OMG’ing faux polemic of the spotty millenial writing in a way to impress their Twitter bubble. Send it to their friends, get a pat on the back and wait for the moment to take hold before they smugly create more unchallenging, emotionless drivel. These attempts are obvious and trite and ultimately unsatisfying.
We will be left with comics that show the emotional depth of a toddler shouting ‘Look mum, I saw a dog’.
So go and experience. Feel the gambit of emotions. Let them penetrate your mind and enhance your soul. Not always easy I’ll give you that but enriching and very, very useful. And then strive to be that better writer.
Many thanks for reading.