Updated: Apr 18
I was an avid reader and video-game player from an early age. To this day, my favourite books and video games are essentially voyages into another world. If the characters are relatable, I usually become attached to their outcomes, and these two mediums of art represent comparatively cheap ways of enjoying the sensation of travelling & empathetic feeling & subtle education.
I started taking my own writing seriously due to the heartfelt feelings of affection that I felt for some of my peers around the age of 16, my own deepening alienation from society (for whatever reason, didn’t feel like I could always be my ‘authentic self’ in either New Orleans, USA or London, UK), the illness of my mum who also liked to write and, finally, the fact that I was much better at writing a poem or essay or whatnot than completing physical tasks such as football or cricket.
One of my earliest memories is studying aspects of The Great Gatsby for my GCSE English Language & Literature at the age of 13. Fitzgerald’s language was relatively easy to understand, but it beautifully painted the paradoxical intensity of dreaming a sweet dream and trying to achieve that dream in the physical world without infringing upon the qualities that created that dream in the first place. There was as complex profundity to the language, and each part of the novel seemed essential to its whole – perhaps that’s where I went wrong in my own first novel. Anyhow, I was utterly bedazzled with his description of Gatsby & his parties & his wakening wistfulness & that green light.
I suppose I’ve always been chasing that same lyrical intensity in my own work… be it prose or poetry or music. My friend Jack Dunleavy introduced me to the work of Leonard Cohen and Haruki Murakami. Jack and I would meet every week to write poetry & listen to music & smoke. My love for Cohen and Murakami has been bordering on obsessive for more than a decade now. I’ve read all of their published work (and can’t wait for Leonard Cohen’s “secret” first novel and Murakami’s book on “novel-writing”, which both come out later this year).
When I was aged 16, I always put on David Bowie’s “Five Years” as I showered and got ready for school, and I also loved Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue”.... I enjoyed the idea that these were two stars undertaking a Hero’s Journey in which their own appearance was almost incidental, accentuated only at the end of each song. So… yeah, I want my writing to be adventurous like Cohen/Dylan/Bowie/Murakami/Cormac McCarthy/Colleen Hoover (the latter for some reason being the only woman on this list… and to think I used to wonder why women were so damn mysterious ahah!)
I just got a bit drunk, to tell the truth. But I‘ve been sober from all drugs excepting alcohol & caffeine & nicotine for a couple of weeks now, mostly due to the fact that the money I receive from Universal Credit (benefits) has gone down. I honestly believe it to be somewhat of a coincidence that most of my work was written or at least conceived in an intoxicated state. The main reason I don’t write sober is because I am rarely sober. Even at the age of seventeen, I used to get drunk/high to improve the novelty of essays.
Anyhow, right now my writing rules/manifesto are as follows: 1. Make it novel!
2. Make it short as possible!
3. But linger on some profoundly odd moments!
4. Make them wonder, “how the hell did the writer do that?!” (the feeling I had when I heard Alison MacLeod’s latest work “Tenderness” read aloud)! 5. Enjoy rhyme/alliteration but not at the expense of meaning!
6. Take your time with writing… don’t waste your reader’s time!
7. Setting can be incidental, but I elect to personify it somewhat, like some secret character!
8. Avoid cliches but remember that most of us (in some sense, and definitely including me) are essentially walking/talking cliches! 9. Even if you think your writing is great, it doesn’t mean that someone is going to part with
their hard-earned cash for your work just because YOU "think your writing is great”!
10. Experiment around with your style of writing! I believe – just as one “true love” shouldn’t define the rest of your love– that you shouldn’t let yourself be tied to any particular clothing of form… “automatic writing” is not usually usually not the best form of attire! [Even Jack Kerouac's fabled 3 weeks worth of work on "On The Road" was said to mostly be 'typing'... because it was! .. see https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11709924&t=1648659270832 ] This work on a writing manifesto was completed as the last assignment on the wonderful Ella Frear's Advanced Poetry Course @CityLit. (https://www.citylit.ac.uk/courses/masterclass-poetry-a-one-term-intensive-workshop)
Thanks & love, Tonnan