Please Don’t Read This – Pages from my Notebook

Posted: November 24, 2010 in graffiti living
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They say you should face your fears. One of my biggest fears is that someone will read my notebooks and realise that I’m mad, that I can’t write, and that even when I do write, my first drafts are so terrible that I should be shot in the name of literature. So, here it is. Several pages of my notebook. Uncut. The only thing I’ve corrected is the spelling.

People used to keep seeing my ideas being made by other people before I finished writing them. I’d get an idea for a story, and before you knew it, it was a film, or a novel, with someone else’s name attached. I decided that I was a talentless hack, with no originality. But one of my friends joked that I’d sprung a leak and should be kept in an idea proof room until I’d completed a novel and gotten it published. This gave me an idea for a story about a nutty old man, a famous writer and recluse, who’d locked himself away in a room lined with other people’s words, so that his own ideas couldn’t escape or be stolen before he’d finished them. One day, he was tracked down by a young student journalist type who wanted to interview him.

I abandoned the story soon after. I tried to get into the character’s heads, and couldn’t get either of their voices right. This, verbatim, is the rotten fruit of the first writing session – not a first draft or a story fragment, just the word clusters and false starts that I scribbled down at the time:

IDEA PROOF ROOM

I sleep and dream to wake in a room surrounded by words packed so dense on the walls that I can no longer remember the words in my dreams. Listening for other voices I hear nothing but my own thoughts – cut off from the outside, from other people’s words (what would be to stop me reading them on the walls) I worry that they will dwindle to nothing. The room is bare in terms of original thought – my dangerous ideas have died in the room. That’s what I thought at first. Then I started to wake up in the middle of the night with stories in my mind – I’d listen all night to stories jabbering away at each other, vying for attention.

The room was bare when I stood there, dirt and shit on the floor. The walls were bare plaster that had never been painted, but H had been doing some decorating of his own. “I put newspaper up at the windows but you could see through it.”

You pick up other people’s feelings like sentences in a book you have stolen. You take them home with you, their eyes and through that their hearts and their lives, and the little spark inside them. You put it out, catch pages in the fire and watch them burn deliberately. But this is not what you meant to say, what you really feel. You know that and that is why you let them burn. Sat in the corner of your room on the dirty mattress like something you meant to say. You pick up their feelings, hold them, pick up on them like radio waves, someone else’s frequency. You guess what they are about, interpret them, can touch their mood, but what they really want is for you to touch them, pick them up, hold them, to not cast them in the fire.

No words get out. That’s the plan. To hold my hands up against the mouth of my mind and go ‘shush, don’t tell them what you know, they’re not ready to hear it.’ They’re not ready to hear it but they’re desperate to know, and ready to steal it. They stole my best ideas, Im surprised I ever got anything written at all. They probably just didn’t realise I was there until it was out there. Wherever I am bleeding words out all over the floor they pick them up. Others so great they spread out to other countries, broadcast like radio waves. They pick up my thoughts like I pick up their feelings, their lives in one hand. And then they’re corrupted, my ideas are useless, and I throw them in the bin. Used words – all words have been used and re-used too many times to make it new. The woman upstairs knows this and says so. I tell her not to but she doesn’t listen.

Idea proof because I’ve seen what they do to them – no sooner have I thought them than someone else is writing them down, but never as good as my version would have been – I see them all the time, books movies, plays, adverts, whatever. All successful enough for me to see them, to see that they have been done, but cheap and shoddy enough for me to say I could have done better. Mine would have been more. Then I go back to my room and want to pick ideas up off the floor and put things up on the walls. Other people’s words, the stuff that surrounds me. Facing in so no words get out, with enough space between them and me for my own thoughts. This room is where I think my thoughts and try to hold them long enough to write them down. Then I can get published again and get out. What I can’t tell right now is what the room is most for – to keep my own thoughts from getting out, or other people’s ideas from getting in. I keep them on the walls. When they get on the floor they irritate me and remind me of my children. They died in a bookstore.

“What happened to the bulb?” I said. He wouldn’t answer. Time to stop mouth of him.

I looked around the room in the dim light from the windows which were pasted up with newspapers so thin the light still got through, and here and there the pages of novels. Medical textbooks with the pictures torn out. Other people’s journals and letters. Different handwriting and languages, but the typed english words seemed to dominate the room. Shopping lists littered like haiku. These were the walls. These thoughts and other people had saids. Lines from one end to the other, none of them upside down but all scattershot at different angles (or painstakingly overlapped to read like perfect text and different lines become one book). Once you got used to this you started to notice the room itself. I looked at the space inside the words, unlike the white gaps between lines on pages, this was dirty empty space, less cluttered but dirty and simple. A chair, a table, a dirty mattress, and little else. The words he’d written were stuffed in drawers and box files beneath the table.

Some times a typewriter was on the table, sometimes one was broken on the floor. He really didn’t like them. They had a love hate relationship and fell out from time to time. He would nurse it or get drunk and beat it. I never saw him show so much affection as when he was trying to fix it.

There was an unfitting eloquence to everything he said. Complete gibberish started to make sense when coming from the right mouth. One time I found him curled up sleeping on the floor under the table nursing the typewriter and curled up with it in his arms.

What is a room? I started to consider the word room itself, and what it means. And also how the words surrounding him read when spread out across each other. How each word affected all the others. What they meant, how they would read as a book. And how they were affected by light, and how they effected the room. The words no longer cast the shadows he had told me about 0 the haikus on him sleeping and all that. I wondered if they were just stories he told about the room to anyone who would listen. I couldn’t find the door on my own. “That’t the next step, to cover up all the cracks.”

[What goes on in the centre? How do they move around each other in the room, in the same enclosed space? And where does he wash or take a shit? Other rooms for that, like a bedsit. But these are not covered in words.]

“Shakespeare wrote whilst sitting on the toilet. I don’t write whilst sitting on the toilet. And when I’m there I only think about what I am doing. I need to concentrate on taking a shit, or maybe read something by someone else.”

That’s when I started to notice the gaps in his story. He was just a man who wanted to write.

[Interview with the Vampire started as a short story of the interview – so just focus on the interview as a chapter / story to tell the whole thing.]

In the room the tiniest movement was an event in itself. Getting hard to imagine anything outside of the room. There was a door before when I came in here. We shook hands or he would try to kill me. We are friends now.

“You’re trying to read it aren’t you?”

Coffee would be good right now.

My cups are always clean. Everything else can go to hell. A perfectly respectable kitchen.

What did you think I did, shit in the corner? Shakespeare wrote his sonnets on the toilet. Did anyone ever tell you that. Plays too. He wrote his best work while taking a shit.

Who told you that? I don’t know, I read it in a book or someone told me. What difference does it make?

Like visiting a dying relative or someone that is convalescing.

You heard a lot about me. I’m a pervert, a pederast, a paedophile, and a lot of other things beginning with P, except for Poet, which is what I am. And don’t give me that you write novels crap. I am a poet all the same. I wrote one novel worth reading, and the rest ain’t worth a damn. But the point is I am a poet, and you want to know how I’m a poet and how I know I’m a poet. I’ll tell you. A drunk told me – he was a mad painter, drunk too. Forget what his name was, but he was a good friend. He took one look at me when I went into this old pub someplace down south, real quiet place where everybody is listening in on your conversations. To the point of cutting off from their own. Anyway, Phil told me that I am a shaman. He took one look at me and went – you’re a poet. So he said that and he bought me a drink, and we talked all night. About how all artists are shamans. He said you’re a poet, and everything you say is a poem. You seem to knock out a poem every few minutes in your mouth but you just throw it out there, and throw it away you don’t write it down. You’ve got to write these things down man, that’s all you got to do. So I’m a poet and I don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.

Who are you anyway boy, you come in here in your fancy coat and your fancy shoes. What do you know about writing? What do you know about living even? Get out there and live a little before you write it down, before you even learn how to link words together and form pretty little sentences in a page. No sense in that if you don’t got the balls to even live. Whats wrong with you? When was the last time you got laid or even looked at a girl? Or a boy, I don’t care. It don’t matter. You got to love though, you got to live. A mans got to live before he can write. Or die trying. And he got to write before he can live too.

You’re the poem. You’re the book. You’re the novel, you’re the story. That’s all you are dammit, words on a page in someone else’s novel. That’s all any of us are, footnotes in someone else’s story. Walk on parts at best.

What else you heard? That I eat typewriters for breakfast, and spend my day shitting blood and vowels. Is that what you heard?

You can learn a lot from a drunk, a lot more if you listen. You learn a lot more about a man from the words he leaves out than the ones he leaves behind. That’s what I mean. If you ask me, and you are asking aren’t you boy?

Good. Shut up and listen. Words fall from your mouth like broken teeth.

Let me tell you about my day, my room, my life – the way I’m living right now.

I wake up early. The sun comes in even through the words in my room. Light projecting sentences at different angles. I wake up early, no curtains, just me and these four walls. No matter how many sheets or pages I get up over the window there always seems to be some light. Something wakes me up anyway, a sentence on the face or a full stop. A haiku on my left cheek or words on my eyelids, pressed against my eyelids.

I’ve covered all the walls you see. My ideas are too important to let them out. This is the only way I can keep them in. I can only let them out once I’ve written them down. Sometimes I can’t even find the door. Not that I go out much. Do you have any idea what it’s like, how hard it is trying not to think?

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Comments
  1. […] They say you should face your fears. One of my biggest fears is that someone will read my notebooks and realise that I’m mad, that I can’t write, and that even when I do write, my first drafts are so terrible that I should be shot in the name of literature. So, here it is. Several pages of my notebook. Uncut. The only thing I’ve corrected is the spelling. Read the rest of this entry » […]

  2. CK Hicks says:

    Mwahaha, I just read your notebook! Wait…

    Seriously though, I know how you feel. Fun idea (both to share the pages and the pages themselves) thanks for the view into your world!

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