The fourth series of Muselings is now out in the world! In this, the first episode, I talk a little bit about writing.
This episode is marked as explicit on Apple Podcasts not so much because of bad language as because of straightforward, honest-to-goodness vulgarity.
A transcript of this episode is below.
You can find the podcast and subscribe on Apple Podcasts here.
Hello. Charles Adrian here. This is an introduction to what’s going to be the fourth series of Muselings. It’s a relatively long introduction so I’m calling it Museling number 27. Let’s get a bit comfortable.
Now, as you might have seen if you’re subscribed to the podcast, or if you happen to have been looking at the feed when these episodes went out, I’m releasing all of the episodes in this series at the same time – it’s what’s called the S-Town model in podcasting circles – and you might also have noticed that the episodes themselves are each quite a lot longer than any previous Museling so, before I say anything else, I just want to encourage you to regulate your own listening for this series. By which I mean, it isn’t designed to be listened to in one sitting. That’s not the intention. I’m releasing the episodes like this so that you can get a sense of what lies ahead and plan accordingly. And, of course, you should feel free to set aside two and a half hours to sit in a dark room and listen uninterrupted if that’s what works for you. I just want to say: that’s not the instruction. Just because they’ve been released together, doesn’t mean that they should live together.
I’m sure you know that. But, just in case it would help you to know that you have my permission to do what you like, please know that you have my permission to do what you like.
I’ve spent a lot of my life wanting to be a ‘writer’. And, by ‘writer’, as a child and a youngish person, I would have meant ‘author’. ‘Published author’. Someone with books in the shops. Novels. And I’ve spent quite a lot of time doing what I’ve always understood to be the groundwork for that.
When I was 12, I wrote, I think, 3 stories for my fledgling school magazine about a creature called The Blob – whose wife, in case you’re interested, was called The Blobe. Later on, when I was about 15 or 16, maybe, I remember writing stories about a collection of stuffed animals that I’d crocheted… although it’s also possible that there was only ever actually one of those stories and that I never wrote it all the way to the end. Nevertheless, I was also writing essay-length fiction for my English teachers at school that generally received respectable marks, whatever the marking criteria for those might have been, and I submitted stories to school competitions, although I never won anything. There’s one story that I particularly remember writing called A Pair Of Calvin Kleins On A Rosebush whose subtext was… it was all about the pressures of over-achievement and the concomitant strain of having to conform to notions of conventional heterosexual masculinity in a boarding-school environment but I don’t remember if I ever actually submitted that to competition. I suspect not. Still, at around the same time as writing that, I was also putting together a collection of largely whimsical poetry that I called Sixth-Form Sentiments, and that included a poem that I’m still very proud of called Camomile Tea. Which goes as follows:
The soothing vapours seep
And linger, calmingly,
Comfortingly even as my body relaxes
In the womb-like coating of
The sun-blessed flowers,
Selected and pressed with their
Release their essence into
I’ve read that once before, as it happens, on my other podcast, Page One. It’s towards the beginning of episode 78, which is the poetry episode and, at time of putting this out, that’s still available to listen to on iTunes if you would like to. And possibly in other places. What I didn’t make clear, in that other reading, however, is that the poem itself is recorded as having been written on the 9th June, 1997, which was slap-bang in the middle of my A-levels, my end of school exams, and that it’s on page 75 of the collection Sixth-Form Sentiments, which is all neatly written out in fountain pen in a hard-back, spiral-bound notebook that’s sitting behind me now in a drawer under my futon couch. Camomile Tea is still the only one of those poems that I would dream of reading publicly.
From about the age of 18, I started writing more seriously and, throughout my twenties I spent a lot of time writing. And I wrote a lot. I wrote and rewrote and read over what I’d written and deleted passages and rewrote and edited and changed punctuation and rewrote and restructured and wrote and rewrote and printed out and read over and crossed bits out and wrote over the top and up and down the side of the page and on the backs of pages and then copied all of that new writing into the original document and read it through and rewrote it and gave it to friends to read and waited for them to read it and listened to their feedback and then rewrote and read it through and edited and rewrote it and sent passages off to agents and publishing houses and I never got anywhere close to what I was aiming for, which was publication and the validation, I suppose, that I thought would come with being a published author. And, now that I go back and re-read all of that stuff, I’m very relieved that I didn’t get anywhere close to publication, even if there are passages that I still like and might try to rescue one day somehow.
At a certain point, as I drifted from my twenties into my thirties, I think I must have stopped dreaming of becoming a published author. And throughout my thirties, I’ve written much less in that mode. I’ve spent much less time writing and what I’ve written has been much shorter. And it’s been getting shorter and shorter. I’ve still sent stuff off to short story competitions from time to time but it’s been a few years since I last did that.
All the same, I describe myself more confidently than ever as ‘a writer’ these days. My twitter bio, as I think I’ve said before on this podcast, used to describe me as a ‘performer, writer and podcaster’ and the more I’ve thought about that, the more I’ve decided that, yeah, that’s right, that is correct. I say “used to describe me as a ‘performer, writer and podcaster,’” incidentally, because, at the time of recording this I’ve replaced that description with a really great Bill T. Jones quote that I found in Chris Goode’s book The Forest And The Field – which I heartily recommend by the way. The quote goes: “I danced because I fell in love with my sweat”. Isn’t that wonderful?
In any case, what I mean by ‘writer’ these days is just that I write things. I write these Muselings, for example. I write for performance as my alter-ego Ms Samantha Mann. I’ve written text that’s become part of other theatre and audio projects, performances. And none of that is the writing that I want to talk about here.
In these episodes, I want to talk mostly about writing that’s lived as Word documents on my computer and in my Dropbox, and then as pages of text on a WordPress site, and as print-outs in physical piles on my book shelf here at home… and it’s writing that I think of as writing for writing’s sake. That’s the writing that I’ve been doing less of recently. And that might just be because I don’t know who it’s for beyond… being for me. But when I look at it now it feels to me as though, whatever else it might be, it’s a record of preoccupations, concerns, difficulties that are… significant and revealing. It isn’t exactly fiction writing but it’s also not straight-forwardly autobiographical and I don’t know where it could live except in Word files and on WordPress sites and… on sheets of A4 in my house. And I think that makes it a perfect fit for this podcast.
And so, over the next four episodes, I want to take four particular chunks of writing that I’ve done over the last seven or eight years, and to look at them and listen to them side by side. I don’t imagine that they’ll be of interest to everybody but I do think that this will be a useful exercise for me and, as I think I’ve said before… this is my podcast so… you’re welcome to join me as we go… ever further up my own bum…
No. Sorry. I do actually like a lot of this stuff and, in all seriousness, I would like you to hear it. Feel free to let me know, in a gentle way, what you think of any of it. We’re going to go largely chronologically from here on so the next episode, Museling 28, showcases something that I wrote in my very early 30s and the last episode in the series, Museling 31, is a rebroadcast, if you like, of some pieces that I wrote for this podcast just a few months ago. I should perhaps let you know that I’ve just recently turned 39. I don’t know. That seems important.
In any case, that’s it for this introductory episode. Thank you for listening to it. You can immediately find and download the four other episodes from this series – episodes 28, 29, 30 and 31. This has been episode 27, the 27th Museling. More information about the podcast as a whole and links to transcripts of all the episodes is at muselings.uk. My name is Charles Adrian and I’m on twitter as @charldrian. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series.
This web page and its contents © Charles Adrian Gillott October 2020