Rivers and Forests.

I read somewhere once that music is like a river. That everyone whilst being able to appreciate its beauty cannot appreciate its power unless they fully submerge themselves in the water and become part of the current. The people that become part of the river, the people that become the continuous ebb and flow of the water, the forever changing patterns of ripples and tides, the sunken debris forgotten by all and missed by none – these people are musicians.

They understand the river better than the river does and when mere mortals hear just an incessant babbling of water over rocks and lapping against the banks, musicians hear something entirely different. They don’t hear the noise of the river, rather than the music of it. They have become part of the river and respect its ability to take them anywhere and away from anything. People who do not have the ability or the inclination to be part of the river become passive observers to something that at first appears as simple as a body of water or a string of chords, but to the river, and to the musicians, there is a far deeper and more complicated meaning to its composition.

When I read this I instantly began to think about the river in all its complexity and my mind drifted to the forest. During the day a forest is possibly one of the most breath taking and beautiful places you would be lucky enough to find yourself standing in and its omnipresence is astounding sometimes. Mile after mile of trees that have stood longer than your lineage and will outlast the best of us, intertwined forever with the earth through a connection of soil, roots and promise. Massive natural structures completely untouched by man that dwarf you into insignificance and remind you just how unimportant you actually are.

Sun breaking through bough after bough of fragile looking leaves, no two the same that seem so utterly breakable but are in fact intricate natural phenomena that put our peasant like cardio vascular system to shame. Trunks as wide as cars and armoured with bark that is so easy to break and impossible to replace. Stagnant earth swamps your head and on a hot day can become absolutely intoxicating. The smell of soft, damp, breathing wood and the muddled sense of belonging to the earth and it to you when standing in such a place.

Every possible crevice your eyes could search rich with life and death in equal quantities, a never quite silent place that is as unnerving as it is attractive. You could be a hundred miles away from the nearest human being or they could be hiding behind the nearest tree but the forest will never forsake your solitude. You came to it and you took the time to breathe with it, if only for a moment and if only coincidentally. For that single moment, you were alive with the rest of the world and in that single moment you were perfect.

Then you start to feel an unsettling kind of bewilderment radiating from your stomach and forcing your teeth to clench. The sun is dipping behind the broken boughs and shadow begins to steal the way out. It’s getting cold and suddenly there are too many trees, too many twisted skeletal remains of various fallen friends blocking your once safe path and threatening to send you spluttering onto the damp, dead floor. You start to shudder as shadow begins to envelope you as well as the forest, and your heart begins beating in your ears. Saliva pours into your mouth and you realise that you are frightened.

Because what was so beautiful just moments before the sun disappeared behind the now suffocating canopy of translucent leaves and insidiously shaped branches, is now one of the most intimidating places you dare to imagine. The liberating closeness of the trees now feels claustrophobic and the quaintly sporadic half walked paths that were roughly guiding you through to the end have now disappeared in the darkness and you are on your own and out of your element.

You are now alone in the dark with the earth and the earth doesn’t seem to like you very much anymore. The fractured roots of monolithic trees catch your feet and send a jolt of adrenaline straight to your already over excited heart. Getting out of the forest is all you can think about now. The sounds of crickets and birds are now haunting and unsafe, the low rumble of what you thought was a toad in the day light, the ruffling of leaves on the forest floor that would have been a rabbit were the sun still up, have now become the sounds of ravenous wolves and angry animals the likes of which your pressured mind need not comprehend for fear of complete and utter terror.

But there is one consistent in it all, one thing about the forest that never changes even when the light surrounding it does. Like water is needed to make a river a river, trees are needed to make a forest a forest and it is the likeness to these trees that call to mind the similarities between musicians and water.

Just as musicians are ever changing, flowing with what seems to be at times unbridled passion and unadulterated abandon for what convention has to say about how they choose to follow the bends in their banks, writers and the words they string together are stoic and unchangeable like the trees of a forest. A musician on stage performing a song can change it at any given moment, improvising or just following a tangent of unthinking trust that the music, the river, will guide them to the end of the performance unscathed.

Writers have a harder time adapting their work once it’s completed.  The moment those words pass through a press and onto the page, they are their forever, the deafening deepness of their roots hard to ignore or escape. Books do not flow, they do not adapt and their trunks are only soft when they are young. Once they are complete, finished and rooted in reality they stay the way they were made forever, or until someone cuts them down and rebuilds them in their own image.

We cannot improvise and we cannot comment, we are instead forced to stand on whilst the sun fades behind us and what you once treasured about the stories we told becomes marred with sadness and fear. We cannot uproot and clear a path for you to follow, we cannot lap against your ankles and offer you comfort when you so desperately need it.

All we can do is what we have always done; look on with concrete confidence and hope that even when the sun sets on our time together, your knowledge of and trust in the forest of the day will accompany you to the end of our affair with a deeper understanding of just how hard it is to be one tree in a forest, one drop in a river and one story that at one point, needed to be told.

It is through this understanding of relative simplicity that we cease to be rivers and forests, men and women, broken and whole and we simply become what we were always meant to be but never really took time to notice we were – alive.

Why Writers Hate You. (Yeah, You.)

You want to know why writers don’t like you? People who write don’t like people who do not write for one reason – they envy you.

They envy the musicians who take ten minutes to write a song, three minutes to sing it and live off of it for the rest of their lives. Musicians who play their guitars and make people melt, who recycle forgotten notions into meaningful lyrics and capture your heart and your soul with three chords and a couple of “ohs” and “yeahs”. The men and women that boys and girls want to be, they stick their faces to their walls and ask for that first guitar for their birthdays. The musicians that give the writers the inspiration and the drive to keep going even when their hands are weak and their eyes are tired. They envy the simplicity of it all.

They envy the painters whose genius is so blatant. The painters who may spend years working on one piece that is valued and sold in a matter of moments. The painters whose work is flung to the four corners of the earth printed and re-printed time and time again until their images become part of our lives, spanning the generations and becoming immortal. The men and women who buy their work and place it on their walls with the highest esteem for everyone to effortlessly enjoy for the rest of their days. The painters that make their space brighter, whose work peels away layer by layer and gives the writers what they need from it every time they look back, even when they think that they have gained all they can from it. They envy the stamina of it all.

They envy the performers who capture their ear without even trying. The performers whose words radiate through the minds of the masses and inspire more than just original thought. The performers who change the world with a speech or a saying, whose words are their mark on the world at large without pen ever touching paper. The men and women who live by the words of these performers and quote them in their minds when the days are short and the nights are long. The performers who made the writers want to to write to begin with, whose words seemed all too eloquent for their hands not to want to elaborate on paper and immortalise them forever on parchment. They envy the legacy of it all.

When you can play a guitar people flock to hear your songs. When you can paint a magnificent picture people climb over each other to get their hands on your work and show it off to the world. When you can inspire a generation of people, even when you are cold in the ground, your words never gather dust and your spirit never dissolves. There is nothing to envy about being a writer. The process of writing a book is not fast, its not catchy and when its done it cannot be fully appreciated in a matter of moments like a song, a painting or a speech can be.

The written words demands the life of the author, but with that, it also demands your life as a reader. A book cannot reach you as fast as a song, as spectacularly as a painting or as hard as a speech. It asks for some of the time it took to write it in return for a much longer lasting relationship. If you ask someone who their favourite musician is you will get a thousand bands and artists. If you ask someone who their favourite painter is you will get random descriptions of images and lets say twenty names. If you ask someone who inspires them with their words you will again find quite a few names dropping at your feet.

However were you to ask someone who their favourite author is you will see their face change slightly. Behind their eyes you will see them recanting the first book they read, the way it felt in their hands virgin and new, and then simultaneously the way its pillaged spine felt in those very same hands when it was finished. You will see them recalling to memory for that briefest of moments what was happening to them when that author came into their life and what that authors words helped them face or forget. A million memories will flood through their iris’ in that moment and if you have the resilience to search for that moment you will not be disappointed.

Whether you would accept it or not writers do not like you because they rely on you. You can hear a song without choosing to put it on, in a car or a supermarket and slowly fall in love with it. You can see a painting in the lobby of a hotel or in the corridor at your school and begin to unpick in your mind. You can overhear someone speaking and form your opinions without ever having to engage with that person. You cannot accidentally read a book. A song can catch your attention with one drop in the bass, a painting with one flare of colour and a speech with one key phrase you cannot shake from your mind. Writers have to put their faith in you to carry on reading the book until it captures you, which could be on the first page, the thousandth page or never at all.

So when writers tell you to fuck off because they need to concentrate or ignore you when you are speaking to them, intentionally or not, when they frustrate the living shit out of you because their minds are a million miles away from the water bill or what she said to him – remember that they hate you. They hate you without wanting to or even fully knowing the extent to which the hatred filters down through them. But my friends take solace in the fact that you are not the only people they hate – writers hate the world.

Writers hate the world because it gets in the way of the one in their mind. The one that lives behind their eyes that they are duty bound to make so perfect, that when you eventually do get an invitation to join them inside of it – you will never want to leave.

If you leave – we fail.

“Shiny Charizard.”

“Hank and I had met when we were both mature seven year olds in primary school and our friendship had begun with a rather vicious fight that ended with the two of us sitting with our parents in the head teachers office and a trip to accident and emergency. And what do seven year olds fight about, exactly?

Pokemon cards. More specifically, rare Pokemon cards.

And Henry Rosenbaum had had his eyes on my Charizard for weeks.”

From my current manuscript “Rooftops.”

“Liquid Agony.”

[her eyes] “They were watery and panicked, though everything about her demeanor denoted calm. Somewhere, Adam thought, underneath the violent blue of them, something was screaming in liquid agony. He then noticed her mouth, full lipped and the same brittle dusky pink that some rose petals possessed on their way to the grave. They seemed to have no moisture in them, papery and fragile, Adam imagined them dissolving in the rain.”

From a manuscript titled “Experiment.”

“Splendid and Shattering Thing.”

“Then she shocked Adam and actually smiled – no half crooked grin of agreement or understanding, but a smile so real and so threatening that he felt that smile curl up and go to sleep somewhere deep and dark in his brain, where, he decided, he may one day need to remember such a splendid and shattering thing.”

From a manuscript titled “Experiment.”

“Intimate and Intimidating.”

“They avoided each other and the subject of conversation as though he had asked her something seedy and secretive that shouldn’t be discussed with anyone at any time like favored masturbation techniques or who she saw in her minds eye when she came. Some things were so deeply in bedded in the dark places of a persons mind that when they are called to question, the conversation freezes and the tongue gets tied for fear of what the world may think of the company you keep inside yourself at such intimate and intimidating moments in time.”

From a manuscript titled “Experiment.”

“Falling.”

“There was always the chance of falling, this was known amongst the roof folk, but I’ve always thought it a strange facet of the human condition – our preoccupation with falling, I mean. We pretend we’re scared of falling but we’re not. We’re scared of the broken bones and infinite end. We’re scared of death, not the path we take to it.”

From my current manuscript, “Rooftops”.

“Hounds of Hormone Hell.”

“April asked, her face all freckles and fat. It was cute then, the roundness of her face, the little paunch of belly that hung over some of her tighter jeans; but I knew it wouldn’t be cute forever. I was banking on April ending up fat and ugly, with crooked teeth and oily, acne riddled skin. All the things that I had waited for puberty to deliver to me that had never come, in some way I hoped the hounds of hormone hell were stockpiling for my oh so cute and cuddly sister.”

From my current manuscript, “Rooftops”.