Brevity and Vulgarity

“To take away our expression is to impoverish our existence.”
-Roughton Reynolds.

You may have noticed that I swear a lot in my writing. I’m not afraid to throw out a few fucks or whatever else in order to drive home my ideas and strengthen my arguments. So it probably comes as no shock to anyone that I’ve been called vulgar from time to time. It seems as though there are individuals out there who don’t necessarily resonate with my abrasive style and slightly warped world view. As a writer still very much in the infancy of my career this disconnect that some readers appear to have with my work should be concerning. It should be something that I seek to rectify in an effort to really ramp up my palatability and readership until I can confidently say that I am accomplished at my craft. It should be…. But instead I just think fuck them. If you don’t resonate with my style then go find an author who’s sensitive bullshit speaks to you.

See, my love for vulgarity all comes back to the concept of brevity. For those of you who haven’t heard the term before, brevity is essentially a noun meaning: concise and exact use of words in writing or speech. Which doesn’t really mean much on the surface does it? How can my love of the taboo be explained by concise and exact use of words? Well, to break it down in another way: I am a firm believer of the expression just fucking write what happens. In this industry readers have come to expect a certain amount of fluff in their literature. If something is considered easier to digest by the masses than it will generally find a home on bookshelves around the planet. But that’s boring. And in my opinion if we are constantly trying to create work that panders to this notion of fluff we are forever damned to consume second rate shit.

Writing is about expression. It’s about passion, love, loathing, fear, and whatever the hell else. It should never be censored and it should never contain more than the bare minimum of fluff. In my mind brevity sometimes comes from embracing what we want to say, what we want to express, and stripping it back to the bare bones so that all of its failures and faults are exposed for the reader to acknowledge and accept as their own. When I write fiction if I want someone to be punched in the fucking face I’ll write exactly that: so and so got punched in the fucking face. Clear, concise, and brutal as all hell. And you know what? I bet right now after reading that you can picture someone getting smacked in the nose.

Likewise when blogging, if I think someone is a fucking cunt I’m going to write exactly that. If I think that a concept is flawed I’ll call it. And if I feel as though my own mind is breaking apart underneath the internal pressures I place upon myself I’ll call it as I see it. And for the record, if I create a piece about tearing down a glass house and it doesn’t speak to you that’s just too damn bad. Not everything I read speaks to me either.

The point is, just because a piece of writing is vulgar it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is without merit. In fact, more often than not it hints at a deeper emotional connection between writing and writer than a piece of over-fluffed bullshit could ever hope to mimic. So, yes; I’m often offensive and abrasive in my writing. But I’m also brutally honest with myself and with my reader and that is the most beautiful thing that a writer can ever be: honest. Because through honesty brevity can be born. And through that brevity, that concise and exact writing or speech, a reader can become one with the author and they can undertake the journey of learning, pleasure, pain, triumph and tragedy together. Life is seldom perfect, so why should literature be? Cut the fluff, inject the passion. And write from the fucking heart.

Those in glass houses…

…Should not throw stones. That’s what they told you. So you use your fists instead. You’re so angry, so confused and afraid. The only thing that helps you through is the idea of tearing down everything that you have built. The beautiful glass house on the edge of a scenic cliff becomes a twisted prison where you catch the reflection of the person you’ve grown to hate in every surface. So the smashing begins. It hurts at first. Your fist shatters the glass and your knuckles split and spill blood. Your nerve endings sting and your mind screams at you to stop. But you can’t. Not now. Not when there is still so much damage to be done.

You strike another surface, the cuts grow deeper, but soon the shock takes over and you’ve torn away the flesh leaving nothing but exposed bone, making those thick panes easier to crack. You tear down the walls and rip down the roof, until all that remains is the skeletal frame of a once stunning home. You’re bloody and tired, but still you’re not done. Just because there is nothing left standing it does not mean there is nothing left to destroy.

You drop to your knees and you rip the floorboards free. The torn flesh of your fingers catches on the splinters and nails. It hurts; oh god does it hurt. But you want to see your glass sink into the dirt and these goddamn floorboards are preventing the indignity. You toil until the boards are gone, but you can still see the reflection of the man you hate in the shards now lying in the soil, smiling manically at you as though he is somehow in control. So you punch. You punch and you punch, caving in the reflective skull of that piece of shit until his face is lost in the splinters of glass and your blood soaks into the dirt. He’s gone. That man you hated is finally gone.

So you rise and you walk to the edge of the cliff thinking that your troubles are over; and not a single stone was thrown. But your stomach drops when you see that the once calm blue waters of the ocean before you are now ink black and brooding. The storms are coming and you’ve just torn down the only shelter you’ve ever known. You realise then in that bitter sweet moment of triumph that all you have succeeded in doing by tearing down everything you’ve ever owned, is exposing yourself to the unrelenting touch of a winter’s chill.

You turn to your broken house of glass just as the first whip-crack of thunder echoes overhead, and you stare down at your damaged hands, unaware of what possessed you to cause this destruction in the first place. You move into the home and you sit amongst the piles of broken floorboards and the slivers of glass, your face streaked with the tears of a god and a fraud as the heavens release their wrath. You’re soaked in an instant, watching as your dried blood moistens and dances across the surfaces of a life left in ruins. Your bones ache as the winds cut through the skeleton of your safety and solace.

With nothing left to give you sit and you wait out the bitter cold and the brutal winds that cut through you with an intensity that leaves you breathless. You accept that there is no more hope, no more opportunity for the man who destroyed his own glass house.

But after an eternity those vicious rains subside and a single sliver of light slips through the clouds. It’s minuscule, not enough to warm you, and in your fractured mind you see it as nothing more than a taunt to a man as broken as his home, left sitting in the dirt

Then it happens.

The clouds shift again and the pinprick of light falls into a pile of broken glass, causing as flash-flood of colour to pierce your vision. A kaleidoscope of earthy browns from the soil, deep reds from your blood and gentle blues from the rains dance across your eyes and for the briefest of instants you can see the glasshouse standing in all its glory once more.

You know now what you must do; you must rebuild your home, your solace, and learn to protect yourself once more from the bitter cold of the rains. You light a fire and you gather your broken glass, heating it until it can be made whole again. You erect your walls and you replace your damaged floors, admiring the now stained surfaces of a once perfectly polished world. Your glass has been dulled, and your floorboards warped, but you would have it no other way, because this is the house that you built yourself. This is the house of a man who survived the rains.

You bandage your hands and you let your wounds heal, and soon enough the sun returns and you venture to the cliff to watch the calm blue ocean stretch endlessly before you. You spin towards the house that determination built, catching sight of the man that you hated staring back at you. He’s older now, more dishevelled; but you realise that maybe he’s not so bad after all. You take a breath and you vow to never again destroy the beautiful home at the edge of the cliff that you created. To do so would be crazy; you can’t survive those long lonely nights where the chill presses against your chest until you find yourself wishing you were dead. No, from now on if you need to feel the rains you won’t tear down the house, you’ll just take a stone and break a single window instead.

I few years ago I went through a bout of depression. I was unbelievably low and I hated myself and everything that I had become. I tore down the walls of my own psyche and I left myself exposed. But through my writing I found myself again. Writing was the pinprick of light that burst through the clouds and allowed me to see the world anew. It became my reason for rebuilding my glass house. My hands are damaged, and my once crystal clear walls are now stained with the blood and grit of my own toiling. But I would have it no other way. I wouldn’t be the writer I am now if I hadn’t sat through the rains of self-doubt and self-loathing.

For me there was no shame in being broken. There was only pride when I learned to pick myself back up. At some point in our lives we all falter. But if we embrace the better angels of our nature we can rebuild ourselves to be something far stronger than we ever believed possible.

Hail Mary

Relax. It’s not a religious reference, but rather homage to American Football. For those of you unaware of a Hail Mary Pass, it is an extremely long pass made in desperation that has only a fraction of a chance of success. The pass is usually thrown late in the game when a team offers its last stand in an attempt to win the match. Anyone who has ever seen the Hail Mary Pass thrown will be able to relate to the momentary trepidation that strangles the heart as you watch the spiraling ball in flight, carrying the hopes of the team and its fan base on its pigskin body, usually to no avail.

Yet when a Hail Mary finds its intended receiver the crowd erupts and the entire match spins on an axis and forces the opposition into a play to win situation they hadn’t been anticipating.

So why the football reference? I’m a writer. And let’s be honest, writers aren’t usually great sports people. Yet here I am trying to explain an infamous play in a sport that is foreign to my own country of origin. Well the reason is that right now I feel like I’m standing on my own ten yard line staring at an end zone blocked by my opponents, who will do anything to see me fail. But this isn’t an ordinary end zone. I’m not gunning for a game winning touchdown, I’m eyeing off a far larger dream. On the far side of the field located in front of the grandstands and marching band, is a publishing contract and a life changing moment of triumph.

Right now it’s time out and my opponents are milling around in a loose huddle counting down the minutes until they’ll form a line of scrimmage and attempt to rush me and strip my dreams from my fingers. I say minutes fairly loosely, because the reality of the situation is that my window of opportunity won’t actually appear until eight weeks from now when I touch down in New York City in preparation for my Hail Mary Pass.

Nevertheless I’m using the time afforded me right now to size up my opponents and assess the threats that they pose when they try to blindside me before I break into open ground and race to the end zone.

I can see that arsehole called Finance; the big line backer with the bull-neck and ham-sized fists that grunts as he stares at me. He knows that my money situation is fucked and I’m desperately trying to scrape together any kind of defence I can against the heavyset prick who will attempt to chop me down at the knees.

Beside him is Location; the bastard who has displaced my dreams many times before. He plays dirty and chooses favourites on the field. If he doesn’t like you then he’ll hit you hard at every opportunity; and so some reason the bastard seems to loathe me.

And so the list of my opponents goes on as I run my eyes over the huddle. The other writers are there, arsehole agents too. Fear is smiling and patting self-doubt on the back as they make eyes at me, formulating a plan to hit me simultaneously. But as I stare at the congregation of damned bodies watching me through their helmets and grills, there is only one man who I feel actually has the power to intercept my Hail Mary and destroy the opportunity I’ve worked so hard to create; and he looks a lot like me.

As an aspiring writer my greatest enemy is not the industry, my competitors, publishers, editors, agents, nor my displacement from the larger markets of America and Europe. My greatest enemy is myself, and it always will be. See I’m fairly confident in my abilities as a writer. I wouldn’t have won the competitions I have, or seen my work progress so far through screening processes if there wasn’t some level of skill in what I produce. But I also know that I am a bit of an extroverted introvert sometimes and I just hope and pray that when it comes time to throw that fucking pass and chase down my dreams that I have the balls to give it everything that I have.

It’s a confusing contradiction isn’t it? How can someone be an extroverted introvert? And how can they really hope to ever achieve anything if they can’t figure out something as simple as their own personality traits? Well, the thing is that I am incredibly introverted. I like my own company and tend to shy away from others. I don’t have an abundance of people who are close to me because I don’t want to. But for those that are, I aim to protect them with bloody hands if they ever need it. It’s not that I am necessarily shy though. I used to be. Now I’m the complete opposite. I’m confident as hell in myself and my abilities. But I don’t feel the need to take that confidence and turn it into arrogance by shouting it from the rooftops. I’m your quiet self-assured type that doesn’t feel the need to justify myself to anyone… And there in my own mind, lays my problem when I hit the streets of New York in eight weeks’ time.

I have to justify myself. I have to prove to publishers and agents and that I am worth their time and I have to stifle my own ego no matter how much it tells me to revert back the arrogant arsehole I can sometimes be.

So here I stand waiting for the moment when I’ll throw my Hail Mary Pass and try to score a book deal. The clock is winding down and the arseholes in their huddle before me are watching my every move. Finance is watching as I turn my small change into small fortunes. Location scrutinizes my movements as I book flights and accommodation. The other writers gawk at how I present myself and my scripts laden with ruin and woe. The agents watch as I prepare to slide into the chair opposite them and pitch my fucking heart out. And the man that looks like me stares back with an impassive curiosity, knowing that all of his teammates can be beaten and the only man who can defeat me is myself. He watches and waits, knowing that if I am to succeed I have to learn how to be humble and how to grovel. He watches with a sly smirk that says the game is mine to lose.

I may be a superstar in my own mind, but I still need to prove it to others. In eight weeks time when I throw my Hail Mary I need to do so with as much confidence and bravado as I can muster. But I must also do so with a sense of humility that can sometimes be foreign to me.


“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.”
– Lisa Bu

Found Again

Morning Contemplation
It has recently been bought to my attention that I’ve spent the vast majority of my adult life following the mantra of concentrating on myself in a fuck who you want me to be type manner that can rub people up the wrong way. I have focused so much energy on being different and being on the outer that I have effectively alienated myself from the very world that I live in, purely for the sake of being an individual. I’ve always actively sort out the path of most resistance and chosen to trek down its treacherous route armed with no survival skills but rather a potty mouth, a chip on my shoulder and a fuck-you attitude that has seen the somewhat difficult path towards success transform into an inhospitable trail of terror and doom.

I’ve undertaken battles with depression, kicking its arse to the curb more than once. I’ve squared off against my demons, my hopes, my fears and my failings more times than I could care to count. But every single time I have told myself that I was doing what I wanted to do, that I was acting in a manner that I was proud of. With willpower you can do anything I’d tell myself. With the stubbornness and intelligence I possess anything should theoretically be possible… But what happens when willpower just isn’t enough? What happens when suddenly all of the ground that you’ve won through those hellacious battles is ripped out from under you like a cheap rug? What happens when that same pride that spurs you towards greatness starts to become the very thing anchoring you to your own failings?

Well, you find yourself where I am right now: back at square one. For all my talk of personal development and growing over the past eighteen months I somehow seem to find myself in a startlingly similar position to where I was back then. I’m still pressed into a corner by all of my failings (which still stand between me and my dreams), and I’m still preparing myself to come out swinging. I honestly thought that I found myself for a while there. For a precious six months or so the world was a glorious place filled with so much potential, but now in the grip of another fucking frustrating bout of writers block I’m starting to think that the world can go fuck itself all over again.

I was lost and I was found through my writing. But recently I’ve shifted my focuses away from what is truly important in my life and I’ve lost sight of all that I could be once more. I’ve become disillusioned and disheartened by rejection and the mundane nuances of everyday life and now I need to be found again.

Right now I have five manuscripts sitting on my desktop in various states of completion that haven’t been touched in almost two months. Five. With the average novel sitting around the sixty thousand word mark I have a rather ambitious end goal of over three hundred thousand words that are currently stuck in my fucking head unable to make that transition from imagination to the page. With those kinds of numbers I should be spending every waking minute pouring my heart out onto my computer screen, but instead I’m walking around in a state of frustrated trance at my own inabilities to find myself within my own thoughts.

So what do I do? How do you find solace in yourself when you’re struggling to reign in the lives of five separate protagonists and their counterparts in addition to your own? What happens when your life as a writer suddenly becomes your life as a mentally exhausted man parading himself as a writer? How do you become found again?
For once, I don’t know…

…That’s right. For the first time in the history of this site I actually don’t know the answers to the very questions that I pose. The self-proclaimed all-knowing mind of Chris Nicholas is actually sitting here pondering over my current predicament without the faintest fucking clue as to how to overcome it. I don’t know how to find myself right now. But I do know this: I am and always will be an individual. I will never fall into line with what others expect of me, and I will never make excuses for myself. I am a writer, a man, a lover and an arsehole all rolled into one. I will always live my life with that chip on my shoulder that says I don’t give fuck about what others think of me. And I truly believe that while I am currently lost within a maze of three hundred thousand words, one day soon my talent and my drive will be found again.

Creating your own roadshow

I think that you should click here. It’s OK, you can trust me. This isn’t one of those scam sites where you click on the link and you suddenly find yourself being directed to a site that offers you entitlements left to you by a long lost Zimbabwean cousin or the secrets to growing a bigger dick. Instead it’s a video; a video that runs for roughly two minutes that has the capacity to take this humble writer and transform his mindset from a defeatist who thinks that the world is out to destroy him, into a conqueror who believes that he has the ability to destroy the world if he were to so much as chose to.

Hmm. You say. I’m intrigued. Tell me more…

OK, here it is. Today’s post is all about rejection. It’s all about being kicked in the face when you deserve something so badly, by a universe that seems hell bent on breaking your spirit and denying you of the joy of success. Yep: rejection. We all face it. Each and every one of us has at some point been met with rejection and failure and often at times when we least expect it. As writers we spend hours developing our craft and creating a story that we believe in, that we know isn’t just good enough, but that is actually down right fucking incredible. Or we apply for a job or a university course that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are the best person for. Yet for some crazy reason our manuscript is knocked back, or that dream position that we yearned for goes to someone else. We are told that we’re good and that we would probably succeed, but we’re not the here and now. We’re the next big thing, but right now we’re peripheral. We are left feeling dis-empowered.

Today I received one of those bullshit Dear John responses to something that I’ve been chasing for a while now. I was told that I’m good, but that I still need a little polishing around the edges. It rocked me, and it upset me. But it really shouldn’t have. You see it’s happened before, and I dare say that before I die I will be rejected again. It’s just part of life, and to rehash one of the world’s most over used expressions what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’ll bounce back from this and become even better…

…Actually, fuck that. It’s that kind of bullshit defeatist thinking that allows deserving writers, artists, employees or whoever else to go unnoticed and unrewarded in the first place. That whole rejection is a part of life mentality is literally choking the life out of people across the planet. A man by the name of Mark Graban once said that in life ‘you deserve what you tolerate’, and I’m starting to really buy into his way of thinking. If you constantly tolerate being called the next big thing, or being spoon fed rubbish from a publisher that you show promise but were unfortunately unsuccessful at this point in time, then guess what? You’re going to spend your whole fucking life treading water and accomplishing next to nothing, because you are forever playing the role of the submissive that doesn’t have the balls to reach out and claim what is rightfully yours.

…But I digress. Today’s post isn’t supposed to be a long one. I don’t want to prattle on about the intricacies of my own rejection. Rather I want to propose to you that there is another way to view the world than through the lens of those that we consider above us. We do quite literally have the potential to abandon all that we are told to digest and accept. We have the potential to, and really should, create our own roadshows. For the human mind and race to continue to evolve we must be willing to accept that tolerating the shit-brained way of thinking of others is never going to advance our own individual causes.

It is because of this idea that I’ve presented to you just a snippet of a talk by the legendary mind of Terence McKenna about cultural diversion. McKenna doesn’t deal specifically with the subject of rejection, but rather argues that we must become our own roadshows and we must become the centre of our own universes. We must become the most immediate part of ourselves and stop always so readily consuming the mindset and products of others.

So go on. Click here. Take two minutes out of your day to consider that maybe you could change something about the way you consume the world. Stop consuming the trash being fed to you both through media and through your life as a whole, and reclaim your mind. Reclaim your soul, and reclaim your life.

Pushers & Pseudo-Philosophers

Imagine that you’re a heroin addict. It’s probably a bizarre thought, but just bear with me for a moment. Imagine that right now you’re not sitting over an illuminated screen reading the words of a frustrated writer. But rather you’re turning tricks on a street corner trying to earn a couple of bucks to chase down your next score. You’re entire being aches for another hit; your head is pounding and your stomach feels like it’s tearing itself in two at your unintentional starvation of that needle full of cooked rock that you so desperately crave. You’d do pretty much anything for the opportunity to shoot strings of happiness into your veins and after a few hours of lifting wallets from unsuspecting victims you’ve amassed enough cash to buy a little rock, so you hotfoot it over to your local dealers house.

The place is a fucking dive. If you were to try and take a shit and mould a house out of it you’re pretty sure it would look better than this. But you’re not here to admire the décor. You’re here to tap that vein in the crook of your elbow until it bulges and you can slip a needle full of H into it. There’s only one problem. It’s not your vein that’s tapped out. It’s your dealer. He’s run dry and you’re left staring at some useless piece of shit who can’t satisfy your needs. But he likes you. You’ve been a steady client for years so he gives you two options. There’s a pusher down town who has some of the best shit in the district. Only problem is it’s double the price of what you’d usually pay for a hit. Otherwise there’s a halfwit kid peddling a cut up version of the drug you crave around the corner. He’s known for his shitty wares that are usually spliced with a little washing powder or battery acid but with the money in your pocket you’d probably walk away from the deal with a hit and some change.

So what do you do? Do you feed yourself the watered down shit that may potentially kill you and will have you leaving unsatisfied? Or do you start turning tricks again to double your money and go score some quality shit when you can afford it? It seems obvious that if you were a heroin addict you’d try to double your money and hunt down the drug that isn’t going to leave your needs unsatisfied and potentially kill you. Yet when we trade out that heroin addiction for an admittedly less dangerous infatuation with literature we seem so ready to take a gamble and consume the watered down trash rather than track down better quality shit.

See I’m a Pusher. I’m that guy down town who’s peddling wares that are a little harder to come by but are admittedly of a far better grade than the halfwit trying to compete with me. But unlike a regular pusher you won’t find me standing in a back alley surrounded by hired muscle peddling high grade heroin onto junkies. Instead you’ll find me threaded throughout the online community of WordPress surrounded by pop-up ads and other pushers peddling my own inner thoughts onto you, my ever faithful literature junkie. See you’re not here because you want to shoot strings of happiness up your arm; you’re here because you want to fire strings of carefully woven phrases into your mind. It’s that desire to feel intellectually satisfied that keeps you returning to this blog and many just like it. You crave knowledge and perspectives and know that there is no better way to satisfy these urges than to open your mind to the world of literature.

But there’s a plight now facing the new wave of emerging literature junkies that are just starting to venture out of their comfort zones to track down the substances they so desperately need. The halfwit pseudo-philosopher masking himself as a pusher and peddling his cheap, poor quality shit onto the unsuspecting and the unaware. Bullshit stories on social media sites that play on human emotion are the new players on the scene in the writing world. They are shit quality, totally fictitious and often poorly written, but they focus on a simple formula that affords them widespread circulation: create some heart-wrenching story of human triumph and the baser human emotion of the reader’s compassion will do the rest.

But it doesn’t stop there. See that’s just phase one of the pseudo-philosopher’s cutting of the product. The tear-jerking stories are the washing powder. The battery acid comes in the form of the woefully uneducated trying to emulate the washing powder tales for themselves. We live in a world where everyone has a voice, which is great. But if you’re not a writer don’t try and pass yourself off as one. If you’re not a philosopher then stop trying to create insightful status updates or posts that are rife with poor spelling and grammatical construction. You’re battery acid is diluting the better quality shit for sale down town.

So now you’re educated. But you’re still a junkie and your dealer has nothing to offer you. So you need to make a call. You’ve got a pocket full of collateral earned from turning tricks on the corner. But this isn’t any ordinary collateral. You haven’t got a surplus of cash at your disposal, but rather time. You’ve got an intellectual itch that needs to be scratched and you’ve got just two options; keep turning tricks and chew up some time hunting down that elusive high quality pusher. Or start swallowing down the diluted shit readily available at every click of the mouse and risk an infuriating rush of blood to the head as the lesser quality product leaves you nauseous with disgust at its lack of originality and skill.

So what are you going to do? Well, just by reading this blog you’ve chosen the road that is unfortunately a lot less travelled. You’re hunting down pushers plugging a product they give a shit about and turning away from easier option of the pseudo-philosophers. There’s no reward for this. You’re still a literature junkie and you’ll forever have a need to be satisfied through the phrases of others. But by choosing your pushers wisely you’ll actually have moments where those urges of yours are actually sated. Moments when you can sit back in your lounge chair and close your eyes thrilled by the knowledge that a writer has opened up their heart and mind and found a place within yours.

Authors note: If you were to take ten writers (and I use the term loosely) at random and put them together in a room and dissect them, your break down would more than likely consist of this:

o 1 dealer (A writer who has cracked the big time)
o 2 Pushers plugging their wares in writer’s circles
o 7 Pseudo-philosophers who are standing around with nothing of value to contribute yet oddly preaching their worth to anyone within reach.

Literature is a drug. And like any drug, great literature is hard to find. But believe me when I say that it does exist, you’ve just got to be willing to spend the collateral to acquire it. So spread the word: pseudo-philosophers are on the way out, the rise of the pushers is here. We’re taking our wares to the digital street corners of the web, giving junkies everywhere a buzz that no halfwit piece of shit script or writer will ever be able to emulate.

The Writer & the Fighter

Sometimes this thing we call life can be a real fuck of a thing. We as humans can move from moments of pure elation to moments of sheer terror and uncertainty in an instant and our whole lives can turn on a dime. We travel through life as though we are racing towards something important; some kind of elusive goal that is always just out of our reach, and we rarely ever stop to live in the moment and realise just how lucky we are to be alive. By living in the moment I don’t mean going out dancing in a night club or curling next to your significant other underneath a blanket. Those things are great, don’t get me wrong. But I mean truly living in the moment and understanding just how wonderful it is to be who we are, where we are, and who we are with. Continue reading “The Writer & the Fighter”

Keeping it Simple

Anyone who has ever studied any form of writing, business or design has probably heard of a little thing called the KISS principle. If you haven’t then there is a fair chance that you’re either not taking your studies seriously, or you’ve plain forgotten about this little pearl of wisdom. KISS is a rather simple acronym that stands for Keep It Simple Stupid and was principally noted by the US Navy in the 1960’s. The principle is easy to understand – the name basically says it all; most systems work best if they are simplistic in nature and avoid unnecessary complications.

Originally coined by a lead engineer at the Lockheed Skunk Works, the principle stemmed from the idea that engineers need to construct a jet aircraft that could be fixed with the limited tools available to the average mechanic operating within the field of combat. The system in question was the maintenance and repair of a piece of machinery responsible for air to air combat; however the idea is so easily relatable to many other areas in life – including writing.

When a writer creates a piece it must be two things: original and relatable (or at the very least understandable). Often times an ill-experienced writer (yours truly sometimes included) tends to focus on mastering one of these two integral components instead of both; which in turn produces a project that feels incomplete, unbalanced, or for lack of a better word – shit. Evidence of this is clearly evident in our everyday consumption of media through the mediums of both spoken and written word, however it is possible to find success creating a piece that lacks originality yet is highly understandable and still become successful.

If you don’t believe me then go spark up the wireless and take a listen to the god-awful tracks from artists like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, or One Direction that run on high rotation. These artists often produce tracks or ‘systems’ that are simplistic yet totally unoriginal. Their so called writers (aka marketing teams) produce lyrics that carry no real weight, yet are so easily relatable that they can be effortlessly interpreted within the minds of the masses. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look: Katy Perry recently released a song where she warbles:

You held me down, but I got up; already brushing off the dust.

But who held her down? And why did they? They must have been a real arsehole to do that to her. Was Katy being physically abused? That’s absurd! Why didn’t anybody help her?…Or is it a metaphor? Was she was trapped underneath a glass ceiling within the music industry? Surely not! Or was someone trying to supress her in another manner? The point is that no one really knows just who the fuck pissed off Katy to the point where she grew the heart of a fighter, and the point is that it doesn’t matter. Her lyrics are so vague and unoriginal that everyone from a scorned employee or lover, through to a ten year old girl can take those lyrics and find their own story within them. Katy keeps it simple, and as such even someone with the limited mental capacity or ‘tools’ that a ten year old possesses can understand her message.

But what happens when a writer creates an ill balanced piece that focuses too heavily on originality that it fails to pay any courtesy to the works ability to be palatable and relatable to the masses? Sadly that also happens every day, and as an aspiring author who devours the works of other up and coming artists on a regular basis, I see it all too often. Writers become so concerned with creating original pieces that they throw caution to the wind, dust off the thesaurus and unload with a string of unnecessary adverbs and adjectives that take a potentially beautiful piece of work and leave it feeling disjointed and almost impossible to digest.

Manuscripts like this simply don’t work; you can quote me on that. I’ve sat in university tutorials and listened to others ramble for almost three pages about how a character looks, or describe in every minute detail the room in which said character finds themselves standing. Their work reads like a fucking who’s-who of describing words and labels; if we were being marked on word counts I’m sure they’d win some kind of commendation for their stellar efforts. They mistake clutter for originality and over saturate a scene or script until it becomes indecipherable and the actual purpose of the work is lost in an unmelodiousness mess of descriptions.

I truly believe that the best piece of advice I have ever received as a writer came in my first semester of university almost three years ago now. My lecturer was reviewing the works of our class after an assessment, providing a little generalised feedback to the congregation as a whole when she stopped and put down her notes.

‘Many of you have written wonderful descriptions of characters and plot-lines only to run out of space within the confines of the word limit provided before your story ever really began,’ she said with a grin. ‘From now on I want you all to do one thing: Just fucking write what happens.’

Her little rant still sits in the back of my mind every single time I write, or even when I consume the works of others. We as writers often need to remind ourselves of the KISS principle in order to keep ourselves in check and ensure that our work is both creative and palatable to others. Originality is paramount to feeling fulfilled as a writer, yet it can so easily become lost within a maze of descriptions and passive writing. We must keep it simple and create works that we ourselves would love to sit down and read. If you proof your own writing and think holy shit that sounds wordy, then chances are that your audience isn’t going to have the faintest fucking clue as to what you are trying to say.

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