Getting to the ‘Good Stuff’: the Art of Creative Writing.

They say there is prose and verse and you can have poetry in either. This williamblakeartstrikes me as true.

Literature is an art, not a science. Living is an art, not a science. This is why the term ‘Arts’ is often associated with, and even interchangeable with, the term ‘Humanities’.

The American poet, Jim Morrison, was once asked about the cross he wore around his neck at the Doors’ famous gig at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968. He said, ‘it’s just a symbol. It doesn’t mean anything.’ At first this might seem a contradiction: you might argue that a symbol is all about meaning. You might say that a cross is a symbol of suffering. That is its meaning. I think what Morrison was trying to indicate was the difference between a fact and a symbol. Facts have an exact meaning. They are scientific. Symbols don’t have an exact meaning. In fact, they don’t say anything at all. They suggest. They have multiple aspects. Symbolism is at home in verse but it should be present in prose also, or any prose that sees itself as literary.

Yes, there is logic and science in literature, only it should serve the symbolic, the imaginative and the poetic. I believe a writer achieves maturity when he comes into awareness of the symbolic. When he begins to manipulate symbols in order to suggest and play with possible meanings. The mature writer knows how to strike a balance between symbolism and logic. The concrete nature of symbols allows him to play with them in his art. You can’t play around with abstracts because they can’t be visualized or imagined. That is why too much abstraction is a flaw in literature – it goes against the imagination and the imagination is paramount in literature in all its forms.

Consider Homer, the first poet of Western Civilisation and then consider Seamus Heaney, one of the greatest poets of the last fifty years or so. They both worked with concrete. With that which can be visualized and imagined. They worked with symbols.

Life is mysterious and writers can only capture a portion of that mystery through symbols. Life is messy and mixed up and confusing an only the mirror of art can reflect this. A good story, just like a good poem, shouldn’t have a precise meaning. It should only give you something to think about. It should suggest, allude and indicate. It should never impose itself. It should never enforce. It should never moralize except in the most general of senses e.g. it’s wrong to take another life. Good literature is an invitation to play – play with the intellect, the feelings and the emotions. Only when you master this will you become a good writer. Some of us master it at a young age. Some of us have to wait a few years and some never master it at all. It is a mixture of imagination and intuition, two terms that are alien to science and even craftsmanship. No matter how much you read and discover, there is no formula for it. You must simply write to get to it, to get to the ‘good stuff’, and, if you are lucky, you will.

Why You Should Read Alan Moore!


Hello all! Apologies for neglecting the site for so long. It’s been a busy year for me. In fact, it’s been one of the busiest and best years of my life so far. I’m aware that it’s not been the best of years for the world in general, what with Brexit, Donald Trump’s election to the Whitehouse and so many greats dying on us. After Trump’s victory, it occurred to me: what would Alan Moore make of what’s happening in the world today?

If you don’t know Alan Moore, you should! He’s one of the greatest writers of popular fiction in the world today. He writes comic books. Intelligent comic books. Real intelligent comic books. You might have heard of the graphic novel, Watchmen? Yes, he’s the guy who wrote it. Anyway, after Trump’s election Moore came to mind. He is outspoken and extremely articulate, and these qualities, together with the man’s great intelligence, make me want to defer to him. Politically he’s an anarchist. He despises racism. These things are evident in his writing. But I won’t try to guess what Alan Moore would say about the state of the world today. What I would like to do is talk a bit about his comic books.

Why do I enjoy reading Alan Moore’s comics so much? I’ve already mentioned their intelligence. Watchmen brought a new level of realism, especially psychological realism, to comic books but at the same time it is incredibly well structured. People often compare it to Citizen Kane but it is also like Joyce’s Ulysses. Much of Moore’s work is obsessed with form and is densely allusive, just like Joyce’s masterpiece. Watchmen is like one great mechanical watch: everything is connected. It is a true masterpiece of popular literature.

In most of Moore’s work there is a sense of something going on in the background. Something hard to grasp. Again, like Joyce. Such is his intelligence. But he also knows how to tell a story, how to entertain, how to take us on a journey. My favourite aspect of Moore’s art is his dialogue. His command of dialogue puts him almost into a league of his own as far as comics go. The only other writer to come close to him is Neil Gaiman. Moore’s characters are very articulate but also very real. They are not just mouth pieces for his personal views. The dialogue is just so fresh. It is always so fresh! When I open an Alan Moore comic book it’s like opening a door to let fresh air come in. As mentioned earlier, Moore’s political views can be easily discerned in his work. He is adamant that art should have a message. That it should be involved in the world, not set apart from it as pure escapism. And yet his characters are so real and convincing. He doesn’t allow his work to become propaganda. In this sense, he is a true artist.

Another quality is that he never repeats himself. Repetition is the enemy of true art. The artist should always be breaking through – finding different things to say and different ways to say them. Moore constantly plays around and experiments with the comic book medium. And yet you don’t have to know this to enjoy his stories. Again, there is that sense of something going on in the background. Something that will be grasped only if you read the book more than once.

Finally, Moore’s ability to entertain us is second to none. He doesn’t shy away from extremes of human behaviour, from violence and horror. There is no taboo which has been left unbroken in Moore’s work. He knows what we want and he gives it to us but he also knows what we need and he gives us that too.

Even if you’ve never picked up a comic book in your entire life you should check out Alan Moore. His importance as a writer of popular fiction is undeniable. Try Watchmen or Promethea or From Hell and experience some of his magic. You’re in good hands with Alan Moore.

The Art of Good Content Writing


Writing good content isn’t easy. If you disagree with this, then the content you are writing probably isn’t any good. I like to quote the lines from the film, A River Runs Through it: ‘All good things…come by grace. And grace comes by art. And art does not come easy.’ By this I am not claiming that good content should be a work of literature, only that it should tap into the same resources as literature to win the reader’s attention and interest.

One of the major resources of literature is music. We all share a sense of rhythm and melody, whether we know it or not. People know instinctively when a sentence isn’t right musically. Many websites suffer from tone deafness and a lack of rhythm, simply because not enough work has been put into the content. It makes reading more difficult and less pleasant than it should be. People tend to put their trust into well written content, so if you can’t get the basics right many of them won’t hang around.

Our sense of music also allows us to mimic, or adopt, certain voices and styles. This is very important when it comes to web content writing as it is extremely audience focused. Versatility is an essential for this business. In fact, it is so essential that you will probably never write in your own voice. Web content is shallow in this way but this doesn’t mean it comes any easier than other forms of writing, such as journalism or technical writing.

Another resource is imagination. Being an ‘ideas’ person will certainly help you to go far in this business. If you want to flesh out and expand on the five bullet points your client just gave you, you will need to be imaginative. If you want to put some vigour and originality into your blog post to capture the reader’s attention, you will need to be imaginative. If you want to think of new ways to generate business and promote your company through your content, you will need to be imaginative. Imagination is like the hook of a good tune: it will make people want to hear the entire song. Again, it doesn’t come easy but it is worth  waiting for.

A third resource is the drive to give shape to ideas, to give form to our words. This is related to the instinct for music but it goes beyond that. It is a need for logic, coherence and fluidity. From word to phrase to sentence to paragraph, everything must flow and cohere. A good content writer will cleave to his art until he achieves near perfection. This can mean taking hours on a single paragraph. However, the reader will probably skim over most content in seconds and this is the way it should be.

Of course a lot more has been written about web content than this and a lot more will be written about it in the future. But we mustn’t forget these three basic posits as they are the foundation of all good writing. Many people with ecommerce sites try to write their own content. Some get it right but most don’t. This is because it is an art and if you want it done properly you need someone who knows the art. So if you are building a website, ensure that it performs well and is something to be proud of by hiring a good writer and investing in some beautiful and effective content.

Facing The White Bull: The Discipline of Writing


Anyone who has written a book will know the importance of discipline. Getting up at roughly the same hour every morning and sitting down at the computer to ‘face the white bull’ as D.H. Lawrence called it.

Every writer has their own way of doing things. Dark fantasy author, Clive Barker, always writes the first sentence of a new chapter at the end of his working day so’s he isn’t starting from scratch the next day. Some writers do not hit the word processor when they get up in the morning (or afternoon). Neil Gaiman waits until around midnight to start writing. Everyone approaches the white bull in their own way. Here is how I do it.

  1. Be disciplined but not machine like. You don’t have to do a 9 to 5 day every day. When you feel you’ve done enough work, save it and turn off the computer. We know how writing is hard work, right? So you don’t have to feel guilty about finishing up in the afternoon. Also, you might want to return to your book later in the day. Be structured but keep it loose and flexible. Good writing is a mix of hard graft and inspiration.
  2. Put your thinking cap on. The book won’t flow out of you from beginning to end. There are periods when you have to put your thinking cap on. When you need ideas, in particular for plot lines, if your writing fiction, you have to stop writing and start thinking. You have to be obsessive about it. You have to go to the edge. No one knows where ideas come from, right? So in a way it’s like fishing. This implies relaxation and ease but we know how hard it is even if others don’t, so, again, don’t feel guilty.
  3. One line at a time. Remember that half the job of writing is making one line flow from another. You might have so much to say but you don’t know where to start. Well, just write a sentence and think of nothing else but the next sentence, how it will flow from the first. This is essential to the craft of good writing. Be patient. In time you will say everything you want to say. Trust in your mind.
  4. Self-belief. It’s important to keep motivated. Make sure you read over what you’ve written so far so you can remind yourself of how good you are! Believe that you are capable of writing the best book you can. If you are just starting out get feedback from others. Self-belief is at the core of good writing. Consider Samuel Beckett, a writer who only achieved the recognition he deserved when he was in his 50s. Think of the self-belief and discipline he must have had to keep writing. If you don’t believe in yourself, there is no point in getting up to face the white bull every day.
  5. Treat it like a journey. Writing, just like reading, is a journey: it’s important to finish it. Finish everything you start. Abandon nothing. Think of yourself as sitting in a pilot seat, making a journey every day until you reach your destination. Think of your readers as taking this journey with you. You have the responsibility to get them home.

So be disciplined and it will pay off. The joy of writing is in finding inspiration as you work. This is the ‘zone’ of creative writing. Trust in your mind and trust in your fingers and they will take you there.