There’s a page in an old notebook of mine, written way back when I was young and stupid, where I put forward the closest thing I had to a creative philosophy at eighteen: I do not believe in silence.
When I was eighteen I wanted to write stories that had weight. I wanted to create something that could be used to bludgeon the world into submission.
Things I have written about: bad relationships; unicorns; punk rock; pro-wrestling; shaved heads; the veneer of love; envy; sexual ambiguity; writing; aliens; poetry; indecision; growing up on the Gold Coast; living in Brisbane; my hatred of certain dayjobs. It seems such a limited list, on the surface, but in many respects that list contains everything.
Yes, I was a pretentious kid. I’m also a pretentious adult. Pretension is an underrated survival trait in the arts, as is an enormous capacity for self-deception.
I remember one of my lecturers gendering writing very early on: men wrote action, women wrote emotions. Reversing that, they said, attracted attention.
They still seemed surprised when I did.
I’m still wondering if I succeeded in the attempt.
How do you find the things you don’t write about? On one hand, it’s startlingly easy: I’ve never written about Desperate Housewives; the State of Origin; thumb tacks, erasers, twine. I’ve never held forth with my opinions on statuary or the state of the world economy.
On the other hand, how do you write about that? What’s the point of speaking on things you aren’t compelled to speak about? I appreciate silence far more these days. I think it’s something worth embracing.
At eighteen I wanted to use myself up. Throw everything I have into fiction, into poetry. I wanted to burn myself out and let the ashes float away, but I couldn’t quite figure out how.
At thirty-five the things I’m silent about feel like ill-kept secrets. What can I admit that isn’t there in the fiction? If I admit to fearing that life has no meaning? That I fear that I am both unlovable and unable to love? That I do not understand people’s reverence for nature? That I will never transcend the inherent ‘isms – sexism, racism, etc – that I’ve inherited for simply being white, male and middle class?
Is there anything I can reveal that will come as a surprise, short of delving into the trivial.
Fiction speaks loudly, because it has no choice. Every story is a worldview, a secret given form.
Desperate Housewives. I do not care for it.
Things I have never done: been to a country that is not America or Australia; bungie jumped; heroin, acid, ecstasy and other recreational pharmaceuticals; seen a wombat in the wild; danced like no-one’s watching.
But then, I’ve never much wanted to do those things, otherwise I would have.
Things I’ve never done that I’d really like to try: write a comic; write a movie; write a tie-in novel for a role-playing game; travel the world to catch up with people I know and love, rather than see the places they live; figure out how to write for a living.
Small things. Big things. Many of which I’ll never achieve.
I still write to bludgeon the world into submission.
Except for the times I don’t.