“You don’t learn how to be an artist by going to school. It’s something you’re born with. It’s about observing the world – but laying down your own truth.”
The quote above was at the end of Jim’s post today, credited to Bob Lefsetz. Before I continue on about Lefsetz I want to say that I could clearly see what Jim was trying to achieve with his post but by heck did he go about it the wrong way!
I believe it was Jim’s response to a ‘fan’ on SMOG having a bitch about Berenice’s ‘inability’ (in their eyes) to play the keyboard parts to Simple Minds songs correctly or fluently. The criticism was harsh and quite frankly unjust. All a guise for another “please can we have Mick, Derek and Mel back” endless fucking moan. I’m not going to get onto that topic – been there, done that…sssoooo fucking over it it hurts!
Rightfully Jim highlighted that by listing her talents, Berenice is a more than capable musician and musical artist. Her parents are musicians, her brother, etc. She’s worked with countless others and produces work used on scores for television series, and collaborates with Glenn Gregory on the project Afterhere, among other things. If I listed all her work and credentials, this part of the post would go on for some time.
What brought it all crashing down for me (Jim’s post) and got my hackles up was the fucking Lefsetz quote! To me, it instantly sabotaged the whole reason why Jim was highlighting Berenice in the post in the first place.
Let’s break this down. I believe someone can have a natural aptitude for something – especially when it is something that’s creative. Those that have it can find their development of their creativity ‘easier’ – ie: less strenuous, less methodical, less complex (perhaps), less developmentally difficult to achieve than those with seemingly no natural aptitude for the creative arts. But to say we’re ‘born with it’? Like an elusive “ta daaa” – just magicked up to you from…God…? No! It just isn’t true.
I AM GOING TO LEARN HOW TO ARGUE THIS POINT IF IT KILLS ME! I want to put my counter argument across effectively and coherently, so the outcome is that Jim reconsiders ever quoting Bob fucking Lefsetz ever again!
I feel let down on Berenice’s behalf with that quote because it takes away the hours of learning. The hours and hours of artistic development that has happened to get her where she is now. It takes away Jim’s counter argument to Mr Bring-back-Mick-Derek-Mel that Berenice has a rightful place in the band right now as the keyboard player as she is more than qualified to be there.
Bob Lefsetz – a man who studied Art History at Middlebury College in Vermont (Wikipedia, 2022), really should know better from that education of his that artist development is LEARNED and you are NOT ‘born with it’.
You can develop art without schooling, yes, granted. But you are not born with these skills. Much like you’re not born already walking, talking, being able to use a toilet, knowing how to feed yourself, or cook, do mathematical equations, or write words down on a page, or draw a cat.
My last week of study was REALLY hard. What I write here on my blog comes (mostly) naturally to me. It’s lovely when people tell me that I write well and I have a good way of expressing myself but I want to build on that. That is why I am doing this diploma at the OU. I want to progress. I want to GROW. I want to develop artistically. Because TRUE artists DEVELOP – THEY ARE NOT BORN WITH IT – THEY LEARN IT AND MAKE IT HAPPEN!
What I was learning with my study this week – none of that comes naturally to me and it never has: creating characters, scenes, imagery, developing plots, etc, etc. I ended the study week feeling that it was something, with time, that I could develop and possibly end up having some grasp of and maybe even be good at…with a lot of practice.
I was ssooo scared of this week of study. Scared and, to be honest, somewhat cynical. Because we have this wonderful, romantic notion that writers just spew forth their work. That it’s already all just there on their heads and they write it down. NO! The most incredible thing I learned this week was just what an incredibly hard graft it can be for some writers to get a novel produced. The many, many hours it takes, especially with redrafting and editing.
Towards the end of the week of study we were invited to (as we are during every week of coursework) take some optional further study. I generally always work through some if not all of the optional further study each week as I have the luxury of time on my side that a lot of my fellow students don’t. This week there were some audio clips to listen to with writers talking about the creative writing process and how they go about character development, genre of writing, narrative and structure (plot and story arcs), and lastly about redrafting and editing. One of the writers speaking was Tim Pears and he spoke about there being two types of writer; those who were good at redrafting and editing their own work, and those that needed help from an editor. Initially he felt that he fell under the first category and that he was quite adept at editing his own work. After a time he realised this was NOT the case and produced much better work with an editor helping him. Before we listened to the final audio clip, we were asked to think about how long we would think the writing of a novel would take on average. I thought I read somewhere some time back that it took about four months. For a first draft at least anyway. Some tweaks, etc…maybe six months, possibly eight. Published within a year, right? Well…Tim Pears said it would take him EIGHT MONTHS to get a first draft together and the redrafting and editing would take another TWO YEARS!!!!!
Lastly, I just want to mention Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘10,000 hours rule’, playing Devil’s advocate as I do so because Gladwell’s theory has by and large been debunked, but – the fundamental piece of it is – that it takes MANY HOURS of practice to develop skills is the key. Okay, we can also bring in the thing about giving chimps typewriters and after X amount of time they’ll produce the works of Shakespeare, ya da ya da – but the point of it all is – NO ONE IS BORN WITH IT!
If you’re born with it, why would you need to practice? Why would you have to hone your craft? Why would you produce some great work and some not-so-great work?
And Bob Lefsetz can kiss my ass! (What is it they say about opinions and arseholes? 🤔😜)
And…I should reference this all properly, get my referencing skills honed…but this is for my blog and I cannae be arsed. Having said that, the Wiki reference to Lefsetz’s schooling is a clickable link.
Yes! I am going to talk about study on my ‘Simple Minds’ blog – sorry. Take no notice of it if it doesn’t appeal. There will be more on this to come tomorrow and you can ignore that too, if you so wish – but in between running this blog and being ‘obsessed’ with all things SM – this is what my days consist of.
This week has been on creative writing and taking the first steps in learning the craft. One task we were given was to write out a scene that would be placed within the broader scope of a short story or novel. It needed to have some fundamental elements to it and to the best of my ability I gave it a try. I’ll elaborate more on this tomorrow, but for now, I just wanted to share my attempt at writing the scene out on here. Not sure why? Just so it could be viewed by other sets of eyes other than my own – but not many. I think fewer people look at my blog than they do my Facebook page so I feel a little less …. vulnerable here. Anyway…here goes…
This is the second draft. The third draft I removed the first paragraph as ‘dead wood’ but it might actually still work and be needed in the context of a broader story.
Wishaw Street is a short, steep street with a steady incline at one end and a steeper incline at the other. Edwina’s house was located near the apex on the steady incline end of the street, while Leonora’s house was closer to the apex at the steep incline end. Their houses were on opposite sides of the street.
Today Edwina was feeling happy. It was the summer holidays and she was proudly riding around on the street with the new bicycle she had been given for Christmas. The handlebars gleamed shining chrome in the bright, warm sunshine. She loved her new bike and the sense of freedom it gave her as she rode around with it.
At first Edwina hadn’t noticed Leonora at the side of the road until there was a shout of ‘Your bike is crap and so are you. Go home!’ Leonora and her family had now lived on Wishaw Street for four years. Edwina could barely remember a time since they arrived in which she didn’t feel confined to her own back garden through fear of Leonora’s bullying threats and cruel intentions.
Today Edwina had had enough. Leonora’s latest insult was the straw that had broken the camel’s back. It was one thing to insult her personally, but to insult her wonderful new bike was a step too far. Leonora had mouthed her final insult.
Incandescent with rage, her cheeks burning red hot and nerves churning away in the pit of her stomach like Jupiter’s Big Red Spot, Edwina dismounted her bike. Abandoning it in such a haste that it fell to a heap on the curbside. A sharp pang of guilt striking Edwina as the audible thud of the bike hitting the curb reached her ears. ‘My precious bike!’, she screamed inwardly.
Edwina was now trembling, not from fear of what she was about to do having any repercussions but from the despair of having been driven to take such drastic action. Crying uncontrollably. Tears streaming down her face. Salty water trickling into her open mouth as she gasped for breath and inner strength, Edwina walked up to Leonora and punched her on her left cheek.
Still crying inconsolably, she turned around, collected her disregarded bike and walked with it the short way back to her front garden. Once again disregarding her bike near the porch by the front door, Edwina opened the screen door and ran into the arms of her mother standing in the living room.
I’m sitting at my PC today wanting to continue with the exercise of writing. And I have things swirling around in my head. Bits and pieces of this, that and the other and just wanting to try and blurt all of these things out and try and do that in a quick manner before I lose all train of thought. But my mind is such a jumble of so many things I don’t know where to begin! And I would love to write to someone directly…but…you know, it’s a pure fantasy to think he would ever come to this blog to read what I would write.
Today I can officially deem myself a university student. I am now fully enrolled in my Higher Ed. English diploma at the Open University. Never in a million years did I think I would end up studying Higher Ed. ENGLISH! Science, Maths…all the biological, chemical, astrophysical – all the sciences were where my interests lay when I was growing up. Never felt good at art. Never felt good at English. The humanities, I felt, was where my weaknesses were. Not that I by ANY means felt capable in the sciences either. I just had more desire to want to be good in them.
History was the bridge.
It’s taken so long for me to realise there is so much more to English than just storytelling. That it does open up things I am interested in – like history, research, working in a library, being a museum curator, and so on and so forth.
I am ssooo eager to get started. Literally champing at the bit! And I don’t want to quelle my eagerness. I want to capture it. Bottle it! Give it an outlet in the meantime. So if for the next eight weeks or so this blog drifts wildly “off topic”, please forgive me! It’s a great creative outlet for me – but it can’t be 100% Simple Minds based. I mean – Jesus – some NEWS to actually write about would be grand right now!
So, I am currently an OU student. I am enrolled in my first module – A111: Discovering the Arts and Humanities. I have already invested in purchasing the books that we’ll be studying during the module: The Faber Book of Beasts, Sophocles – Antigone, and A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books. I have applied to have access to the University of Glasgow’s library as an OU student. And I have also applied for a part-time student fee grant – something I believe is only available to students resident in Scotland.
It is now a waiting game. And this is the part that is playing havoc with me. Deadline for applications of enrolment on the course is January 13th. And although I am enrolled, it is still pending on my fee grant application being approved. It can take 28 days for the fee grant to be approved. Allowing for staff to be off over Christmas and New Year, it will take me right up to the application deadline. No problem if I get the grant. But if I don’t get the grant? One, I’ll be devastated! Two, I’ll be de-registered from the course and if I still want to do the course and somehow pay the fee, I’ll have to reapply to the course! So it really does all hinge on me being given the grant.
I have to “sit tight”. I’ve never been good at sitting tight. And I really don’t want my enthusiasm to wane! So everything that will go on at this blog in the interim that isn’t Simple Minds related will be me just wanting to keep at my creativity and writing and brain activity and…all of that.
I have been wanting to discuss The Beatles documentary, Get Back – but I feel that every man and his dog has reviewed it now, or passed judgement on it. What else do I have to add or offer? Short of being brief and saying it’s a LONG documentary but well worth the effort, there isn’t much else I can add. Perhaps when I am a little more focused I can discuss it in more detail. After the initial dust has settled and there’s a bit of time elapsed from half of the world having just devoured it over the past week or two.
I didn’t even think Jim was going to brush upon it at all. But lo, there he was this morning talking about it, mentioning his mum, his brother and a “mongrel dog” called Ringo. I love when he shares memories. I know not everyone in the fanbase wants that. Some just want…I don’t know what they want! For Jim not to talk from a personal angle, basically. Which I find perplexing, I have to say. Why don’t you want Jim to talk/write that way? It would be so…analytical and perfunctory on their social media if he didn’t. Jim may as well not be involved in the FB page at all in that case!
I absolutely LOVE the way he writes and interacts (when he actually did do so) with us! It is the most special thing there is about Simple Minds having a presence on Facebook. Every other official band and artist FB page I have seen is, by and large (there are a few other exceptions – Gary Numan, for example), devoid of any real connection with their fans.
I want band news, of course I do! To hear about new music on the way would be extremely welcome right now.
Jim’s writing inspires me. And I don’t mean his songwriting, but of course that does too, in a more fragmented way.
There is something else I’d love to say here but conversely, I don’t want to discuss it. Suffice it to say I had an epiphany recently about my writing and its cathartic benefit to me. That is as forward as I can be about that.
I have been writing A LOT since July and not all of it has been posted here. I guess not all of it needs to be posted here. But an element of my writing is not just the feeling of expression that comes from it but wanting it to be read! The want of having people read what I am saying and feeling. And that is why now it is feeling like art. People in the visual arts – painters, graphic designers, sculptors, photographers, dancers – whether they realise it or not desire an audience. Desire their work to be seen and appreciated. I have felt that with my digital art. Always made it for my own enjoyment in the first instance, as an outlet of expression but then beyond that wanting it to be shared. Then, with any luck, liked and appreciated by others.
So this is why I will be writing – off topic – here on this blog. I went to type “my blog” out just then. But I find myself reluctant at times to call it “my blog” because I still see it as a Simple Minds blog. And as a Simple Minds blog, I feel it shouldn’t be personal. But it always manages to seep in somehow. I actually don’t know what this beast of a blog is! It’s like liquorice allsorts.
I used to do this with the video blogs (aka vlogs) last year. There was a series of them and I ended up referring to them as the “Sunday Waffle” for, as the name suggests, I’d post the vlogs on a Sunday. Of course I would post other vlogs on the days inbetween too! But the Sunday vlogs tended to be the most “waffling” – on any subject. Not just Simple Minds based.
I do have a personal blog but I haven’t used it for a long time. I just keep invested in the domain names for it. But something I want to talk about today *IS* Simple Minds related, but I’ll talk more about that shortly.
Firstly I want to talk about the “off topic” subject of catfishing. This word started to be used more liberally in the early 2000s, after the release of a documentary about a woman “catfishing” a guy she was interested in. The connotation of catfishing in this first instance was that you deceive people into thinking you are living a life that is false. That you’re successful, you have money, you have children, etc, etc. It’s a very toxic thing and in that context should be taken as an absolutely abhorrent, deceitful thing to do to people. I would never do that myself! And I am not condoning anybody else doing that.
Conversely, I will say that it isn’t black and white and people who feel compelled to do these kind of things deserve some level of compassion and understanding. Unless armed with the full details of individual cases, it’s very easy to judge and make assumptions.
More and more at the moment I see the term “catfishing” being used to describe women who use makeup to alter their appearance. I think the term is being used erroneously in this respect. The original use of “catfishing” had a far more deceptive and toxic definition to it than merely making yourself appear different and “better” in an aesthetic sense.
It’s a reflection of the world we currently live in, one in which women deemed “ugly” use makeup to make themselves appear as they are not (supposedly). But this isn’t in any way a new thing! And women have been using makeup in some form or other for HUNDREDS of years.
Here is a case of “catfishing” that happened centuries ago. A well known case, if you know your history, esp. your history of Tudor England. And it goes right to the top of the monarchy. I daresay that EVERY PERSON in Tudor times would be deemed to have “catfished” under its current broad definition. Portraits made of the monarchy were deceitful. Nobody was ever portrayed as they actually were back then.
Ever heard of the term “warts and all”? It was attributed as being used by Oliver Cromwell when he was having his portrait done. He is reputed as saying to commissioned artist Sir Peter Lely, “Mr Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.”
Back to the Tudor case of the catfisher being catfished.
Henry VIII took MUCH liberty in how he was portrayed. Painted most times to look taller, thinner, more athletic, healthier, and more attractive than he actually was. At the time I am about to refer to, he is 49 years old. That is quite an age in Tudor times! And he’s had some hard and fast living by now. He is not going to be looking ANYTHING like Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who portrayed Henry in The Tudors television series made during the 2000s), okay?! (Meyers today is only 44 years old.)
Jane Seymour has passed away, and after a very, very, VERY brief time of grieving, Henry is on the lookout for wife number four. He is told of Anne of Cleves and is assured by his courtiers that they’re an exemplary match. Anne is a young maiden of 25 years of age. Henry’s already sensing doubt as to be 25 in Tudor times and unmarried – something has to be up with that, right? They show him a portrait of Anne. He is smitten! He cannot wait to meet her! He’s literally married himself off to her as soon as he sees her portrait.
Come the day they meet face to face, Henry is outraged! As far as he is concerned, Anne is NOTHING LIKE the portrait he was shown and he makes it known quite emphatically what he thinks of Anne, referring to her as a “Flanders mare”. Nice one, Henry! Never mind what Anne must have thought seeing the sight of you for the first time, given the portraits she’d have seen of this unbelievably ageless, athletic, virile “studmuffin” when the reality was you’re a badly aging, gammied leg, portly hypocrite! And you probably haven’t had a bath in about 7 months on top of that!
Yes, it’s the monarchy and there was obviously more to it than that. The courtiers were making Anne look, particularly aesthetically (because they obviously knew that Henry likes a “hot chick”) attractive to Henry because they (and he) wanted to secure a political and religious alliance between England and Protestant western Germany.
In the monarchy then NOBODY married for love. Everybody was catfishing the heck out of everyone else. Powerplay.
I despair that the word “catfishing” is being used to now make women feel and appear even MORE untrustworthy than they are currently being portrayed in the media. I have little sympathy for the men being “catfished”, if all their attraction to a woman is based entirely on her looks. Good! Get fucking catfished, you superficial asshat!
I know when meeting someone for the first time face to face our first impression is the way a person looks. It is, by nature, our first marker. We SEE someone first before we speak to them or anything else. But that is why anyone with a modicum of self-respect and decency would not just think, “She’s fit. Shagging her later.” And if it is what you think and you get your stomach turned by what you wake up to next to you the following morning – I don’t pity you. You are far more abhorrent than you THINK the person next to you is.
So can we stop using “catfishing” to describe women who want to make themselves look more attractive? I wish we didn’t live in a world where this kind of stuff has to go on! Where women could actually feel like they deserve love no matter how they look. That people could see beyond the superficial and the aesthetic! I’m not saying we’re not allowed to appreciate those things. I mean, geez, how hypocritical is my blog, with all these pictures of Jim all over it?
Anyway, let us move on.
This is going to be a more personal aspect of today’s waffle. And it is Simple Minds related because it’s about Jim, and my “letting go” of this desire for friendship that has been churning away within me these past two years especially.
There were two distinct markers of when this became something that became incredibly “all-consuming” within me – Jim sharing his dad’s cancer diagnosis with us, and my mum passing away.
I am still very disappointed with myself for allowing myself to get so…dependent and needy. For holding on SSOO tightly to all the early (early in my fandom) interactivity that I had with Jim. That I SSOOO misconstrued what it was and how long it has taken me to “let go” of it.
I need to talk about the past few days. Enrolling (still not confirmed yet as I have to do some initial part of the application process first before I can actually enrol in the course I want to study) in the Open University and my readiness to “fail better”.
Last night I suddenly remembered that Jim had quoted the Beckett words in a post he did some time back. So I used the search feature on Facebook to see where and when. And there was part of me convinced he must have interacted with me on that post because I had such a strong recollection of him using the Beckett quote. I would usually only remember something like that if it felt it impacted on me directly.
I find it. Posted to the SM page on July 11th, 2019. It’s a post about … well … failing, funnily enough. But Jim’s first own personal example was when he first felt “failure” in a major way, playing football as a young boy. Playing for the local Cubs and losing HUGELY to a rival team of, quote “hairy-legged” older boys. He then lists other perceived “failures”. Leaving school with no formal qualifications, being divorced twice, investments in failed businesses. And then things that are now not even seen as failures, but initially were – Simple Minds’ early releases not being commercially successful. I’ll link to the post HERE so you can read it all for yourself.
Then he asks us about our “failures”.
At this point, before reading the comments, I was convinced he must have responded to me. Possibly one of the last times he ever did respond to me. I read the comments. I try to find mine first. I had left two. One was me asking for clarity on what he meant by “no qualifications”. Was he implying he left school without a single O Level? And, you won’t be surprised to hear that I waffled. And even apologised for “waffling”. Lol. Then there was my actual reply to his question about our failures. Or more accurately, our perceived failures. My reply was basically – “How long have you got, Jim? How long is a piece of string?”
There were no responses from him as I had imagined. Nothing, on either comment. Not even a Facebook “like” on either of them. Sometimes a “like” I would deem an acknowledgement from him that he had at least read the comment. Nothing. For either comment. No like. And certainly no reply comment. And it was at a time when he was still around. Many other comments received “likes”.
What I do see in one of my comments is a response from people who I now have no dealings with. One person I had already had that cutting off with, but the other person I didn’t realise had any involvement with what the crux of the matter is, so I had naively responded to them not knowing any better at the time. Perhaps Jim saw that interaction and thought it best to avoid my comment altogether? Or…he just wasn’t interested in responding to me. Which would happen sometimes. But I would usually get a “like”.
But there was nothing for either of my comments.
This morning I was thinking about “Jalopy”. It was one of the last “interactions” I ever had with Jim on Facebook. The final one being one I had to try and backtrack to and find via looking back through my blog.
It’s been over a year now. The very last token piece of interaction I had with Jim via the Simple Minds Facebook page was a post he did about the release of Heart Of The Crowd – the book. He said he felt “misty eyed” and I had replied saying was he sure his “misty eyes” were from the book being released rather than the Scottish football team having just secured their entry into the Euros? He replied with a “They’ll be coming!” and a link to YouTube of The Tartan Army singing “We’ll Be Coming Down The Road”.
I can’t tell you how happy that made me! Well, I probably could. But this post is getting VERY long and I must get on with my point. Whatever my point is.
It’s this. I think I am FINALLY, slowly, coming to terms with not wanting to seek reaffirmation from Jim for every single damn half-decent thing I feel I do. There are actually not many things I feel I do well. Very few things at all! But I got ssoo caught up in wanting to impress him and wanting to keep this ever so deluded sense of a “bond”, of a “connection” – I lost myself. And I lost the ability to “let it go”.
I was also thinking about the story I shared about Rodney Johnston and the dog bite. Of my first “serious” relationship. Of my first and only “long-term” boyfriend. The memories of them are really, really strong. And although I am holding on to certain aspects of those relationships – I really did let them go quite successfully.
I’ve never mentioned him by name before on here. I usually give him some coded name. But the guy I had my first “adult” relationship with was called Brendan McDonagh. It was a relationship I kept going in the hope it would turn into something else. For him all it ever was was sex. And sadly I was the instigator every single time. No self-worth, see? Convinced that if I kept sleeping with him he eventually would want to be with me. It wasn’t until I met my actual first and only “proper” boyfriend, Roger, did this very tenuous “relationship” with Brendan end. I didn’t miss him. I didn’t even think about him. I totally moved on. Roger became my focus.
I don’t even know when I started thinking about Brendan again. Long after my breakup with Roger. It took me a long time to get over the breakup with Roger. But I was able to walk away in the end. I mean, there were complications. After a time, Roger and I were “seeing” each other again but it was short-lived. And I don’t really want to go into a lot of detail about that here. The point of it is – despite how it sounds typing this out – I could let them go. I could let these relationships go.
I feel really disappointed in myself with just how much emphasis I have placed upon seeking all this reaffirmation from Jim. I feel sick from it. That I have felt so little of myself that I have spent the past two years just PRAYING for this man to like me, wanting him to interact with me, wanting him to make me feel like I was his friend, making me feel like I was “worthy”. I shouldn’t have to beg. And if I genuinely meant something to him…then I wouldn’t be needing to beg.
It’s been the hardest these past two years. I think it’s because of mum passing away. I don’t think I knew what to do with my grief. And I think I didn’t feel like I needed to grieve? Like, I thought I was viewing her death rather pragmatically and came to terms with it very quickly. On the other hand there were things like Falling Leaves. Not remembering to tell my sister that mum wanted it played at her funeral, it slipping my mind and not remembering until the day after the funeral.
I’m thinking about next year and my diploma and how much study it is going to take and how much focus I need. I need to start concentrating on me!
Next year is going to be a test. My course will start in February. Weeks later, I’ll be at a Simple Minds gig in Paris (all being well and good with international travel by then – I must admit, I have my reservations about getting to Paris even coming to fruition right now). And then a month after that, another bunch of Simple Minds gigs. Then another in June, and one final one in August.
I admit to still grappling with the “he’s just a man” aspect of Jim. I really wish I could see him like that! But in some ways I think it is probably better that I don’t. That I see him as completely out of reach. Completely in another realm.
It’s hard because…it’s those things – it’s the things that reveal that he is “just a man” that make me wish for the impossible. It’s the “ordinary” within the extraordinary. It’s him being just Jim. Just “the normal guy” that brings the yearning.
But I shouldn’t need him to like me. And … he doesn’t have to like me. He doesn’t have to like me for my life to have meaning and importance. I know!!! That should be a REALLY EASY concept for me to master, right? But it hasn’t been. It really hasn’t been. And I am ssooo disappointed and perplexed with myself about that. Bordering on angry. But I have to be kind to myself! To heal. To overcome it. To conquer it. I need to be kind to me. To accept it. To say “Hey, it’s fine. You’ve been dealing with a lot of shit these past two years. And this man sparked up so much positivity in your life. It’s okay that you wished for an attachment that wasn’t there. That you desired a bond. We all hope to be liked. We’re social animals. Our ‘raison d’etre’ is to make bonds, friendships, and to love. And to want acceptance.”
I’m working on it. I’m working on not dwelling on it. I’m working on it not taking up so many hours of my day. And it’ll be hard because aspects of it keep me going. This is a case in point! Writing! The joy and catharsis I take in writing. And so much of it over the past five years has been either directly or indirectly involving Jim. He has sparked so much creativity in me! But that is what it is – a spark. And I need to be mindful to accept it as a spark. The catalyst. The spark- not the whole damn fire! Not the whole nuclear fusion! That the actual fire comes from within me!
But, Jim. Thank you for the spark.
Interesting that I should close this with the talk of a “spark” because when I was initially looking into study for next year, I was looking at doing a Creative Writing course at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Strathclyde. It was broken down into modules that were titled “Kindling”, “Ablaze” and “Inferno”. Jim has been an inferno for too long. Kindling. Back to kindling. The spark.
A spark is enough.
Lastly – this has been the earworm for the past few days, particularly as I awake in the morning. Make of it what you will…
Today I have been looking at the University of Strathclyde site, looking at courses – and all of it, every single bit of it feels so out of reach!
I looked at undergrad courses. Pipe dreams! I looked at the Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences. I looked at what was required for entry (yikes!), fees, etc. That one really is shooting for the moon!
The next one I looked at is English and Creative Writing & Journalism, Media and Communication. That needed quite a level of education as well. But could I achieve the “baby steps” it would take to get there?
Yesterday I was at the site looking at the Centre for Lifelong Learning. There are online courses in Creative Writing. Starting at the beginner “Kindling” stage, progressing to the “Feeding the Flame” stage, then on to “Ablaze”, then finally “Inferno”. Each course is online and lasts 10 weeks. But the progressive classes don’t seem to follow on in stages through the year, so this would be year by year. It’s a drawn out process. If I was to enrol in the “Kindling” course and really enjoyed it and gained something from it, I know I’d just want to move on and on. Not wait until the next year, then the next year and the next.
Adult learning terrifies me now. It’s been a long time since I stepped into anything like this. Especially in a way like this, that requires study – with your brain engaged! The last adult education course I did was a photography course and that was over 15 years ago now.
I cried this morning looking at the course. Wanting to take the plunge but feeling no confidence in my ability to do it well at all. The whole social side of it terrifies the life out of me! Even in an online way. Talking with other students via Zoom style meetings. I’ve tried distance learning in the past (pre-Internet) and I didn’t do very well at it.
The tears were because…it just feels so massive already! It should be an exciting prospect and fun! But to me it feels like this is my last chance to try and DO SOMETHING – and if I fail? I feel defeated before I have even begun!
There’s a testimony of the course from a lady named Mary Elizabeth Wylie. She’s 88 years old and has just published her first book. She started the Creative Writing course at 75. Seventy-Five! I should feel inspired by her story, but it still just sounds like a glorified hobby.
It just feels like folly. Another one of my dreams that’ll go nowhere. How do I justify spending out “hunners” of pounds for each of these short courses? For it then to be 2025 and I am enrolled in a full-on university degree in English and Creative Writing & Journalism, Media and Communication. And then that is “hunners” times ten!
To feel able to string some words together on paper is a vastly different thing to where all this could go. And it is PETRIFYING! I feel almost physically sick at the prospect of it. Study. Focus. Deadlines. Submitting work to be scrutinised and graded.
Currently I am a happy but disillusioned amatuer. Do I want to be a professional? Perhaps turned careerist?
Aspects of the course that I hope I’d gain from it are appealing. To feel much more competent AND confident in my writing would be fabulous. To potentially feel more adept at working to a deadline and handling the pressure that brings.
I am in “serious pondering” mode. I am considering it. And I wish the idea of the leap didn’t make me feel so sick to my stomach. I should be filled with enthusiasm! But, perhaps it is as David Bowie suggested?
Almost every day I feel the need to write. But I need to have a purpose. A reason. An objective. I’ve never been good with a blank page. Sitting at a piece of blank paper, pen in hand. Or sitting at a computer with a blank word processing page staring back at me.
It’s taken a long time for this writing seed to germinate within me. I was so very bad at writing stories at school. When we were asked to write stories at school – I hated it. Sitting in a classroom, waiting for inspiration to come. For, although we might have been allowed to write an essay or piece of fiction at home, we were usually asked to start it in class. And that was usually in primary school, where you had the same teacher all of the day. So, there could be an hour we were given to start writing. Well, I usually sat at a blank page for almost half that time, guaranteed. Then I would eventually come up with a rather bland and matter-of-fact account of something. My memories of school are all but non-existent. That “trauma” thing of wiping out all the bad from your mind. It means I tend not to have the clearest memory of school days. Just vague snapshots of things. So, perhaps we were given a particular subject, say “taking a bus trip”, or “visiting the zoo” – some kind of topic to write about but for it to be broad enough to allow for the kids with the best imaginations to concoct magnificent stories.
I was NOT one of them.
And I never associated good writing not being about story-telling or the fictitious. Either I had really shitty teachers or I just wasn’t at school enough, but I don’t ever remember a single teacher explaining to me that good writing didn’t have to be about “a story”. A piece of fiction. And because I wasn’t very good at creative writing, per se, I believed for such a long time that I wasn’t any good at writing.
And that feeling – those things you believe about yourself when you’re young, at least for me anyway, have stayed locked in my mind. I feel…adequate with the written word. I feel I can express myself far better with the written form. I have felt that way for some time now.
The thing that blows me away. The thing that has been a revelation to me is feedback from others about my writing. The genuine positive feedback and acknowledgement I receive from people reading posts on my blog. Or reading things I post on my Facebook feed. And they come from learned people. People who had much more schooling than I did. People with more education than I. Ones with university degrees. One person in particular with a degree in English literature for heaven’s sake!
And that makes me want to believe I am actually GOOD at this writing malarky.
I feel so…defeated. Beaten by everything. I sit here and think about my age. And I try to think of it objectively. “Fifty is the new forty”, and all that guff. That, in essence, I am potentially only half-way through life. Or even when I consider logically the age of the people I have known who have passed away in recent years, my mum, my parents-in-law – into their 80s – that I am two thirds of the way through my life. My mum was 81 when she passed away. If I live to a similar age, I have 30 years left to go in this thing called “life”.
If I think about that expanse of time since 1991, that’s a lot of time. And a lot of time to go for someone to have “nothing in particular” going on in their life. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is how the past 30 years have been for me. Oh, I could make it sound a lot, sure enough. Getting married, moving to the other side of the world…nah, that’s basically it. Apart from the past five or so years, not a lot has gone on. Really not much at all. Do I want the next 30 to be like that? No. My life feels wasted. I feel ssoooo unworthy of every breath I draw. But I am scared of trying to give it significance. To try and find a purpose. WHAT’S MY PURPOSE?! To make people feel better about their own predicament? “At least I’m not Larelle. What a waste of space and oxygen she is, fuck me.” Yet, I know deep down the only person that actually feels that way about me is me. Except – I AM LARELLE! Lol. I am me! And I can’t escape myself.
I talked to a friend about university. About what it was like for them and what happened and how they managed to study and find the focus, etc, etc. And they tell me it’s not too late and I am not too old and I could do university if I wanted to. That I could be good at learning and enjoy the experience. “You’d walk through it.” That I could take my time.That it doesn’t have to be a race. But…time is ticking! And I am already “old”.
Twenty eight. That was my “golden age”. That’s the age at which I found that the core fundamental makeup of my psyche feels like it hasn’t altered. I still feel essentially the same way, I think, since that age. That’s my marker.
Did I want to write at 28? I think I must have done. I had been working for a couple of years by then in the most stable job I had ever had in my life. It wasn’t a glamorous job. It was white-collar work, but low grade. I wanted to advance but the opportunity didn’t come my way and then I left the job. Before I left the job, I made a major financial purchase. I gave myself a choice of two options. It was either buy a car and get my driver’s licence, or it was buy a home computer. I thought about it rationally. Tried to categorise the pros and cons of both options. I decided on the PC because I felt it meant that the whole world was open to me. That I could travel the world with a PC, rather than be confined by the “from A to B” travel that a car would give me. That is how I perceived it anyway.
And to some extent that is what happened as a result of that PC purchase. Had I not made that one financial investment, then I doubt I’d be sitting here where I am now, in a room in a house in north Glasgow, typing out this dialogue.
I enjoy it. I love it. I love the feeling of catharsis it gives me. I feel purged every time I write. I feel like it helps make sense of MY world. My own inner thoughts. How I then make that…insightful, thought-provoking, entertaining for others? I don’t know. If I tried, if I was consciously trying to do that, then I’d fail. I wish I felt I had the tools to write better as a story-teller. I guess that’s what creative writing classes are for? Has every writer that has ever written a piece of fictional work gone to creative writing classes? Is that what is needed?
I can’t judge my own writing objectively. I’d like to feel because it feels such an outlet for me, that it gives me that sense of the purged and the cathartic, that it will mean I am (at least) moderately “good” at it. That, because I enjoy it so much that the expression that comes from it is a tangible result that others feel. That my enjoyment in the expression comes across on the page. That is all I can ask for right now.
And here we are. Some ninety minutes later from looking at the blank page on the PC screen and there are over 1300 words written. (The “word count” feature is my friend!)
Some I end up taking as personal slights – “meek and unambitious” for instance has been in my head for the past week now. But, I think I need to “let it go”. I think Jim will believe what he wants to believe, without any effort from me to try and counter it, or offer a differing opinion on his thinking. He has a point. I guess I just wish, from a personal viewpoint, that he’d have phrased it better.
I’m not sure where this is going to go. Most days I feel the drive to write SOMETHING…almost a compulsion to do it, without any set, clear agenda of what it is going to be. I just want to sit and type and express myself. Why that should be, I don’t know. Nobody is interested in what I have to say, and nobody really SHOULD be either. Who the fuck am I to say or express anything?! Let alone feel it even remotely important enough to be read by anyone?
I don’t know. I am finding this need to write very perplexing. Maybe it *is* “ambition”?! *pulls shocked face*
Today I am pondering the notion of the “benevolent dictator”. That is how I consider nearly all cats to be – benevolent dictators. Surely “benevolent dictator” could just be another, slightly less kind description for a manipulator, no?
I also pondered on who we were describing in Jim’s post with this term? Was Jim referring to himself? Or was he aiming this description at Charlie?
Does Simple Minds work under a “benevolent dictatorship”? Should we even be made privy to the world of band politics? Don’t we as fans endlessly speculate on this stuff ad nauseum as is? Why does Jim want to kick the hornet’s nest?
It really is a paradox, the “benevolent dictator”. Jim has always fairly much come across to me as the old “it’s my way or the highway” type. Perhaps that’s the “last chance saloon” Kerr stance? Perhaps before it gets to that tensive “breaking point”, it’s the “charm offensive” prior to that? Try to win them ‘round first? I know he puts me in enough of a spin that sometimes I think he could do quite sinister things with me and I’d just take it, or bend to it. (I’d like to hope my principles would save me in the end. “Principles? You have principles?”)
We speculate because we think we know. We think we know these people. We believe we know their traits and we are made to feel as if we know them…but it’s all public persona.
Masks. We all wear masks to some degree – and I’m not meaning our new Covid world fabric face-covering – I mean, in metaphorical terms, a complete cover – a cloak of who we really are, even to ourselves, or how we want to be perceived and how we appear. EVERY SINGLE PERSON DOES – whether they are conscious of it or not. Whether they would admit it to themselves or not.
So Steven van Zandt said “a benevolent dictatorship OF SOME KIND”? That seems instantly contradictory. Does this mean the dictator can change from day to day? One day it’s Jim, the next day Charlie? Dependent upon who is passionate and forthright enough about whatever problem has arisen and what the solution is? If so…then aren’t we actually back to … DEMOCRACY? The thing that got dismissed out of hand as not working when it comes to band politics?
Yes! Sometimes I do like to overthink! I’d rather bloody overthink than not fucking think at all, sure enough! Give me my overthinking, over-analysing brain ANY DAY than the brain of an unthinking mind. A mind that doesn’t want to be challenged and … (hello Mrs!) stimulated.
Perhaps I should be thanking Jim once again for….stimulating my grey matter (I could continue, but I’ll leave it there…I don’t need to elaborate any further. Lol)
Perhaps last night’s post was an exercise in Jim airing a “You’ve won THIS ROUND, Burchill, but next time…next time, PAL!” ??? Lol
On the one hand I am wondering why we were privy to such a thing last night, but I do love that it results in me pondering. I ponder so much stuff when it comes to this band, honest to god. I have sssoooo many questions. I run a Simple Minds themed blog – but I know because I have been told “Jim and Charlie don’t do blogs” (Yeah, and my name is Slartibartfast!) that I will never get the privilege of interviewing Jim (or Charlie).
The questions come and go. Differing things. So many different things. Like right now I’d love to know at what precise moment did it turn real for Jim? Knowing absolutely that this was the thing he wanted to do with his life and that he was going to set out to do it. WHEN EXACTLY was that? And was he not even REMOTELY scared? With NO background in music or songwriting, or singing …. like….just….HOW?! And I mean actual “how”, not as in Glasgow “how” (ie: why).
Today, before coming up to my bedroom to sit at my computer to type this out, I had this little …. Fantasy? Daydream? Spark of an idea? Delusion? About sitting down and starting a story. Just…a story. I wouldn’t even be so bold as to believe I could spin it out long enough to make it a novel. Just…the first few sentences. The germ of a seed. That soon expanded into what could end up for someone who is actually a writer, as a fully fledged novel. Almost to the end page. With nothing in the middle.
Could I even flesh that out? Could I even start? To me, every story has already been told. So…how do I make MY story different, more entertaining, more enthralling, different enough to have people want to read it? And do I have the patience to sit here for months making something that would ultimately flop?
And there’s the UNAMBITIOUS! It’s all been done. So why start? WHAT’S THE POINT?! I guess maybe I should start it for shits and giggles. What’s there to lose, right? Most of the time I sit here every day typing something out. On a good day, I can easily get to 1000 words. Base that on the average length of a novel, and account for me dealing with the thought of story direction, plot twists, etc, etc – a minimum of three months this would take. Allowing time for “bad days” and writer’s block – I could have a complete manuscript by the Simple Minds gig in Paris.
I have tentatively started to work on revising my Top 50 list of SM songs. Probably a good thing to do before finishing my “Why I love…” posts that I started over 5 years ago. Where the fork has that time gone? Us humans have the most bizarre relationship with time, don’t you think? On one hand, a certain passage of time feels so much longer than it has been – on the other, it can disappear within the blink of an eye.
I can’t believe it has been 5 years since I was last spending time with mum.
Back to last night. There was a song I had in my memory. A song that I had asked Jim about and he (it already becoming a rarer thing by that point) replied to me about it. And I wanted to find that bit of “conversation” with him. Me in that eternal need to feel like…I could talk to him…that it meant something – not just to me, but to him too. Albeit just as the singer and songwriter of the band I fervently follow most passionately to all others. It just being that and nothing more to him.
But I couldn’t for the life of me remember what the song was called! And I knew I had written about it on my blog. Well, I would assumed I had – because I’d have been over the moon that he replied to me. I would have made something of it! But without remembering the song’s name, how the heck was I going to find it?
I had other songs in me head – Take Me To The Angels and Sweet Things. I listened to Take Me To The Angels – not entirely convinced it was that. It lead nowhere on a search of my blog. Had it been that, it would have unearthed my “tete-a-tete” with Jim about it. Nada. The song is great though.
Sweet Things I was even less convinced about as I know before listening to it, it became the track Destiny on the Life In A Day album. And I knew the conversation I had with Jim was about a song that never made it on Life In A Day – it was my premise for asking him about it – why hadn’t this song made the cut? What happened to it?
Although I was doubtful, I listened to Sweet Things too. Again, great. Although Jim’s lyrics are hard to decipher on a rather worn out old bootleg, obviously the song’s melody and tune is there – its musical structure in tact (albeit with a MUCH longer intro than what Destiny ended up with on the album). I guess Jim just wore his heart on his sleeve a bit more then? That he was fine with completely rewriting songs . The songs he’s rewritten? They obviously all work…but I canne help feel something gets lost along the way. Even if just the matter-of-fact notion that the previous words are discarded.
I am still no closer at this point. My search took me to Flickr as well, and my old catalogue of things. Art that I saved. Endless screengrabs of snippets of things that happened on SMO (what was THEN Simple Minds Official – no need for officialdom now, it seems). Bits of interactions with Jim. I quickly combed through it but I really couldn’t see anything that was relevant. Perhaps I hadn’t saved it? Hmmm. That would be odd!
So…how the heck was a going to find this thing?!
A theme became apparent to me from the other tracks I had just listened to. Both Sweet Things and Take Me To The Angels came from live recordings. I was working a bit blind last night (in bed, glasses off) so in my mind they had both come from the same gig at the Mars Bar. It is only looking again this morning that I see that Sweet Things came from a recording at Grangemouth at the end of 1978.
But I had a tentative thread in my mind – Simple Minds at the Mars Bar in 1978. That search on YouTube finally came up trumps!
Caught (Out) In A Dream! That’s the one! I listened to it again last night. It meanders a bit. It’s a bit drawn out. But…it’s band history. It still has its own bit of importance. If nobody else wants to champion discarded songs – esp. Jim (I have only just in these past few minutes read over his reply to me), then I will! Even if just for band history sake.
I’m sure there are a few songs that never even got recorded that are truly lost for good. That makes me feel sad. It’s kind of tragic. Jim may not see it this way…but everything Simple Minds has made and produced…it all has its special kind of magic. And, well, it might not all be magical to me…but I appreciate that certain things that don’t mean much to me can mean a heck of a lot to others. I’m sure he’d scoff at the notion but just…what if Caught (Out) In A Dream (I always add the “out” in brackets because I am sure he sings “caught out in a dream” which would then make more sense it was titled that way rather than dropping the word “out” in the song’s title?) was the song that cemented a person’s early fandom? Who knows? Yes, perhaps the band didn’t miss it but…you guys knew all the songs! Duh!
Anyway…I awoke this morning dreaming of a TARDIS and of the Mars Bar – a just turned 19 year old Jim in that David Bowie shirt he is wearing when Laurie Evans takes photos of the band outside – what I believe *is* the Mars Bar in 1978. Oh, he just looks glorious even then. And I hear the words from John Grant’s song…
“I wanna go to Marz (Mars Bar)
Where green rivers flow
And your sweet sixteen
Is waiting for you after the show
I wanna go to Marz
You’ll meet the gold dust twins tonight
You’ll get your heart’s desire
I will meet you under the lights”
I can never help but think of Jim with those lines. And me wishing I could time travel, and be that “sweet sixteen” waiting for him after the show. That he would meet me “under the lights”.
Dreaming of a life never lived….
P.S. It was so much further back in time than I had anticipated. Nearly three years ago was his reply to me! And I hold on to them so tightly…it felt to me like it was maybe a year ago, two years at most. Oh…I hold on to every little morsel SSSOOO tightly. I miss this SSSOOOOOO much!
Maybe setting limitations would work to do it? Having a set amount of time in the day? Some of these things I have tried before. Let’s doit again and see. But we’ll implement some different things this time. Anyway, ideas are worth sharing too…hence this post.
Click the image to see a video from BBC Ideas (in collaboration with the Open University).