The Old Writer & His Muse : A Grimm Tale

There once lived a hoary old writer
who typed away at his bench
from late in the morning till early lunch
and the rest of his time on Twitter

He wrote a terrible kinda novel
self-published as an ebook on Amazon
muttering away with his glasses on
in the bedroom of his hovel

The years slowly and sadly passed
Scarcely a reader read him
And the lack of an audience upset him
till one day he finally lost heart

‘Oh how I wish I was a literary seer!
and people devoured what I wrote
I’d go to Hay in a cashmere coat
And a golden Karmann Ghia’

A passing fairy heard his cry
and tarried awhile at the casement
She looked inside with amazement
at the woeful plight of the guy

‘I will send him a muse!’ she said out loud
to no-one in particular
raising her wand perpendicular
and vanishing in a glittering cloud

In her place leapt forth a giant dog
as wanton and hairy as a wolf
and it landed with a galumphing woof
on the writer’s disreputable rug

‘I shall name thee Stanley!’
said the man, somewhat dazed
(although why he wasn’t a lot more fazed
is scarcely credible, frankly)

Stanley was charming, funny, good-hearted
and inspired the man to write verse
which as you can see was even worse
so he was pretty well back where he started

The fairy came back when her schedule permit
straightened her tiara and said ‘Meh
Obviously there aren’t any guarantees, yeah?
Especially with writing and shit’

The fairy flew on before he knew it
I mean – usually her magic totally rocked
but sometimes you just have to accept you’re blocked
shrug and leave them to it

the word golem

Down and down rolls the sun
on a day most emphatically done
the word golem

From a clay of dreams that won’t come
slow & crude as a bare thumb
heart as hollow as a toy drum
the word golem

I cannot speak and I cannot run
from the lumpish creature I summon
my work lies scattered & undone
the word golem

The only way the spell can be broken
is to tear the holy name from him
truth to death become
the word golem

And though my writing hand grows numb
from all the wretched work I’ve done
I shall not call his name again
the word golem

learning to write underwater

yes – yes – I’m swamped with stress
a bad blogger in a waterlogged mess
you’d have to say I’m drifting at best
Ophelia in the drink in her wedding dress

I just can’t make the right words stick
I’m falling down on the job, calling in sick
I’m Peter Piper without his pick
a deadbeat poet sharpening his dick

it’s like I can see something weird nearing
and I can’t believe what I’m hearing
the concert crowd is actually cheering
as the blind conductor’s disappearing

you’d think I’d be bored of all the hurting
the witless schtick, the tragic rehearsing
the carry on shithead, carry on nursing
caution – dreadful old diva reversing

I don’t know how to work the game
dig the foundations again & again
cut my losses, bury my name
my brown eyes wide and my beard aflame

but d’you hear that? is it thunder?
or a thousand poems sliding under?
quick – weigh my eyes with coins of silver
kiss me once, set me on the river


writer’s block

I cannot get started
my mojo isn’t just low you know it’s totally up and departed
I’m the arrow you let go and watch disappear way off target
it’s like Margate, end of season
unfeasibly cold
where you go for a paddle with your trousers rolled
and curse the luck that led you there sevenfold

I cannot get started
the mean bean dealer I meet on the way to market
swaps my cow for a grow-your-own magic beanstalk kit
bullshit! the beans are duds!
the whole beanstalk thing’s completely fake
not only is there no land with lots of golden crap for me to take
but I’m down a cow and the best part of my lunch break

I cannot get started
my ship’s adrift off lands so lost they’re uncharted
I’m bent, spent, bad tempered & broken-hearted
cathartic, you’d think
till you see what’s up ahead of you waving from the pass
a giant so buffed and bronzed when he slaps his arse
a fart of mythical proportions rips your ship apart

I cannot get started
I’m finally and fatally outsmarted
I’m vague as a plague victim unconsciously carted
morbid, I know, but there you go
a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step
which is great advice, Laozi, undoubtedly, yep
but from here it still looks like one hell of a schlep


writer’s block

A plain, flat, nondescript kind of place. A desert waiting for rain, and the strange blooms you’d never have thought possible, just under the surface. Which is over-selling the scenario, no doubt. It’s just a post-final edit, post-holiday, soon to go back to work and revisit the old self-doubt kind of funk. The antidote is right here in front of me, of course – a bracing dose of shut the hell up and write. I’ve done it before; there’s no reason to think I won’t be able to do it again. All I have to do is trust my unconscious to throw some ideas on the page, and then let my internal editor knock it into shape.

It’s not as if I’m short of things that need doing. I need to be fixing the timeline problems Kath identified in The Fabulous Fears book. I need to be sending the MS out to agents, and chumming the water with a letter of introduction & a juicy plot outline. Getting more people to read it so I can get feedback and useful insight into how I might improve.

Practical things – not this desert waiting for rain BS.


writing & swimming

It’s like swimming in the sea. The best way is to dive in as soon as you can. You know your body will adapt, because it always has in the past.

In fact, the sensation of instant cold is so overwhelming you won’t feel it as cold but as something else, a thermal shock, neither one thing nor the other. Five minutes later, you’ll be skulling on your back, loving the clouds.

Allow it as my cool nephew would say.

Or as Joseph Conrad put it:

‘A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavour to do, he drowns…The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up…In the destructive element immerse.’

speaking of dreams

Creating something out of nothing always feels like a strange and difficult gig – but should it? We do it quite naturally.
Maisy Mouse by Lucy Cousins

For instance, last night I dreamed I was in a church graveyard where all the headstones were carved to look like characters from children’s books – Angelina Ballerina, Maisy, Hunca Munca.
‘They’re all mice!’ I said to my partner, but she was distracted by something hurrying towards us along the path.

So the lesson I take from that (apart from an urgent need for psychoanalysis), is that the only thing stopping me from being productive today is the conscious me –  which is just the workaday version of the exact-same me that effortlessly comes up with fantastic scenarios like the mouse cemetery…

So maybe what I really need is a nap.


new poem

The difference between men & women