Reflections on a Pub Quiz

The first one is without doubt the most difficult, correct? I should point out that I mean the first blog post, not the first pub quiz, although that too is a daunting test.

With a blank page and an empty mind, what do you talk about? I finished that particular sentence a full 10 minutes ago, and I’m still none the wiser, although perhaps the process of writing itself is a worthy adversary.

What a surprise it should be to learn that I – creatively writing a blog with ‘creative’ in the title – am an aspiring writer. Like many aspiring writers I have played with poetry, struggled with the short story, attacked academia and knocked-out a novel, but my writing more recently has tended to lead me in certain specific directions. ‘They’ say “write what you know”, so naturally I, a man-child of tender years, am working my way through a collection of poems from the perspective of a lady going through the menopause who slowly but surely decides that she has been “wasting time on man and men and disappointing dong” and falls for a younger woman. Naturally. I’m editing a novel set during the golden age of Caribbean piracy. Naturally.

“Write what you know” is usually attributed to Mark Twain, incidentally one of the most misquoted people in history, but without knowing much (anything much) about the man himself, I doubt he had a vast bank of personal experience robbing graves, committing murder and hunting for treasure. Books would be unimaginably boring if writers simply wrote what they knew or had personal experience of, since many writers live unimaginably boring lives, excepting a few favoured individuals. So don’t write what you know – write how you feel, write what you think, write what you imagine.

The most fun I’ve ever had putting pen to paper was working on a piece of nonsense writing. Alice-in-Wonderland for the initiated. When writing regular fiction, ideas flash through the mind at record pace, but most are abandoned or dismissed for being too weird, too out-there. Nonsense is different. Nonsense accepts any and all ideas with open and loving, if slightly oddly coloured and weedy arms. One is a little longer than the other, but that allows nonsense to reach the top shelf, the archive for your crazy. It clutches at those all-but-forgotten ideas – wild and unacceptable, but beautiful in their way, honest – and draws them together in a strange but magical embrace which allows rolling hills to roll, allows a bowler hat to become an island, allows a couple having sex in a post box-red boat to discuss the weather. Trust me, it’s fun. It’s also good for the everlasting war on writer’s block – almost as good as a bout of free writing.

I don’t profess to be an expert on writing – I’m not – but if I were, I’d tell you to try some nonsense writing. Just be aware, what comes out might scare you a little.


Advice: When contemplating a pub quiz, don’t forget to take someone who lived through the 70s and 80s. That music round is impossible.

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