Saturday, October 27, 2012


There are enough barriers around this city at the moment without worrying about those we construct for ourselves.  We writers do it all the time – we see monumental boulders in the road, impenetrable thickets of tangled undergrowth ahead, deep trenches at our feet. We bang our foreheads, we can't go on, there's no way forward, everything is a hopeless rubble. And yes (sigh) we make mountains out of molehills as well.

Painting: Garden Wall (detail)

I still encounter those, when I'm stuck and can't see my way through the thicket of trash.  And it's absurd, because if you don't make mistakes, you don't make anything.  Everyone makes mistakes. That's how we learn.  I know now, with experience, that if I stick at it, I can do it. Doesn't make it easy, but I know I can do it, with fingers crossed, bullocking my way through the obstacles, preferably as fast as possible and remembering to disengage the critical faculties first.

A barrier is useful – in its place.  However it should never be set at the beginning of a project, to discourage and warn and wag its finger. A barrier there makes me stumble, doubt my sense of direction, question my reasoning, and obscures my destination. I need to be free to bash onwards without worrying about those little problems. They come later.

The barrier should be placed at the end, when the job is done - to stop a piece being released to public view before every last comma has been scrutinised. The barrier is a Berlin wall that says stop or I'll shoot, and the only way through is Checkpoint Charlie manned by beady-eyed scrutineers who see all the idiocies and blunders and jerks and wanderings that have been missed. It's easy enough to fix those when there is actually something to fix.

This side of the barrier anything goes. On the other side of the barrier all is perfection.

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