Nearly a third of the way through my 99 words project i’ve started to notice a pattern emerging. At first glance (and second and third too) the words I chose seemed random and it looked like I had just picked words I liked the sound of. As I’m working through them i’m starting to notice that the words are actually quite obviously there for a different reason.
In much the same way that word association, rorshach tests and the like, show the underlying psychological links between words and mental states, the list of words I chose are all really obviously connected to the mental place I was in when I wrote the list. Transmogrifying them from what they mean to what they look like in my head I’m starting to see more and more the connections between the words themselves and my opinions of how those words exist in my life. In some cases two or three pieces in row will connect together into a complete thought that describes how I was feeling this time last week, or this time five months ago or a year ago. Some of them link and show me what I was actually looking for in my life, whilst warning me that a rapper’s second album is never as emotionally involving as their first.
In a weird way I seem to have created a shortcut for understanding my own thought patterns. It feels a little bit like a magical ritual. Each image is a sigil and by completing it and placing it with the others I am firing it off into the universe to do its job.
If nothing else I am learning to choose my words more carefully.
It’s never really occurred to me before today that I don’t really have any heroes, so to say that there’s never been anyone that i have put on a pedestal, of course there have always been people I’ve looked up to, but i’ve never really understood what it is to admire someone who gives courage, someone who can inspire. I suppose, obviously, my dad would have been one. He gave up on his goals to raise his three sons. He took the first job he could and he put everything on hold and eventually the passion he had for acting went cold and he just went on with how things would have to be. I think that’s why he was a hero to me.
But now I have no heroes, not since he died. I mean, I still look up to him, but he’s not around to guide me anymore and so I just stopped looking. But now that i’m out on my own again I had to find something or someone that I can admire. Someone that looks like they’re where I’d want to be. Someone i can emulate, a better version of me.
There’s a few that i’ve met over the last few years. My brother is up there, both of them really. People that look like they’re living their dreams are up there for me to admire. One piece of advice I read in some book was that you should always try and surround yourself with people that look like they have the life that you want to have. Knowing what you want is much easier when you have people around that are also wanting the same things. So I suppose they’re my heroes, these people i’ve met once or twice. People i’ve spoken to one drunken night, one weekend in a field, in a tent, on a stage. People that i’ve talked to about everything and nothing. People that i’ve said only one word to, people that i’ve seen dressed as bears, wearing bags on their heads, wrapping ties across their eyes, carrying their lives in suitcases, wearing bearskin waistcoats, trailing yellow dresses, terrible american accents, dancing just because there’s a song playing. Bob Ross. He’s a hero of mine. He just found such Joy in painting those scenes and when he paints that happy little tree there’s a happy little me starting into the screen wishing he could be me.
I love people who can’t settle. I love people who must be happy somehow. I love people who are unwilling to let themselves get stuck. I want to be that too. That’s why I’m doing this at all. Starting all over again and learning how to walk again and finding where my strength is and fighting all the monsters that aren’t really there, but it’s only just occurred to me that the hero that could slay the beast has always been me.
Sometimes I worry that people will think i’m a douchebag because of the words I use or how I write things down. I get terrified when I read back something I wrote years ago that I know people have read. I write different things in different ways and under different states. Sometimes drunk, hungover, hyper, moody, cheerful, depressed… and it scares me that someone might read something and think of me as this one thing; that they might see me as one particular version of myself. I consciously edit whatever I say so that I don’t sound like an arse.
Today I realised that this is because it’s what I do to other people. I read one thing and automatically assume their character or personality. I have found that I can be very quick to come to a judgement on a film or a book or a band or a person based on one experience, or the friends or fans of that person or film or what have you.
Today I also realised that I should stop doing that. Or at least be aware of it.
I’m having a really strange time at the moment. Seeing how much I am enjoying making and doing makes me wonder why I wasn’t committing to it sooner. The idea that this could be what I do with my life still feels silly, but I’m much less scared to admit that to myself now. It’s a strange process, seeing words in a different format and then trying to understand in my head how I got to that place; that picture.
In my work with The Skeleton Project we happened upon an idea at the start of our process that we loved. We try, in everything we make, to put a feeling into the viewer/reader’s head. Without touching or explaining and giving as little backstory as possible. This is the reason we enjoy what we do so much and when it works it is a beautiful thing. When it doesn’t it’s fiddly and unsatisfying and makes me want to punch a thing. But when it does work it is all totally worth it.
I think that’s what i’ve found and what i’m trying to find. A way to explain how things seem to me without you ever having to actually know me or anything about what I do.
Inspired by the incorrigible Ben Mills, I decided to write a list of my 99 favourite words for some reason. As I was writing them down I didn’t really understand why I was writing them, just that it was important that I did.
As I started to get deep into the list I noticed patterns and rhythms to the words I was choosing. In some cases I was picking words that sounded nice next to each other, without actually paying any attention to pacing or structure.
My first instinct, once I had finished the list, was to read it over and over again until I understood something from it. I noticed that I was fond of certain vowel sounds, certain mixtures of letters, very specific suffixes. I made a small collage image out of the first picture that entered my head when I thought of the first word on the list; “Obliviate” (It’s an awesome word, right?)
Having finished one, I decided that this was at least something to do with the list. I enjoyed making the next couple and decided to see it through and make 99 images to go along with the list. I’m onto number 11 at the moment and i’m quite pleased with how it’s going. As with the written list, I am not yet seeing a pattern, but I do know what some of the images will be for words later on. I may decide to skip around between words and make the easy ones first, but I really don’t want to do that. The list must be respected.
I started a second list yesterday. The first three words are “Typhoid”, “Harlequin” and “Motherfucker”
(As I am finishing up the post it occurs to me that trying to encapsulate your post into a list of tags is sort of another way to list words. No…it’s actually just a way to list words, not sort of a way to do it. )
(After reading this back to myself I realised that I am a gigantic name-dropping twat)
Dear Gav Leonard,
Hello. I know it might seem odd for me to approach you in this manner, but something happened to me today that I feel you should know about. It involves you in a fairly mundane way, but I nonetheless wanted to know how your actions and your words have affected me.
I was walking along Mablethorpe beach today and considering, as I have for the last few days, my future and what it might bring. We met at an event at the weekend and you a performed your most recent piece “Needed: Space”, which was, as I recall, very favourably received. You spoke about Jellyfish (although come to think of it I’m not sure you actually performed the Jellyfish section, but I recall seeing it on a previous occasion). The important part is that the Jellyfish piece stuck in my mind and it repeated itself as I was walking along the beach and finding, to my surprise, that there were a number of Jellyfish laying dried up on the sand, looking to me like discarded bun cases. Your words reiterated a point that I had been considering since the weekend to the effect that I am not as happy with my life as I feel that I should be. Seeing these gelatinous corpses and hearing the words you said repeating in my mind gave me pause and almost made me drop to my knees. I pushed back a few tears and wiped away others thinking about what you said. You said that the Jellyfish gets dragged along by the current sometimes and when it does it just get washed up and suffocates on the sand. You said that you had spent so long walking backwards and forwards on your own particular stretch of beach, thinking that you had sort of lost control of your life that you had begun to identify with the Jellyfish. (These are not necessarily the exact words that you said, I am paraphrasing somewhat.)
The last few days have made me think that perhaps my life is no longer in my control. That I no longer have any say in what happens just because I have relinquished my own control and let myself be dragged. When I saw the Jellyfish and thought about your words and had a little moment of sadness to myself on that windy beach I decided that this was going to be the moment where I get things going in the direction that I want. I mostly just wanted to say thank you for what you have done and let you know that I owe you a drink at the very least.
I’ve got the whole thing planned. I’ve got my first project on the go. I’ve set up a blog and a twitter account. I’m thinking about where I would like to put things and where I would like to get my work shown. I’m thinking about how long it will take to make 99 collages. I’m considering the idea that maybe I give myself huge stupid tasks in an attempt to thwart my creative side. I’m wondering if my creative side ever gets upset that I ditch things halfway through just because no-one is there to push me forward and encourage me. I realise that this is probably going to be a thing I have to do mostly for myself. I understand the concept of Bloody Mindedness much more than I used to. I understand the idea of passion much more than I used to. I understand better now what it is like to HAVE to do SOMETHING. I understand what it is like to HAVE something to DO. Now I should do something.
I consider the idea of the Muse as depicted throughout history. I wonder if the muse has always been shown in that way. I wonder if everyone has a muse. I wonder if I am being vague for the sake of vagueness or whether I’m hiding something. I read that back to myself and think what an idiot I sound like. I give myself a few seconds of mental abuse and return to the subject at hand. Inspiration is a weird thing to write down. It’s odd to see the patterns between thoughts as a flowing paragraph. I wonder if I am being cryptic for the sake of of it or whether I’m hiding something. I look across at the door and watch the cat walk by as I type and I realise that I have been typing for about eight minutes. I consider how sad it is that this is as fast as my brain can work at this time in the morning. I consider the idea of the muse as depicted throughout my own life. The shape and size and colour and brightness, the images and the sounds, the memory plays back and forth behind my eyes and I notice that I am not even thinking about Muse anymore. I am thinking about events. I am thinking about people.
I consider the muse and whether to give her a name. I realise that I have assumed that it is a she. She has a face that I recognise as a face, but also she is someone that I know from another life. Perhaps she knows I am thinking of her now as the reason I am writing and thinking about how good life is. I consider the possibility that this is the worst thing I could be thinking about. Now the muse is a real person. The muse should be ephemeral and untouchable. She…It should be intangible. Considering the muse as a person in itself is suicide. Feelings can be attached to people. So make it generic. If it must be female then make her look like a model from a Freeman Hardy Willis catalogue you remember from twenty years ago. If she must exist in your mind at all, then let her seem shitty and unreasonable, so as to not allow yourself to fall in love. When the muse leaves you, all you will feel is heartbreak and despair. Let her be a temporary character in your story, if she must enter it at all.
Alas, she is in my head.
I consider the severity of my own editing. I wonder whether it is better to cut out everything as I write or read it back and chop from there. Or whether to remove any of the words at all. It does not matter to anyone else whether they read an edited mess or an unedited mess. Only I will know how many words have been removed. Only I.
I think it must be purely to be vague. Cryptic words are good to keep people guessing. Mysteries always attract a bigger crowd. I consider deleting the whole thing. I have counted seven moments where the thought crossed my mind through the entirety of this session. It is late and muse has begun to snore. So I can finally sleep.
Let her not wake until morning and I will tell her how I feel then. Maybe she will read this and understand anyway. Maybe her sweet voice no more call me a “useless fucker” and a “liar” and we will together create wonderful things. Maybe.
Good night to all.