Review: Writing

Writing: deeply abnormal. In a 1970s experiment, a group of psychiatrists pretended to be mad and were temporarily incarcerated in mental hospitals. One of them took extensive notes on his experiences during the course of the experiment. An unwitting doctor writing a report on the fake patient noted that he “exhibited writing behaviour”. (Similarly, I often exhibit fat behaviour… This joke is not only ancient, but stolen.)

Someone told me the other day that Dostoyevsky’s epilepsy produced the strange symptom of compulsive writing. Lucky Fyodor! Obsessive compulsive epileptics and talent are like monkeys and typewriters: given world enough and time, something coherent will emerge.

I, too, am like a monkey with a typewriter. The monkey represents my brain, and the typewriter also represents my brain. Writing is putting my brain in a room with my brain and hoping something will come of it. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t give it up, even if someone offered me a flat with a proper living room in return.

When writing, it’s important to remember that there’s no accounting for taste. Tolstoy, for example, thought Shakespeare was crap. Once, when Anton Chekhov was staying at his country house, Tolstoy accused Chekhov of being “even worse than Shakespeare”. Driving home in his horse-drawn buggy, Chekhov was suddenly seized with happiness, and cried up at the stars: “I am even worse than Shakespeare!” God damn it, I just love them Russians.

Writing: Making someone I've made up do some stuff I've made up, in order to inflict a series of made-up events on someone I haven't met. 8 out of 10.