As the light threatens to start fading on the final day of a year, it's time to look back, take stock and then decide to do everything differently, starting tomorrow. Well, these reviews of the year make for cheap entertaining TV, hopefully they can serve the same purpose for one whose primary medium is blog.

As far as this blog and its associated writing is concerned, I didn't do too badly in 2010.

In January I was still writing every other day, a remnant of the daily writing with which I'd started back in August 2009. The whole idea was to clear the creative tubes to allow me to complete my novel. Instead, the blog entries seemed to take on a life of their own.  Curiously enough they were at their most popular when I started writing series of memoirs, staring with my Dimensionally Transcendental Confession and then moving on to I Was A Teenage Toyah Fan, the latter of which proved so popular that I am now planning to rewrite it more fully in the early months of 2011 and then make available via Print On Demand at Lulu.com.

These successes were all very well, even if they weren't the blog entries that entertained me the most, but the problem was that in developing into an end in itself, the blog was no longer serving its original purpose, which was to get that damned novel finished by the end of the year. It took me until December to discover something that would do that, namely 750words.com which I mentioned in my previous blog entry.

Unfortunately December was too late to discover this magic bullet if I wanted to get the novel finished by the end of the year. I've done very well (even though I say it myself) and am now within spitting distance of 80,000 words. I imagine the story will end before I reach 90,000 and then that will be the first draft done. Not only will I have the satisfaction of having completed a (second) novel, but also I will finally be able to reward myself with the iPad that I already bought with that very purpose in mind (it's been sitting on top of the cupboard still in its box, having been bought early to avoid the VAT increase).

So with that in mind, it's time to make some promises to my writing self for 2011.

  • Continue my daily practice with 750word.com - I'm looking forward to getting my hands on that Phoenix badge for having written for 100 days on the trot
  • Complete the Toyah memoir and make it available before Toyah embarks upon her  30th Anniversary tour in the spring - it will need to be good timing
  • Finish the first draft of that damned novel before the end of January and get Genie safely back in the real world

Of course after the first draft is complete I will have the joys of rewriting ahead.

I understand that I am expected to murder my darlings.

For the past 15 days I've been writing approximately 1,000 words of my novel a day.

I was getting tired of it being half-finished and wished I could just splurge out the basic content, taking the time afterwards to finely tune it. Thanks to a tweet from one of my erstwhile colleagues from the two-year creative writing course I took part in from 2007 until 2009, I was introduced to a website called 750words.com which has enabled me to activate a particularly useful form of addiction.

Daily writing.

It's not intended for the production of novels; the mission statement on the site claims that it's a more up-to-date version of "morning pages" from The Artists Way. I did give them a try but could never quite get to grips with the mechanism although ironically I started this blog as an attempt to unplug my creative juices in a similar way. The main problem I had with The Artists Way was the author's insistence on the morning pages being handwritten.

750 Words makes no such unreasonable demands, although to be fair I'm not using it for this purpose anyway (otherwise you'd be getting daily stream-of-consciousness blog entries). What I am using it for is for managing to write 750+ words of my novel daily by adapting the finely-tuned guilt engine that seems to be built into the whole site. It utilizes the same kind of badges, rewards and stats that other social networks do, but unlike them, this addiction is useful.

Very useful.

I feel that in two weeks I've gone from "somewhere in the middle" to "somewhere within sight of the end". OK so the end result might be a very rough and ready first draft, but it will be a big step, and as an "archaeologist" rather than an "architect" I will be very interested to find out just what does happen at the end of Genie's journey. Even my recent acceleration has revealed some surprising details of the plot about which I previously had no idea - but it's good when it all comes together, even if it's not exactly what you could call a plan.

If I keep this up I may even finish it before the end of the year - this sounds almost inconceivable to me, but it's just cold hard extrapolation.

Of course I'm supposed to be going on holiday, but there's no reason why I can't continue to dedicate 45 minutes per diem to the project whilst I'm away. However, the regularity of the blog may suffer, so please bear with me and I'll get back to it as soon as I can.

There are a number of important topics I want to address.

As I've discussed before, there's a very good reason we don't remember our dreams for long.

Feedback. Howlaround.

To reiterate; there are two kinds of memory, long and short term. The long term is our hard disk, the storage of time past, whereas the short term is our working memory space, the RAM in which our consciousness occurs and in which reality seems to take place.  Sometimes a backfiring brain will temporarily mistake the latter for the former and misidentify what's happening right now as a memory of the past, hence deja vu.  Sometimes this feels more like the memory of a dream, a clue to its origins.

We sleep to allow the short term memories of the day to be processed and filed in long-term storage; dreams are a side effect of this process.  If we remembered them as well they'd have to be processed and filed along with the rest of the day's memories producing their own side-effect dreams which in turn would have to be processed and so on ad infinitum. This is why we don't remember our dreams for long; whilst they hang around for a little while in the short term memory, they're flagged "dream experience: do not file". By the next day, they're lost forever.

Usually.

Occasionally a dream is surprisingly persistent. Over the years I've had a number of these; recounted here are just four of them. What it was about these that meant they persisted I have no idea; perhaps it's nothing about the dreams themselves, but more the chemical composition of the hormones sloshing around in my brain on that day.
Flesh Eating Skeleton
A very recent one this. Part of a longer more "epic" dream in which I was taking part in a reality TV show, this persistent nugget consisted of me researching an eccentric sixties and seventies pop star who had a novelty hit called Flesh-Eating Skeleton in the early seventies under the name of Skelly. He appeared on Top of the Pops singing this whilst wearing in a velvet skeleton suit (no doubt Pan's People were dancing in the background wearing skull masks).  In the dream I was searching in vain for a clip of this on YouTube.
Euro Coogan
Experienced about five years ago, this memorable sequence has stuck with me ever since. Again it was part of a longer dream, but its host story has long since been lost. It started in a classroom; Jonathan Ross came in to tell his children that due to an air strike they'd be unable to fly off to France for their holidays as planned. Rob Brydon walked in and said casually "Whereas I, who am taking my children to Norway, can leave now." His children stood up and followed him out of the room.
A stage in front of  crowd at some political event in Europe. Rob Brydon was now Steve Coogan who was playing a European politician from an unspecified mediterranean country. A dais slid forward on the stage atop which Coogan stood, hands raised in victory Vs, nodding and smiling at the crowd.  His moment of triumph was spoilt by another  politician emerging on a dais much taller than Coogan's.
"Hey!" he shouted "Whatta you think you're doing on a bigger one than me? Who do you think you are?"
At this point music struck up, heavily percussive.
Unya! Ta-ta-tunya! Ta-ta-tunya! Ta-ta-tunya!
Coogan forgot his argument with the other politician and started doing a demented dance to this music, facing the crowd. He's not seriously dancing, I thought, he's trying to make them laugh.
I'm not a Cunt!
Going back really quite a few years now, this is an example of how a persistent dream can affect the way you see life.  I used to know someone who seemed pleasant enough but was a bit anal and picky. I never fell out with him in reality but I dreamed we had an argument and he was being stubborn about something stupid. I turned away, muttering Cunt under my breath.
He heard me and declaimed loudly "I'm not a cunt!"  Odd as he wasn't the sort of person to normally swear at all.
That was it for the dream, but whenever I saw him again after that in real life, the first thing to go through my head would always be the plaintive cry I'm not a cunt!
Sweet Clown Road Safety
I was probably five or even younger when I had this dream.  Back then there wasn't nearly as much TV for children to watch so what little there was tended to stick with you. This included public information and road safety films, which were often more than a little sinister. So persistent was this meme I even had a dream about an imaginary road safety film.
A little girl was leaving a sweetshop with her mother having just bought her a packet of orange boiled sweets - a square tube of them (rather like Tunes or Spangles). So pleased was she with her new possession that she entered a reverie based on the advert for these sweets, in which a pair of clowns in orange costumes started balancing a complex pile of packets of these sweets on her shoulders as she held a cane over her head.
So wrapped up was she in this fantasy that she stepped thoughtlessly into the road and a car had to slam on it's brakes. Everything went into slow motion at this point - the little girl angrily attacking the front of the car with a large inflatable clown that she happened to have been carrying but which had been invisible up until this point.
I've no idea why these dreams have stayed in my head so long. Maybe they'll stay in yours too.

But probably not.

The strongest drive is neither love nor hate nor indeed the urge to change another's copy. The greatest desire appears to be to experience moments of moral superiority over others, however minor or petty these moments may be.

It's true, think about it. Maybe you're not like that, but they certainly are.

See?

This trait is most obvious when you unintentionally make a faux pas, especially one involving death.  You might comment on how so-and-so has seemed a bit grumpy lately.

If you're quick you can see the first moments of internal drama playing themselves out on the face of the person who knows something you don't and is therefore about to put you down, score a point and feel good about themselves at your expense for a couple of seconds.

The first micro-expression to cross their visage is one of astonishment. They can't believe their luck. They've been handed this one on a fucking plate. Astonishment is swiftly followed by delight. I'm going to enjoy this! They can barely contain themselves and start to look as if they're hatching an egg. Eventually after what seems like several seconds savouring the anticipation, they strike.

"Well it's not surprising.  Seeing as so-and-so's favourite grandmother DIED last week."

They sit back, an expression of faux censure masking the shit-eating grin that must surely be all over their inner face.  They stuck it to you good.  The view from the temporary moral high ground is a magnificent one. Chalk it up on life's scoresheet.  I won THAT.

Of course it's not always about death, and perhaps more significantly, it's not always a solo sport with the recipient of the moral bombshell an unwitting target. Sometimes it's a duel.

Picture a rush hour tube journey. The train pulling into a station packed absolutely solid. You've long ago given up hope of reading any of your book, squeezed as you are between the man who obviously hasn't washed his overcoat in eight months and the sickly looking youth whose skin is swimming with grease in the unbearable heat. The doors open. No-one exits. And then it comes. That Voice.

"Excuse me, could you move down please?" Subtext: because obviously you're all being incredibly selfish not making room for anyone else, and anyone with a scrap of decency would make room, if I was on there, I'd do it, and the fact you're not just goes to prove how morally inferior you are to me...

Someone on board might attempt to be reasonable and point out that there really isn't any more room. This isn't good enough for That Voice. It's spotted something.

"I can see some space there! You could all move down."

This is where Voice 2 sees its chance. Voice 2 is deep in the carriage, right next to the apparent space and can see the reason for its existence. More importantly for Voice 2, it can see an opportunity to put That Voice in its place.  It has a moral ace up its sleeve.

"It's a dog. A Guide Dog. For a blind man." Voice 2 almost explodes with pleasure at being granted the opportunity to deliver this coup de grĂ¢ce . Voice 2 has won, and what a devastating victory it was. The doors close and Voice 2 smiles all the way to the next station. It's a good day.

What it boils down to is feeling good about yourself at someone else's expense. Which this blog entry could conceivably be interpreted as attempting to do.

Damn it.