I try very hard not to be a moaner. I mean we all love a good moan now and then: about the government, the football, the shockingly poor selection of cheese available from the corner shop but no one actually LIKES a moaner do they? No one wants to be sitting on the bus, or in the tea room or astride a ski-lift next to someone who is letting rip about the veins in their legs or the price of lawnmowers these days or the shocking state of post-structuralist teaching in some of our second-tier universities. We all moan about moaners. And with good reason. So I do try to avoid the overly-negative in these “blog’ posts; I try to look towards the light and not the dark, celebrate rather than denigrate, be silly rather than cynical. Sometimes I succeed (I bought some new boots this weekend; they are brilliant! – see, just like that), but at other times I fail (Peanut butter is disgusting and anyone who says otherwise is on the devil’s payroll – yep, like that) and I am sad to say that this is one of those times.
So here goes. Existence: feel my wrath!
You know what really annoys me? Quotes. And not just the fact that the noun is “quotation” which EVERYBODY GETS WRONG ALL OF THE BLOODY TIME (although this does make me cross and repulsively self-righteous, so much so that at times I do want to punch myself in the face) but also the fact that they get plastered up everywhere as if somehow such gobbets of wisdom could be of actual use to ANYBODY when in reality they’re just further examples of the reductive and under-baked nonsense that passes for thought in this so-called “Twenty First” century of ours. (Gosh, I am grumpy this evening).
Bruce Robinson, author of “Withnail and I” reportedly had a sign on his typewriter which read “Write damn you; it’s the only thing you’re good for”. I like that. That one can stay, that one is allowed but all other quotATIONS that are plastered around the walls of student flats and schools and pubs (those ones particularly grate – I don’t need Samuel Johnson’s reassurance that drinking a pint of ale is like kissing a princess or something – I KNOW IT IS) should be made illegal from tomorrow. No, earlier than that. They should be made illegal from this very moment. From now. That’s it. I’ve passed the law. They are now illegal and the punishment for displaying even the most likeable aphorism in a public space will be punitive and entirely unfair. And if you post one on Facebook then the keys on your keyboard will secrete superglue before becoming electrified. And that is for your first offence.
I am sounding entirely unlikeable aren’t I? I do try not to be wherever possible. Perhaps I should be a little less misanthropic; after all, if a well-chosen quotation gets you through your day then what the hell does it matter what I think? It doesn’t matter a jot, of course it doesn’t. But do a quick google search for “inspirational quotations” and be prepared to vomit all over your pyjamas – even if you have to cross the sitting room, go up the stairs, past the bathroom and into your bedroom where you open the second drawer on your chest just to find your pyjamas in order to vomit over them. Listen up world, you don’t need the blessing of someone most likely dead (and certainly as flawed and farty as you are) to kickstart your chosen career. Writers seem particularly needy in this respect and whilst I know only too well the challenges involved in sitting down and ACTUALLY WRITING SOMETHING I don’t see how a phrase ripped entirely from its context and then rendered in a twee typeface gets you closer to finishing your masterpiece. Did James Joyce have a little sign blue-tacked up in his garret as he wrote Ulysses which said “Words are like rain. Just put out a jar beneath a piece of guttering and assuming that it is a rainy night then after a bit you’ll have lots of them“? Well if he did, it would certainly weaken my point so let’s just agree that he didn’t.
If you are the type of a writer who needs an aphoristic jump-start to get you going in the morning then at least let me help you; let me save you the searching and the sifting through thousands of trite and largely useless scrapings from the barrel of human thought by providing you a list of handy phrases to set you on your way. For this there shall be NO CHARGE. Yes, the following is absolutely free. It will cost you neither pound nor dollar, neither Yen nor Euro, as I present:
LONG ARM FILMS’
TEN ENTIRELY INVENTED MOTIVATIONAL QUOTATIONS
FOR ASPIRING SCREENWRITERS
1. “Even Bill Murray has days when he is not Bill Murray”. – C14th Estonian Proverb
2. “Good writing is like good jam: sweet, fruity and sealed with a floral lid”
– Sarah Basterds – “The Impish Sentiment” (1932)
3. “Film is the distance between onanism and quantum theory” –
Prof F.J. Ruislip – “Once upon a time in the Western Avenue” (1998)
4. “The perfect screenplay is like the footprints of a deer across a Scottish hillside. I don’t need to sodding explain why.”
Alice Childress – usherette at the Alexandra Cinema, Newton Abbot, 1985
5. “Working hard is almost always relatively useful”.
Edgar Sirmadam, (19th philanthropist and sausage pioneer
6. “Love yourself. Frequently”.
Sir Francis Walsingham
7. “Take doubt out to dinner. Give good chat to doubt. Let doubt linger over dessert and coffee then stab doubt repeatedly in the taxi on the way home”.
Mary Quite, “Fish and Chaps” – The birth of seaside homo-eroiticism: (1974)
8. “Choosing the right words is less important than order them the putting in right”
Geoffrey Chaucer -“The Screenwriter’s Tale” (1378)
9. “Belief is the fart that warms the duvet of talent”.
King Christian VII of Norway addressing the Oslo branch of the WI (1802).
10. “When people ask me why I write, I tell them it is to nourish my soul. When people ask me how I write I tell them that I use my fingers on a computer keyboard and press letters in a pre-determined sequence, that I began to learn around four years old and really haven’t stopped working on since, which in turn creates words that are understood by speakers of the English language and then I repeat this process until I have created something that is maybe just a shopping list or maybe the libretto for an opera it just depends on how sexy I’m feeling”
Hadrian Patel – Winner of the Branston Prize in 2005 for his novel “Balls”
You are welcome. I do it because I care.