This is not a review. This isn’t an earnest cultural study. This is just me… ‘Icon’ is an overused word, especially in music, but this week I got to see the real deal because John Lydon was playing in my hometown. He’d almost certainly despise me for saying so, but for my generation that’s like seeing Elvis or The Beatles – someone who represents a seismic change (arguably the last) back when rock ’n’ roll was still a serious, evolving art movement rather than simply cold, hard product – the only difference being that he remains a genuinely independent artist, not on the Fortune 500 or a grotesque parody of his younger self. This is why he was at a medium-sized campus venue on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday night in Norfolk.
Just before Christmas, my friend and colleague Ashley Stokes was interviewed by Cheryl Whittaker at Mash Stories. The title of the article was ‘Can You Really Teach Me how to Write?’ This is a good piece on writing and teaching and well worth checking out. To give Cheryl her due, she was taking the counter position – as, obviously, was Ashley – and arguing affirmatively against the common barrier statement that ‘You can’t teach a person how to write; they either have it, or they don’t.’ This she ascribed to ‘those possessive over their field, wanting to maintain a certain elitism.’
So, among all the other poignant, pointless and terrifying news stories that broke last week, it was announced in a Daily Mail ‘world exclusive’ that the hunt for the true identity of Jack the Ripper was over (again). Journalists across the land sprang into action, plundering Wikipedia in order to throw a bit of vintage murder porn together. This was all in aid of the latest book on the subject, Naming Jack the Ripper: New Crime Scene Evidence, A Stunning Forensic Breakthrough, The Killer Revealed by Russell Edwards (Sidgwick & Jackson, 2014).
If you aspire to write a novel, this is the best advice you will ever get. Try to forget, for a moment, the Atlantic of ink spilled upon the subject of ‘creative writing’ and bear with me. The truth is not always hidden at the bottom of the ocean. Whatever you are writing – especially if it’s a book-length project, whether fiction or non-fiction – I cannot overstate the importance of working on it every day.