By Michael Crowe
Intellect versus Emotion. Intellect wins. Emotion starts crying.
The following text was written by a famous-ish author who would rather not have her name attached to the piece. This is partly because it reveals a guarded editing process and partly because she feels it ultimately leaves the reader feeling dejected, worried and blank. I also don’t really want to put my name to it (Michael Crowe), so let’s just say it was written by a three year old called Shirley. She, Shirley, has finally been given the pen and has stopped crying. She glances at you for a second, you notice her tears have evaporated instantly and her dress seems eight or nine points pinker. She dabs the pen nib on her tongue. Everybody laughs. What follows is written by this puckish three-year-old while whistling ‘Ring-a-ring o’ Roses’ in a noisy Pizza Hut.
To begin, I think I’ll write some self-tips, self-set exercises, mawkish bumf, half ideas, quarter thoughts. Drivel with a side order of dribble. I expect I’ll ignore most of it, but at the very least, writing this list (and this) has gotten me started. I’m sifting for gold 1p coins. I must keep the pen moving or else Lindy will have it back.
• Write the autobiography of a desert island stranded on a desert island.
• …less like an elite meditation boutique and more like the apocalypse waiting to be released in a can of Coke.
• Add a power-cut during the most important part of the story.
• Rewrite the story, this time all the characters are extremely drunk.
• Tony Blair dunking on Boy George.
• Imagine you’ll be hit by a red van tonight – a fatal accident. The next three hours is your last chance to write something.
• Write a story from the point of view of one million people.
• Add an extra sentence to the end of your favourite novel.
• Set a story in your neighbours’ home. Have them talk about you briefly.
• Imagine you’re blind. Write a story about going down a water-slide twice. • Write a short story set in a fridge, or somewhere smaller.
• When I’m bored I turn into a roast chicken.
• Write a short story which would cost tens of millions of pounds to turn into a film.
• Ridicule the décor.
• This sentence will one day be read by an extraterrestrial.
• Write a detective story which takes on ve sentences for the crime to be solved. • Find a detail about a detail.
• Write a love letter to the pen you’re writing with.
• Write something you nd distasteful.
• Assume someone else has had the same plot idea as you. Make sure your version is far better.
• Impressive words are unimpressive.
• Write for at least four minutes every day.
• How would the world be different if all men were four feet two inches?
• Find out where your story is ticklish. Tickle.
• No “call-backs.”
• Your characters show great interest and excitement about things you couldn’t care less about.
• Brancusi’s ‘Endless Column’ is 29.33 meters.
• When you’ve nished, ask yourself what would make this more interesting.
• Falling in love at rst sight with everyone.
• Cow history – what are the most important historical events as witnessed by cows?
• Imagine you’re one of the greatest writers of all time. With that in mind, write a story.
• Imagine you’re the worst writer ever. With that in mind, write a story.
• Describe an interesting room with nobody inside. Build up a collection of these rooms.
• Trash the rooms written about above.
• Write the strangest sentence you can.
• Eva Hesse was doing net art 50 years ago.
• Obstruct the view of the storyteller. A truck is in the way, or something truck-ish.
This plane was crashing and all I could think was, “I want to finish this book.” I only had four or five lines left. It was hard to concentrate: the flicking lights, coffee in my lap, obscene screaming. As I tried to focus on the page the plane flipped back aggressively and I noticed peanut crumbs rising from the floor towards my face. I’d spotted these unhoovered crumbs when I boarded a couple of hours ago; they’d been mashed into the floor rather like we would be presently. I thought of the person who had destroyed the peanuts, now freely wandering around in safety despite this littering. I didn’t like litterbugs. I said aloud, “I don’t like litterbugs!” which would’ve been embarrassing, but thankfully everyone else was locked in to their own self-death traumas. The crumbs sprayed against my face and I thought perhaps it was just an accident; that the peanuts had been dropped and clomped on unknowingly by a beautiful chiffon swan, and that was my last.
Shirley paused there and scrunched up her freckly face. I folded her up like a tiny cardboard deckchair, put her into an envelope and put her in my pocket for later. She’s fine. I need to get some sort of art angle to t the brief and stretch to the 2000 words required. I thought maybe the aeroplane book could be Andy Warhol’s diary. I imagined Shirley skipping to a vast bookshelf and levitating up to Warhol’s Diary. She sticks her tongue out and the book slides out into her hands. A close up on her eyes reading the last lines:
“I woke up at six-thirty and I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I took some Valium and a Seconal and two aspirin, and I was sleeping so heavily that I didn’t wake up when PH called at nine o’clock. And when I didn’t answer she got scared because that had never happened before, so she called on the other line and Aurora answered in the kitchen, and PH made her come up to my bedroom to shake me but I wish she’d just let me sleep.”
Too depressing. I unfolded Shirley and asked her if she knew what Seconal was. She nodded. I said, “You don’t really write like a three year old.” She said, “Don’t flatter yourself.” I finger-clicked Pizza Hut back into existence and Shirley ripped everything written above into tiny pieces. She would snow it over aerobics instructor Barbie in a couple of hours. As for now, she has already started afresh with:
I fell asleep much earlier than normal. The set for the dream was only half built.
She smiled, it seemed like something. Shirley’s brother said it was stupid so she knew she was onto something good. After shuffling it around and drawing a few pictures of bees and turning down a slice of margherita she ended up mutating it into this:
The field of view widens throughout the whole dream. (Not panning out.) After ten minutes, further width seems impossible to take in. It continues. Quickens. Left side a touch faster than the right.
This made our child author think of the width of Darger pictures and Guernica getting wider. She shuffled it a bit more:
Everything in the dream, landscape, characters, music, objects, cooks over the course of six delicious hours. After ten minutes adding further garnish via rain seems impossible.
She continued shuffling and shuffling the dream possibilities which made her think of a pack of cards which has been shuffled for 20 years. The most thoroughly shuffled deck on the planet as a sculpture. She thought perhaps she ought to sculpt a little more which brought out this, written in bubble writing:
I made a sculpture of the space where the sculpture was going to go. Then I made a sculpture of you looking at the sculpture. Then I made a sculpture of you sat thinking about the sculpture. Then I made a sculpture of me halfway through writing you a letter asking you what you think of my sculptures. Then I made a sculpture of me setting fire to all of the sculptures. Then I made a sculpture of me wondering why I did that. Then I made a sculpture of me wondering what to sculpt next. Then I made a sculpture of someone buying all of my sculptures. Then I made a few sculptures of me squandering the money, in restaurants, etc. Then I made a sculpture of me, morbidly obese, sat wheezing. The wheezing is really authentic. Stunning wheezing. Then I made kinetic sculptures of me lifting weights, working out. Very inspirational. Then I made a sculpture of me at the top of Mount Everest. A look of absolute bliss in my eyes. Healthy, glittering bliss. Back in shape. I like that one so much I tried to lug it up to the top of Mount Everest. It was too heavy. It was like trying to climb up Everest twice in one go. I had to drop it into an enormous crevasse. My blissful eyes falling away, deeper and deeper into the darkness. Horrific. When I finally got to the top, I couldn’t believe it, there was already the most amazing sculpture of me up there. It looked thrilled to see me, shocked, surprised.
This pleased Shirley so much she did a small pirouette to celebrate. Other Pizza Hut children began dancing too, with no motivation. She thought: maybe I’ve finished. She imaged the sculptures to be by Duane Hanson. But then she thought maybe people would be thinking more Ron Mueck. Not good. So, after more snow for Barbie, she reworked the story into:
Every exhibit in the Tate Modern is remade from memory by Nicolas Serota (Tate Director). He is given two hours to complete the work. The reproductions are all half the original size. Night falls. The gallery is demolished and rebuilt – half the size. The demolition and rebuild is completed in one evening. Nicolas’ duplicates are installed.
Daybreak. Visitors arrive and thoroughly enjoy their day. They all feel enormous. They love the art too. It seems livelier, more modern. Night falls. Owls hoot. Everybody is distracted by the beauty of the moon as the small Tate is demolished and replaced with a cardboard box. “Tate Modern” is painted on the box in white. It humbly looks over at St Paul’s Cathedral and waits for daybreak.
Daybreak. It’s a confident, crisp morning. Visitors arrive from all angles after breakfast. Omelettes, cereals, marmalade. They circle the gallery. Some people start to cry, others chuckle. Some pick it up and have pictures taken with it on their head.