27 June 2014

…writing in beige ink

Writing in beige ink
If you have previously experienced the imperfect storm of stumbling upon this blog and having the time and/or patience to read any of my stuff then A: thanks for returning, I'll do my best that you don't regret it, and, B: you'll know I'm not a writer. That is to say I write, but I'm really a designer. One could argue that a paragraph is just an efficiently designed series of sentences built from words constructed from letters buried in a foundation of language protected by a damp-course of grammar. But there'd quite rightfully be a real writer waiting outside the back of this blog shaking their head in disdain whilst an architect pins me down in an ugly cacophony of smite and bawling and "BAD ANALOGY" ringing in my thick ears. So I won't. I'll merely flippantly suggest it in the preamble and sneak out the toilet window.

So no, I'm not a writer. I know writers, work with writers and read writers to know that what I write isn't quite writing. So bear with me when I have the bloody nerve to suggest that some of the writing I've been reading of late has gotten just a little too beige for my colour palette. An unassuming hue of safe with a magnolia buff of staid.

Raised on a (probably unhealthy) diet of NME, I could hear the agitating voice of each writer loud and clear. Their enthused, often unflattering opinions of the bands/TV/movies about which they wrote meant a lot to me, regardless of whether I thumbs-upped or -downed their point of view. But regardless of what I or anyone else thought, the truth of the voice was always (and still is) the guiding light through the shadowy land of the dull prose and, ultimately, missing in a lot of written content I've been consuming.

Maybe that's it: consumption.

The voracious appetite for perpetual free content has, after all, given rise to the reams of grammatically incorrect newspapers being left on trains and untold duplicated duplicated content curated (un-lovingly farmed) for boggle eyes to gorge upon like Jabba the Hutt on spring break at a Las Vegas buffet, so reading yet another same-old toothless story on the democracy of Lego seems to make sense in this context. The demand for more certainly can make one feel the pinch. When the monster needs feeding, I know from experience 'getting work out the door' is the means to an end and a surefire way to end up on a fly-by-wire job; it helps avoid any snags and ultimately ensures a nice, pleasant, safe ride. And a satiated monster.

Did someone mention monster?

Adam Lee Davies, the ever-reliable syntactical buckaroo contributor to Little White Lies magazine recently reviewed Gareth Edwards' Godzilla for the publication online. It caused a right old hoo-ha, people spitting about how teenage and ill-considered the piece was. I really enjoyed the review. In no uncertain terms, you definitely know that from his perspective the film's a noisy, fun, smart, lizardy caper. His totes apprope prose only helps emphasise the giddy feeling that remains after viewing. Plus at no point are there any spoilers or synopsical (is that a word?) plot reveals which can often occur in these affairs. Read it for yourself here. Then read those comments below. If you have time, of course - I know how busy you can be.

The volume of vitriol disgorged from 'the bottom half of the internet' has been well documented, with both sides of the fence being painted with, erm, opinion paint. Good or bad, is the chance of authors bleeding to death by a thousand cutting remarks hobbling the writing that makes for interesting content? The idea of creatives being tractable by noxious bullshit is worrisome. I wanted to find out, so got in touch with Mr Adam Lee Davies via a medium I felt commensurate to my style of scribing: Twitter. A few questions pinged across with only a pocketful of characters, Paxman needn't be soiling the bedclothes.

I wondered, in 140 characters or fewer, if I wasn't the only one experiencing writing caught in some magnolia flux? "There's plenty of featureless beige deserts between the glittering gems." Adam offers, whilst I breath a sigh of relief that I'm not completely barking up the wrong tree.

However, isn't this the case in every industry? Graphic design is no different - there's wheat and there's chaff. You just don't want the chaff to take over or you'll go hungry. He adds "A lot of copy is written against the clock these days and some of it does tend to read like (lightly) re-written press releases."

Which goes some way to explain an often homogenised style that comes across in a piece. If the press release issued is like an off-the-shelf white label product, then the feature that emerges is just a re-skin - a work model which I can certainly relate to from previously pushing pixels in video games. "Of course, not everyone wants red-line, adjective-heavy gonzo opinions all the time. Sometimes you just wan the info." Adam tweets.

Yes, it's true. A wonderful snafu served up by his Godzilla review seems to be a lack of solid info for which the trolls are hungry, not the emotional opinion of one person which they get. I wondered if the bottom half of the internet snake pit could influence a writer to play safe? Adam doubts that's it. "It would be horrid to rile people up for no reason," a leaf UKIP would do well to take out of his book "but every writer wants to engender debate."

Something that he's quite familiar with. But how does reading comments make him feel? Using Godzilla as an example, the chop encountered isn't a problem he says - he's a big boy (his words - unverified) who's happy to stand by what he's written. "Getting death-threats for my Skyfall review was perhaps a little strong though..."

What the what? Reading that James Bond review it's hard to see what would cause someone to send a personal email with the exclusive offer to die. Did it sway him in any way? "It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a pleasant experience, but the initial review was rather even-handed, so it goes to prove you never know what’s going to set people off. You just have to stick to your guns." God only knows the fallout from a lukewarm Star Trek review. JOKE internet, it's just a joke! Brrr.

We've learned recently - using Twitter as a media-friendly touch point - just by airing an opinion in an open forum you put yourself up to exposure to the worst in human behaviour. I can't even imagine creating something myself - say a logo - to receive anything other than mild annoyance from a disagreement on a colour way. So it's on reflection, and with regret (just like Sir Alan Sugar in The Apprentice) that I should be pointing the finger (just like Sir Alan Sugar in The Apprentice) at all. I understand deadlines, I understand creative thinking, I understand the mechanics of supply and demand (yes, the irony of this blog entry existing at all hangs coquettishly low in front of me). So maybe, I should wind my neck in. I ask Adam: should I wind my neck in?

"There is an awful lot of great writing out there, so it’s important to accentuate the positive, but you leave your neck exactly where it is, as I’m looking forward to reading the comments you get!".

It may not be a war, but for writers, it's a coal face out there. And it's very hot and coal face-y.


Special thanks to Adam Lee Davies for his time. And for his always splendid Ex-Rent Hell.