Is it possible to sit at a keyboard with no preconceived subject matter and spontaneously type out a readable article? Difficult, but achievable if you can you hold readers’ attention through the vital first sentence and onto the next before the thought of rejecting you for some less dreary click-bait has crossed their minds. When that is accomplished you then must come up with something arresting very, very soon or else the easily-bored butterflies of the internet with their miniscule attention spans and infantile cravings for low-brow sensationalism will be off to sample the next flashy fragrance. I have a copper-bottomed solution for this problem: tell one of my hilarious jokes.
A “friend of mine” kept getting into trouble with the law because of his bad temper. He accumulated so many convictions for disorderly conduct that when he applied for a copy of his criminal record it had to be delivered by Parcelforce – with the aid of heavy lifting gear (by the way, you are not yet laughing because that wasn’t the joke). Eventually a magistrate made him attend anger management classes. Dressed smartly, he turned up at the right venue on the right day and at the right time, reported to the reception desk as instructed and said politely “Good morning. I’m here for the anger management classes.” To which the receptionist responded: “DO YOU BLOODY MIND! CAN’T YOU SEE I’M BUSY YOU INCONSIDERATE PIECE OF SHIT!!”
Having coaxed the reader into the rarely explored terrain of a third paragraph, any writer worth her 8% royalty will now be motoring. From here on in, it’s downhill all the way – he said, persisting with the motoring metaphor for no particular reason. Stick the vocabulary vehicle in neutral and free-wheel, while taking care to avoid whatever the literary equivalent of pot-holes, speed cameras and children running out from behind ice-cream vans might be. Um…hanging sub-clauses, over-abundant adjectives and libel lawyers? And meanwhile, to keep ’em reading, you can throw in another disreputable joke of dubious provenance.
Two farmers, Goronwy and Emlyn, were walking the hills when they came across a trapped sheep with its head stuck in a gate and its rump in the air. It was too tempting for Goronwy, who dropped his trousers and fucked the poor creature. “Sy’n edrych yn hwyl. Gall i wneud hynny?” asked Emlyn. “Wrth gwrs,” replied Goronwy, “Plygu drosodd!”
Which brings me to an important point about languages: when placed in a familiar context, all are eminently understandable.
Note the surprising new tactic.
Not paragraphs at all really.
Well, it works for the Western Mail, where treating the readership like gnats with ADHD has reached such a pitch it can’t be long before the sub-editor makes each word…
Correction, it doesn’t work for the Western Mail. Their circulation’s fallen so low the only paying reader left of my acquaintance is an anachronistic Anglican lay preacher from Winch Wen. And he only gets the rag because it mulches down well in the compost bin.
Time for a Limerick:
I know of a bloke from Brynbuga
Who avidly follows the rugger.
There’s no-one alive
More keen on Scrum V.
And no: ‘Bugger’ won’t rhyme. Go figure.
The day will dawn bright and clear. Look! Look at the skylark hover and soar, high in the crisp morning air! This is it. The day you’ve been waiting for. The day you get the hell out of your dead-end call centre job. Do it on the spur of the moment; none of that four-weeks-notice rigmarole and certainly no Cheesy Quavers and Liebfraumilch in the rest room. Go out in style. Tell nobody, but make pre-emptive moves: systematically decrease output and increase error-rate for weeks beforehand, hide shellfish past their sell-by date in filing cabinets, pour superglue into computers, sprinkle Dulcolax in coffee machines and Diastop in water coolers, booby-trap your boss’s desk-toy with razor-wire and, just out of petty spite, deface the notice board. And then go. Scratch “I’m not cut out to be a zero-hours minimum-wage sycophant” on a used tea-bag, drop it in your out-tray, and walk. Walk baby, walk. There’s a whole wide world waiting to be discovered. It’s not about the destination; it’s the way you ride the trail that counts.
After that lot I think we can confidently conclude, in answer to my opening question: No, it’s not possible. Although the process itself might ease writer’s block. Time will tell.