tips for starving artists

there’s nothing quite like crumpling up a blank piece of paper and tossing it straight in the bin. it feels like pissing all over nature. 

sometimes i reach the end of a notebook, only to find that i haven’t, quite, because there’s still some blank pages, after the end. sometimes i write on these pages. sometimes i tear them out. 

either way, i take the finished, unblanked notebook and scan the pages, one by one, word by word. i store a digital copy on the cloud. i store the numbered, dated notebook on a stack of numbered, dated notebooks. for posterity, one presumes. 

but what if i didn’t?

what if 
i burned it
or buried it?

what if i left it on a park bench, 
for pigeons and passers-by
to shit on or sit on
or on a seat, on the bus
or on the floor, in a public toilet

or on a compost heap?

what if i just forgot about it
and left it to rot?

what if, instead of removing only the blank pages, i ripped out every one of the fuckers?

i could tear out the pages one by one, read them aloud in the middle of a busy shopping centre, then eat them. 

i could fold them into a hundred paper aeroplanes and throw them off the top of a tall building. i could sellotape them to a hundred random lampposts. i could redact, with a black felt-tip, every single word except one.


i could give myself a hundred papercuts. i could dedicate the rest of my life to finding god within these very pages, never writing anything else, never reading anything else, just three pages each morning, followed by eight hours of silent meditation. 

i could deposit the whole pointless papery contraption in a postbox, stamped and addressed, or give it to a random stranger, or stick it in the nearest grid – here you go! six weeks’ work, down the drain. 

clearly, i’m not that sort of mad scientist. not yet.

this isn’t the first time i’ve thought about destroying my art. actually, i started thinking about destroying it the moment i started thinking about making it. 

but why? and how?

why is easy enough. 

because i want to free myself from any external or internal constraints requiring that my work be good (whatever that means), or aesthetically pleasing, or profound, or sexy, or funny, or ironic, or anything at all. 

because i want complete freedom to express any emotion i wish to express, in whatever way i wish to express it, without judgement. 

because i want to remind myself that nothing lasts. 
not me. not my work. not the warp and weft of the world we live in.

Hey, even the Mona Lisa’s falling apart.

Fight Club (1999)

how is harder.

i’m not going back and destroying old stuff. 
that feels too self-destructive, and i’m done with willful self-destruction.

but what if i took an empty reporter’s notebook, and filled it, front to back, knowing that when i reached the end, i would take the bastard, whatever was in it, and burn it?

i’d be running code in a sandbox, with zero consequences.
i could write whatever i want. 
complete freedom. 

unfortunately, i don’t trust myself.
i know what’d happen. i’d tell myself i’m going to burn it. but i wouldn’t. 

not if i somehow managed to write something worth writing. 

i’d retrospectively justify this by telling myself that the point of the exercise is to enter into a state of mind wherein i can make something good. but that’s not it. that’s not it at all. the point of the exercise is to enter into a state of mind wherein i can make anything. good. bad. anything. 

and if i’m going to keep whatever’s good, and only burn the bad stuff, then the whole thing is just an elaborate editing exercise. 

i want more than that.

it’s all an illusion anyway, because even if i do go ahead and burn everything, in the hope that the experience of doing so will lead me to some spiritual slash artistic realisation, then i haven’t really ‘destroyed’ anything, any more than i might ‘destroy’ a pencil outline by going over it in point-one fineliner and black felt tip.

so perhaps destruction is the wrong word
or if not the wrong word
the wrong tool

perhaps what i’m looking for is not creation or destruction as separate events, but a syzygy, polar opposites, yin and yang, an awareness of the implication inherent in each. 

in creation - destruction
in destruction - creation

the aim is impermanence.
therefore the medium itself must also be transient. 

here's to the art 
of the toilet stall door
the steamed-up shower glass
the cracked bathroom mirror

the napkins
and postits
and backs of envelopes

the beach sand
and spaghetti letters

the sticks in mud
and the sweaty palms.


if I can find a way to be satisfied with my writing, my art, the rest will follow, i think. 

the rest is paper aeroplanes.