writing creative things

i wake up and check my messages. i consider sending more messages, not in order to meaningfully interact with anyone, but so that next time i check my messages, there’ll actually be something to check. 


i used to enjoy writing. 
it used to be fun. 
it used to mean something. 


i want to talk about being a teenager

about being me, on the bus, blasting byob on my 128mb creative zen mp3 and sending speculative texts to girls i fancy the pants off

about late nights on my laptop, spamming my friends on msn messenger by touch-typing the lyrics to shitpop songs, in full, in real time

about a love-life conducted almost exclusively via long-form facebook messages

about what it all meant
and what it all means

nothing. shitposting on pseudoliterary.

first though, i want to talk about phones. 
it started with phones, it finished with phones. 

my first was a nokia 3310 with a silver simpsons cover, infinite battery life and everything you might expect from a standard housebrick, plus snake II, space impact, mancala, and sms messaging. 

it was portable. it was nigh indestructible. it was my 84 x 48 pixel bulletproof window on the world. 

and via this device, and its illustrious line of technologically, sometimes aesthetically, superior successors, i sent out my signals. i rode forth from my castle ramparts, across my drawbridge and over my moat, metaphorically. i made meaning. i made war. and in a way, i made love. 

one ten p text at a time
one one hundred and sixty character chronicle

there's something alchemical about the character limit, an emergent textual transmogrification wherein every word, letter, and full stop has a reason for being. [160/160]

pay as you go 
ten quid topups in the nearest cornershop

eventually, several fortnightly topups into my first proper flirtation, it became apparent that my habit was becoming prohibitively expensive, and i began buying unlimited text bundles. 

in a way, this newly minted limitlessness heralded the beginning of the end of the golden era of texting, for me anyway. but what a beginning. and what an end. 

here’s to typing out the same thing twice, differently, in two different ways, to find out which one uses the fewest letters. 
here’s to x
here’s to xxx
here’s to hattie j and hazel d

here’s to impermanence. because they’re gone with the wind now. all of them. every text i ever sent or received. 

every fml
every lol every x every ily
every letter, every love letter
every unheard word
every written-down whisper
every carefully crafted communiqué

in a drawer maybe, as half a conversation on someone else’s phone. dead letters dripping with deadly insecurity. perilous, scurrilous, and jumping with joy. 

here’s to text messages.


then along came a thing called msn messenger.

if you don’t know what msn was, google it. note the use of the past tense on wikipedia. 

msn was
msn is no longer. 

but what was it, really? 
why eulogise?

well, msn was directly responsible for my first french kiss and my first firsthand experience with boobies (as an adult). that’s something.

but it was more than that. 

to understand you have to remember (or imagine) what life was like before smartphones. back when there was a distinction between the so-called real and virtual worlds. 

back when there was more distinction generally. between the schoolbus and school proper. between lessons and lunchtime. between being at school and being at home. between the rest of the house and my locked-door bedroom. each a distinct realm, a self-contained ecosystem, with different scenery, characters, rules, even language. of course, there was some bleed-through, some blurring and blending of boundaries – repeat offenders and intersectional memes – but i almost always knew where i was. 

now it’s everything, everywhere, all at once. 



nudge nudge nudge nudge nudge
nudge nudge nudge nudge nudge
nudge nudge nudge nudge nudge

getting my first laptop was a gamechanger. suddenly, i discovered a whole new part to my day. another evening, after the usual evening. the post-evening. the late-night. like i’d somehow stumbled into another room, another space, another space-station module, behind the blast-doors, filled with hour after eye-popping hour of browser-based flash games, pornography, and instant messenging. 

what a time to be alive, i thought. 

and so what if i spent those hours chatting shit about schoolteachers and typing out song lyrics and playing minesweeper and jerking off? i sort of enjoyed it. 

i have all these fantasies about how i might have otherwise spent my teenage years – skateboarding, smoking weed, getting laid, writing a novel – but at the end of the schoolday, a post-evening well spent was well spent alone in my room, on my laptop, with headphones on and heavy metal, forty 4chan tabs, redtube and msn for company. and i don’t regret a word of it. 


facebook messenger was, for me, the last hurrah for the longform message. 
of the meaningful message. 

i’m sat by reception in the ambleside backpackers hostel. back when i’m here, you can pay £55 for five days dormroom accomodation, so long as you go in november, when nobody goes. i’m pretty much the only guest. a group that just left left a massive, mostly uneaten chocolate cake. just for me. i subsist on herbal tea, microwaveable readymeals and cake. it’s the first time i’ve spent a whole week alone in my life. i’m finished with school forever. there’s no phone reception, it rains every day, and i’m in love. my future unfurls like a footpath. 

i’m typing way on a small desk, big clicky keyboard, box pc – the sort of thing you could throw out of a window and not worry about it bouncing back. it’s a shared computer but there’s nobody else here. 

i’m sat in an internet cafe on koh tao, fifty metres from the beach. from the beach bar. i’m paying fifty thai bahts per hour. rows of computers. the humming and clicking of oscillating fans, keyboards, tourists. everyone is young and european looking. everyone is on facebook or email. it’s hot, and i’m sweating in tshirt and shorts, sandals. i am far from home. 

i’m writing reports of my day, maybe my week. i’m making an effort to actually make them interesting. because i want to seem interesting. and (furthermore) because i want to create something actually interesting, that someone else will find interesting to read, will be interested in. 

in other words, i’m writing. actually writing. 

i don’t know it yet, but this will be the last time, for a long time. 


that was circa 2010. after that i stopped caring, mostly. 

i hung on to my last, most-lately-inherited brickphone for as long as possible, but eventually, reluctantly, i let go and graduated onto a secondhand samsung something smartphone. 

and instant messaging apps. 
and that was it. 
that’s the end of this story. 

that’s where ten years of technological evolution terminated. with whatsapp.

so what it’s come to?
what’s it mean?

well, not much. 

it means i can write whatever i want, whenever i want, to whomever i want. 
and more and more, i find that i don’t. 

i’m done with going through the motions. 
i’m done with meaningless performative interactions. 

i’m even willing to concede that it’s not just technological advances that have leached the meaning out of life, and messages, but that everything’s changed – that i’ve changed along with everything else. what i won’t concede is that it’s just me. 

and i know, i know, nothing ever means as much as when you’re a teenager. for better or worse. everything is either the best thing ever, or the end of the fucking world. it’s like a long-term psychedelic experience. it’s fantastic. it’s fantastical. it’s very fucking tiring at times. it’s hard. and everything is just saturated with so much meaning. it’s no wonder that sometimes, on the post-teenage comedown aka adulthood, it seems like something is missing. but it is really missing? 

i once read a collection of letters, correspondences by one of my absolute favourite writers, kurt vonnegut. it’s called kurt vonnegut: letters, and you should read it. you should read it because it’s brilliant, it’s hilarious, it’s tragic. you should read it because it’s a reminder that writers are people too. maybe. you should read it because it’s a reminder that once upon a time, we used to write letters. 

Hell is running an elevator throughout eternity in a building with only six floors.

Kurt Vonnegut – Letters

i can’t help but feel we (as a society) were exchanging more meaningful information back then. and since we’re exchanging a lot more information now, it means that most of that ‘information’ is actually not information, but meaningless filler. superfluous fluff. stuffing. packaging. a cardboard box full of styrofoam esses. 

and the contents therein:

7 7777 33 88 3 666 555 444 8 33 777 2 777 999