Published: December 9, 2014
If hope is a quantifiable, tangible thing, then I think it would be measured in specific coffee-cups. The vessels vary. Most days I find my hope at the bottom of brown cardboard corduroy cups. Other times I partake of it via osmosis, sipping kāfēi with Maggie Cheung from the milk-glass lip, or from turquoise glazed stoneware in nineties sitcoms whose wardrobes I still aspire to (looking at you, Willow Rosenberg. Season 5!)
Today is a corduroy-coffee kind of day, punctuated with two croissants in the morning, like a colon: a pause before the frenzy of nothing begins. Monotony in the sounds of the keyboard clacking pebbles on a stony beach tickled by waves. It soothes as much as it suffocates, Gibran gently reminding me that the lust for comfort murders the passions of my soul.
So maybe I measure my soul in coffee cups, too. Searching for things hidden in caffeine-stimulated creativity and the soft veils that swathe whatever truths I try to write here. Passion. Hope. Noble causes. But I digress – the liquid gold that I measure my wakefulness in is also my weighing scales for hope – how much will I do today? How will I write today? What feeling will I have when I leave the office?
Writers are a funny breed. So much seems to be misery, resignation – bleeding ink onto the paper because it’s your sacred duty to bow to the gift that clearly sits so hard and heavy on your shoulders. There are camps that espouse the lifestyle of the writer: the coffee (always coffee) shop habit, the brooding gazes into the shadows of one’s literary soul, or the snowstorm of cocaine, flashbulbs and models. Which is fine, don’t get me wrong. As the t-shirt espouses: ain’t no party like a Gatsby party, because a Gatsby party don’t stop til two people are dead and everyone is disillusioned with the jazz age as a whole. Here’s looking at you, Fitzgerald, and your bromies. Misogynists and miracles all in one. Poor Zelda.
And then you have the writers who hate the writers who write for the lifestyle, who approach writing as that Sisyphean task that’s never really done, Atlas wroggling under the weight of his words. And then you have the ones who it seems to come to natural as breathing, sometimes deeply resonant, other times an asthma attack: lungs seized tight by some invisible force. The rattle of relief when the bronchial tubes open again and the paper is filled with meaning once more. I believe writers are like the tour de force of creation. In the beginning was the Word, after all.
I like to think I’m a relaxed writer. Well, relaxed and sometimes frenetic, it really depends on whether it’s a two shot day or not. I initially began this ramble as a way to channel the feelings I get over a cup of joe on a gloomy Scottish morning, rain falling from heaven as though by accident. Coalesced clouds pass by without giving me any notice. A friend described the sensation of looking through the glass windows of my once-work as akin to being in a Studio Ghibli film. If you’ve seen any, you’ll know what she means.
And that feeling is a bit like hope, which could be defined as something that asks a little more of me than I am perhaps able to describe. This is good. One thing I’d hate to be is stagnant. The tangled thoughts that fall from my mind like overripe peaches need to be committed to some kind of prism, to be written down before they burst with their own lush promise. And amongst these tangles we find a love of food bordering on mania (what, you couldn’t tell from my metaphors?), a yearning need to travel earnestly and finally nail down the sound of rain on cobbled streets. Somewhere in the detritus we also find shopping lists for Lush cosmetics, an overriding urge to smell like roses and an occasionally pervasive apathy.
The writer’s real enemy is apathy. Dispiritedness. Ennui. Boredom. Stretch the first syllable out there; roll it around your mouth like hard candy. That’s it. Does the best writing come from letting go, of expectations, from joining the don’t give a fuck crowd? I don’t know. Only very recently did I realise how much I edit my writing, and by extension, myself. The filters that I have to work hard around: Catholicism, childhood, other people’s perspectives and my crippling need not to disappoint. I read a phrase yesterday that I’ve been gnawing on: ‘you haven’t earned the right to be jealous of me yet’. It was said by one writer to another, which makes me smile, in a wry sort of way, and sets the righteous fires of indignation under my ass in another.
But I digress again. This is really just a few words shy of an essay about the splendour of morning coffee, rainy days and nipping the silvered edge of ‘something really deep, man’. I really ought to ponder a fabulous finishing phrase that’ll make me feel like a successful wordsmith, but I think I’ll think about it once I’ve made another cup of joe.