Monday, August 22, 2011

Mandrake Anthrax

You know how you get a song stuck in your head? Usually some annoying bit of fluff that you wouldn't really choose to hear, but maybe heard from some passing car or in a store while shopping, but it worms its way into your ear and persists. I get that with phrases, too, and it can be just as maddening. I recall the relief I experienced when I realised this happened to other folks, too -- writers especially; I was reading a Henry Miller novel and his doppelgänger had an idiotic advertising phrase stuck in his head while he was trying to occupy himself otherwise (if you know Miller, you can guess how he was occupying himself).

So let me follow one of these little obsessive moments from the weekend and see what became of it. You know my obsession with Mark E. Smith and the Fall (yes, yes, I can see your eyes roll)? Okay, so I spend most of my time lately on Twitter (why? because last night while Tripoli was falling to rebel forces CNN was covering some celebrity's car accident or something, but folks on Twitter forwarded real time coverage). A friend posted a link to a blogpost on MES which I read and clicked on a related post which quoted the lyrics from "Tempo House" which resonated oddly in my head just then.

A serious man
In need of a definitive job
He had drunk too much
Mandrake anthrax

Of course, the latter phrase started ringing in my head like a well-struck bell. I posted the lyrics on Twitter, which provoked some comments, including a reminder from Zouch Magazine (soon to feature a poem[!] by me) that their 140 word story contest was still going on and wasn't I going to enter? This got me thinking. While it's fun to write the things that just spring out of your head with no restrictions of any kind (which reminds me, I ought to have good news to share later this week about Owl Stretching, my alternative history/science fiction/urban fantasy/shamanic retelling of the Descent of Inanna/Great American road trip novel ;-) it's actually fun to have restrictions to force your mind in new directions. Just as rules in sport -- keep within the markers, aim for the goal, don't touch the ball with your hands -- make you focus on specific skills, a narrow focus for writing can do the same. I'm currently working on a story set in someone else's universe and finding that a fun sort of puzzle to play with as well (more on that soon).

So, yeah, "Mandrake Anthrax" became a 140 word story (hey, I wrote a 50 word story, so that's luxury) that I sent off to Zouch for the contest and may well become a longer story, too. The lyrics also made it as a comment on a friend's status on Facebook (entirely fittingly, I should add and not at all gratuitously... mostly) and as my own status, provoking further responses that fed my idea stream even more. So, one magnetic MES phrase results in a story, lots of tweets and a couple of Facebook conversations and may not be done yet. I sure can get a lot of mileage out of two words! What will I be able to do with Joy Division Oven Gloves?! (thanks, Terry).

All of which gets me no closer to being packed and ready to go (sigh!). All this folderol was in place of actual packing, discarding and organising of course. Back to the mantra: somehow it will all get done, somehow...


Paul D Brazill said...

Looking forward to reading that!

K. A. Laity said...

Heh, thanks, Mr B. I think you will like this other thing I am writing, too. At least I hope so!

pattinase (abbott) said...

And why is it just the first few bars that get stuck. I hate that. Love that title.

K. A. Laity said...

And songs you never liked! It can be painful. Yeah, I'm fond of that phrase already which is why I suspect I'm not done with it yet. MES has some really inspiring lines -- and already a whole collection of stories inspired by the songs, too.