Writing as suicide

I used to love picking scabs,

when I was a kid in short trousers –

permanently scraped knees, all that.

Or waggling a loose tooth,

it sort of hurts but fascinates.

You don’t know why

but you have to keep going

 till it’s out. Like sex without the climax.

If this was written in HTML

that last word would be in blue.

For those who don’t have them,

it could link to an explanation,

though not a description, obviously.

No two being the same.

Writers, that is.

I am no writer, really.

Done some, of course.

What wannabe poet/scriptwriter/memoirist hasn’t?

Written, that is: picked at the scab that is your own life until it bleeds literature all over your screen – or page, as we called them in the olden days.


And the best writers pick away at their own flesh, the bits that have been knocked about a bit over the years. The bits that stand out from the rest, the scabbier the better: bright-red beacons of promise for creative writing; our unique angsts with universality.

“Without scabs there is no story,” a famous writer once suggested. Hemingway, I’ll wager; or a younger me.

Anyhow, that’s the way to go: dig deep, bring out all that angst.

Truth, Jimmy McGovern called it when I interviewed him. You mine all that, put yourself into your story and tell the truth. Little boys wear truth on their knees, or used to in the olden days; big boys and girls wear their scabs on the inside.

And as you rummage within for scabby nuggets with which to decorate your self-indulgent narratives you are, bit-by-bit, killing yourself. Ripping yourself off, until there is nothing left, and your insides cave in. And it’s all encouraged in those creative writing books.

It’s a fad, a fashion, an obsession; clinical name, necrotizing fashionitis.

Writing as suicide

The great universal.

Well, it is for me.

◄ Spam, spam, spam, spam...

Above and beyond ►


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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Mon 13th Feb 2012 14:49

I really like 'necrotizing fashionitis'.

Isobel's comments are excellent. I,myself, do not enjoy self-indulgence, from my own pen, or anybody else's. And I don't think it certifies 'the best writers' as you say, more like their grinding out boringly predictable scenarios. Denying 'scabs' their healing power is just deliberate self-harm.

<Deleted User> (5984)

Sat 11th Feb 2012 20:47

Brilliant but very sad, I agree with Harry, it does feel like a play is about to emerge. I like the metaphor of scabs...very graphic, but I like the waggling of the tooth more, as it less well used. xx

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Harry O'Neill

Fri 10th Feb 2012 22:53


Read this after spending all afternoon revising -for the umpteenth time - a play which will probably never feel the boards of a stage under it`s feet.

Somehow it made me feel better...thanks!

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Dave Bradley

Fri 10th Feb 2012 14:56

Fascinating line of thought.

Someone once said "Nothing you have not given away is ever really yours". I'm not sure that's the whole truth but I believe there's truth in it. And when we write and post or publish, we 'give ourselves away'.

But mostly our insides don't cave in, because serendipitously and haphazardly we generally get ourselves back, often enriched, and more really ourselves for the journey through our common humanity.

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Fri 10th Feb 2012 14:18

Fascinating piece of work Julian because I'm not sure I totally believe what you are saying in this - or that you do even.

Does writing about our trials help us? Is it a therapy in some way? Or does it lead us to prolong our own suffering by reliving it, becoming self indulgent and self obsessed; failing to move on?

Your blog seems to suggest that you now disagree with your younger self - that pulling yourself apart in the name of art isn't the way to go.

I'd suggest that it's all down to balance. If you seek to write about yourself and only yourself - if the scabs are there in every piece of work you do, then maybe it is time to call time on autobiographical work - because it obviously isn't helping you.

On the other hand, if the scabs only get picked on occasionally, when external influences bring them to the surface, is it such a bad thing? Particularly if you are writing on universal themes that others may identify with and be touched by.

Those are just my thoughts anyway.

Opinionated from Wigan ;)

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Laura Taylor

Fri 10th Feb 2012 09:22

'kin tell me about it!! Think I'm running out of scabs...

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Anthony Emmerson

Thu 9th Feb 2012 23:37

A slow, and very painful way to go Julian. "All writing is autobiographical?" I appreciate the "in-house" themes. Scabs are great, but have you tried the boils and pustules? Scary thought. Quotable writing.


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