By Hans Ebert
Someone recently asked me why I write. We were talking about the impact of social media on society today and how, to her, everyone is a writer. If so, everyone is a writer that no one really reads. It’s all just verbiage now that everyone has the opportunity to have their say about anything and everything and with none of it mattering. It’s just an information overload of often irrelevant twittering.
For someone who was probably born with a pencil in their left hand, which teachers told my parents was the devil’s hand and so whacked my hand with a ruler to get me to change my writing hand, I listened to her words, but was thinking just how much all this “social media” has crept into our daily conversations. And not for the better.
Here was a mature woman- a singer- who could only talk about updating her Facebook page and Instagram account and whether I had seen her latest updates. Peggy Lee was singing “Is This Is All It Is?” in my head and I thought about the great contemporary writers- music writers like Nat Hentoff and Ralph Gleason and after them that entire Rolling Stone mystery train of wordsmiths- Greil Marcus, David Fricke, David Marsh, the baby in the group Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, Ben Fong-Torres, and with the good doctor- Hunter S Thompson- changing all the rules because there are no rules.
Like Bob Dylan, the good Doctor, took us where no one had taken us before. Dylan might have been a storyteller, Hunter S Thompson was a truth seeker from some other place in time blowing the lid off all the Fear And Loathing in Vegas and everywhere else. He was equal parts gonzo political writer, behavioural therapist, a walking contradiction, and someone constantly grappling with his own demons which he turned into showbiz. I’ve often wondered why he and Dylan never wrote together. Perhaps their egos clashed. Perhaps, together, they would have nothing to say. Who knows, but there are writers and there are “writers”, and the former spills into every form of art.
Think about music. A lyricist like Johnny Mercer isn’t a brilliant writer? Henry Mancini wrote the beautiful melody while it was Johnny Mercer who wrote about “two drifters off to see the world” in “Moon River” and talked about “My Huckleberry friend, coming ’round the bend.” He wrote the story and the brilliant Henry Mancini painted a landscape around it.
Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin- all those who created all that great music from Tin Pan, from the Brill Building, from Motown, Lennon and McCartney, Jagger-Richards, Ray Davies, Hal David, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, and so many more were all great writers because they gave music stories. And music without stories are usually not worth recording though, of course, always an outlet to set your soul and mind and body free. And while we’re at it, add Chuck Berry, Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen to great writers of songs. Songwriters. Storytellers who brought to life Johnny B Goode, Maybelline, Nadine, Nowhere Man, Eleanor Rigby, Alfie, Fire And Rain, Suzanne, Life On Mars…
There’s also much you can learn from those who don’t write, or who flip it off as something irrelevant. If in a romance, there eventually comes the realisation that it wasn’t meant to be. That you’ve reached that station where you need to get off.
Same with friendships that are usually only mild acquaintances, and where both sides either run out of things to say, or the writer in you realises that the other person or people around you really don’t have much to say- at least not to you. It’s nothing to do with arrogance. It’s to do with time and not wasting valuable time on small talk.
These aren’t the people to talk about The Lady Of The Lake, Excalibur and Camelot nor list out your reasons why King Arthur, Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ are the same person. That’s happened many times over the years, and every time I have held court on the subject and the relevance of the number 12 to it all, seldom Iihas it brought an end to a conversation that quickly.
I write, therefore I am. It’s a form of therapy, it’s about seeing where all the words lead and what the journey might be like along the way and the cast of characters who flit through windmills of my mind- imaginary characters, real life characters, reel life and unreal life of Suite 1616 in Hong Kong and its revolving door of decadence mixed with off beat love, and jumping into the fire of being a stranger in a strange land and finding that right person at the wrong time along the canals of Amsterdam.
Do I care who reads it or what they care? No. The copyright belongs to me because the words are mine and the journey I’m on has no room for anyone else. Yes, I write, therefore I am.