Ancient roman latrines / latrinae, Ostia Antica

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About three years ago I thought it would be funny to write a blog called Having A Poo With… In each entry I would parody the thoughts of a famous person as they went to the toilet. To do a poo.

It would show off my keen ear for language that was ripe for parody (it didn’t); it would be a regular and hilarious addition to people’s inboxes (it wasn’t); and be an excuse for a lot of jokes about bums (it was). The whole thing was prompted by an image of Will Self describing the “proleptic, anti-peristaltic turtle’s head” of a stool that was proving difficult to shift from his duodenum. This would show that Craig Brown…

Needless to say, I got bored after doing one entry. It sits there, alone in a corner of the Internet, unloved, leaking misery and loneliness into the ether. As it should be.

I was reminded of this when seeing another piece of advice to young writers in which they were sternly admonished to finish those things they started. That that was what separated the professionals from the rest of you. We finish what we start. We don’t leave abandoned half-drafts all over our hard drives. We don’t start without a plan, we know where we’re going, we finish what we start.

Balls. Unalloyed donkey-balls.

Whilst it is undoubtedly true that you can never get anything made (or published) unless you finish it, I think that there’s another risk just as great as starting something you never finish. And that’s never starting the thing at all.

Whereas in the past I would have happily ploughed in to a new idea whenever it occurred to me; now I have pinboards, charts mapping out act breaks, the will to muscle on through bits of writing that might not be working the way I’d hoped, and a huge pile of projects that I haven’t ever started because I’m not happy that I’ve got a complete grasp of them yet. Before writing was my job I would have played with these ideas, tried writing them. Now that seems irresponsible unless I know how they are going to turn out.

So they sit there.

And I look at them and think that if I’d taken that first moment when the idea seemed so brilliant and written everything that enthused me about it then, then I would have at least have a bit of them written. At least a bit I could look at, decide whether there was anything in it and carry on with. A bit that would have the fire in that initially excited me. Rather than a bunch of denatured plans for incomplete ideas.

Sometimes we have to play. Sometimes we have to just follow what excites us. Sometimes we have to fail.

We have to do the bit we think is excellent to realise that we don’t want to do the rest of it.

Which is why I’m glad i wrote the one entry onĀ Having A Poo With… It’s a testament to doing something incompletely, but still having something that you like at the end of it. Its one entry is short, but still funny, and written. It’s there.

As opposed to all the well-worked through, not-quite ideas I have planned. So whilst it’s great advice to young writers to learn to finish the things you start, I wonder whether it might not be just as important to start things you have no idea how, or even if, you are ever going to finish.

That one entry? Having A Poo With… Charlie Brooker. Here it is:

Have you ever noticed how tawdry and awful doing a shit is? No, really. It is.

You sit there with your trousers around your rotten ankles, waiting for death, and straining so hard you look like Popeye wanking himself into a stupor, as he lies alone in bed imagining Olive Oyl being savagely bummed by Bluto. Who’s dressed as a clown.

Not only do you grunt and squeal like a piglet drowning in a bathtub full of razorblades and gin, but you’re actually squeezing actual human turds through your foetid ring-piece. You disgusting cock. Get some fucking dignity.

You’d almost feel sorry for yourself if you weren’t as despicable as the rest of the human sodding race. We should all have our heads replaced with bums, so that instead of going around having opinions, we could just spoot noxious clouds of toxic guff in each others’ bum-faces. Like cocks.

As if that weren’t bad enough, you’re then expected to wipe your own arse like some sort of idiot slave with nothing better to do than to smear actual shit around a piece of semi-absorbent paper. The shame of this makes you leak hot twat-tears into the uncaring toilet bowl.

The only thing that makes the process half bearable is the knowledge that the whole degrading process is at least confirmation that you’re still alive, and taking up precious space on this rubbish planet. For now.