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Notes To Self: A To Do List for Scottish Culture

by admin on May 12th, 2015

On Sunday 10th May I was invited to provide a provocation to the ‘Culture: What Next?’ gathering at The Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Such events often feature speeches telling ‘us’ things ‘we’ need to do. I dislike this blanket use of ‘we’ when very often it really means ‘I’ or ‘you’.  So instead I wrote a To Do List which is explicitly directed at me – this is what I think I need to do over the next 10 years… but as Walt Whitman said: ‘I contain multitudes,’ so if you read this and any part of it resonates with you, feel free to hear it as  ’we’.

It is offered in a spirit of joyful self doubt and passionate ambivalence. 

NOTES TO SELF
Scottish Culture: What Next?

I need to stop drinking.

I need to get off twitter.

I need to write plays.

I need to write.

There’s a pile of plays needing written and theatres that want them. The plays don’t even need to be that good. They just need to be interesting. They just need to need to be written. And some of them probably need to be about the referendum.

I need to write a poem.

I need to write an article.

I need to write an article about Scotland and where she stands now – fuck it, I need to stop writing articles about Scotland and where she stands now. I’m sick of writing articles about Scotland and where she stands now. I’m sick of reading articles about Scotland and where she stands now. If I have to write or read or write another article about Scotland and where she stands now I’m going to puke a pure mixture of Irn Bru and Lorne sausage over my copy of The National.

I need to stop using Irn Bru and Lorne Sausage as an easy trope of identity.

If anyone asks me where Scotland stands now I need to say.

a) Roughly in the same place it was the last time you looked.

Or

b) It’s too soon to tell.

I need to write an article about Syria

I need to write an article about Lebanon

I need to write an article about hill running

I need to write an article about paleolithic sex

I need to write an article about the violence reduction unit

I need to write an article about The Incredible String Band.

I need to drink less.

I need to write plays.

Did I already say that?

I need to write films.

No – wait – I’ve written plenty of films. I need to get some films made.

I really really really need to get some films made.

I should maybe do more telly.

I need to get off twitter.

When I am on twitter, I need to remember my friends in England

I need to remember my friends in England whenever I’m about to post something smug, or couthy about how great Scotland is right now, or how it is, in some inneffable way special or different.

I need to remember my friends in England whenever I notice I am about to use the words ‘England’ or ‘English’ in a tweet. I need to remember each and every one of them as an individual, including the Scottish ones who live there. I need to remember each and every one of them as an individual and I should only post the tweet if I could imagine saying it to them in a pub one evening without them wanting to punch me in the face.

I need to stop confusing England and London.

I need to stop confusing London and Westminster.

I need to visit England.

I need to visit Ireland.

I need to visit Wales. Fuck it! I really ought to visit Wales. I’ve never been to Wales. I need to visit Wales and re-read Edward Thomas and Dylan Thomas and… hang out with contemporary welsh writers like… Tim Price and like…

I need to educate myself about contemporary Welsh writers.

I need to stop Scotsplaining democracy to people.

I need to be particularly careful of Scotsplaining democracy to my friends on the English left. a) They know what democracy is and b) They’re feeling undertsandably tender right now. Now would be a good time for empathy and solidarity.

I need to remember that having a referendum is like getting a Chopper bike for christmas in 1979. Everyone wanted one. if you got one everyone thought you were cool but if you went on and on and on about it, you were instantly a dick.

I need to tell the truth in my writing.

I need to tell the truth in my writing.

I need to tell the truth in my writing.

I need to explore my No side.

I need to explore my British side.

I need to explore the side of myself that doesn’t give a fuck about identity and thinks it’s stupid to even think about identity because we’re on a beach somewhere in Greece and there’s a bonfire, and the spliffs are out, and I’m reading Kenneth White poetry to a girl from Cumbria and who are we anyway, and what is ‘we’ and what is ‘I’ and if you look at the stars it gives you a real sense of perspective you know because we’re all just microbes clinging to a rock in space and did you know that we’re basically 99% air anyway….and god this shit is amazing do you want a blowback?

I need to get out more.

I need to walk in the hills.

I need to swim in the sea.

I need to walk along canals.

I need to walk along the side of motorways.

I need to go to Harthill.

I need to go to Bankfoot.

I need to remember that there are Tories in Scotland.

I need to always remember to pluralize the word ‘culture’ when I’m speaking about Scotland.

I need to make more podcasts.

I need to find ways to pay the people with whom I make podcasts.

I need to take my headphones out of my ears.

I need to stop listening to Kall Kaye.

I need to go to gigs more.

I need to stop reading the Guardian. No – that’s not it – I’m allowed to carry on reading the guardian but I really, really need to stop worrying about what it says. The Guardian is not my Mother. I do not need to act all teenage when it criticises me, or ignores me. See also the BBC.

I need to stop saying everything’s terrible and notice all the things that are good.

I need to stop saying everything’s good and notice all the things that are terrible.

I need to remember how many of my artistic colleagues both young and old have entirely precarious incomes and how much of the work they do is essentially for free. I need to notice how grindingly dispiriting it is when that work goes un-noticed or un-acknowledged.

I need to fight for people to be paid for what they do.

I need to remember the above applies not just to people who work in the arts.

I need to give myself a break.

I need to learn a language.

I need to go abroad more.

I need to visit Catalonia and Slovenia and Greece and Greenland and Brazil and China and…

I need to stop flying and learn to use Skype.

I need to learn Gaelic.

I need to go to back to Kintra.

I need to stop romanticising defeat and plucky outsiderism because the romanticisation of defeat is a means by which I evade responsibility and fall into an easy complacency in which all the bad things are everyone’s fault but mine.

I need to set up writers retreats, and do conferences, and bring people together at every opportunity to talk and drink and argue and flyte.

I need to step back and leave space for other people to do those things.

I need to help set up a community art centre in Inverkeithing.

I need to premiere work in Fife.

I need to stop reading reviews.

I need to not fetishize consensus so much.

I need to enjoy disagreement.

I need to stop calling for ‘unity’ if it’s basically a way of telling someone else to keep quiet.

If I start a sentence with ‘I feel…’ it should be followed by a feeling word e.g. happy, sad, excited. If a sentence begins I feel and then is followed by anything other than a feeling word it is bullshit and an attempt to hide genuine emotion. This is especially true if the sentence somehow contrives to be ‘I feel that you are wrong.’

I need to read more Shakespeare.

I need to read more Burns.

I need to read more books by women

I need to read more books by black authors.

I need spend more time with my children.

I need to not be scared to challenge my friends on my own side.

I need to not be scared to support my friends on the other side.

I need to not percieve the world in terms of sides.

I need to grow up.

I need to stay young.

I need to get faster.

I need to slow down.

I need to get digital.

I need to go back to pen and paper.

I need be more vulnerable.

I need to drink less coffee.

I need to stop making lists.

I need to write plays.

I need to write.