STOP DAYDREAMING AND CONCENTRATE
After Primary School, lets face it, the fun is over. High school means you have to work out how to act like a grown up, or at least learn the ability to pretend convincingly you’re a grown up.
You don’t play games, not imaginative games. You learn to play social games. You’re made to stand up and read in front of the class. You’re terrified, and you have no idea what the words mean, not really.
You don’t understand the story yet, because you haven’t experienced anything yet. You’re learning to fit in and fake the emotions though, so you blend in with the crowd.
But you know the words mean something, so you start to wonder about them, usually secretly. You wonder what you can learn from them. The stories you hear seem to have the answer to something you can’t quite grasp.
BUT THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT
You have your set texts. GCSE’s are important. You need to hit the targets or the school looks bad, your parents will be disappointed, and you will feel bad.
If you don’t get your grades, how will you learn to tick all the other boxes ahead of you satisfactorily.
You’ll never get into college. You’ll never get a job. You won’t be a success.
Won’t I, you wonder? Really?
DON’T ASK STUPID QUESTIONS
They are not on the designated sheet. They are out of the scope of the reading list. Those texts that catch your imagination are too modern, those artists that intrigue you are too vulgar. Your opinions are not shared by the class, and your answers don’t fit the marking criteria. You don’t make the grade.
So, now there are two obvious paths to tread; because your imagination is broad and varied, but what the majority of people count as ‘growing up’ and ‘being successful’ is not.
That’s when you meet and court those most limiting of characters;
Fuck ‘em, and compliance.
Fuck ‘em says: The hell with ‘literature’ and ‘aesthetics’ and, all that other bollocks.
They’re for rich wankers anyway. For people with too much time on their hands.
They’re for armchair philosophers and self indulgent bastards who like to sound clever in front of their smug peers down the pub. Literature is for people with too much money who don’t have to get a ‘real’ job. If you wrote anything honest down, they wouldn’t understand it anyway, because they don’t go out and experience things.They just read about them. They read Shakespeare and Tolstoy and they haven’t a clue about real life.
Fuck ‘em says; If I don’t know the right words, they’ll never take me seriously. If I don’t read the right books, and have the right grades, they’ll make me feel small.
So you stop daydreaming, stop asking questions, stop getting lost in stories or writing anything honest, you just get on with it.
Then you feel sad and you don’t know why. Because you can’t express yourself, and you feel like you shouldn’t. You just want to fit in.
Don’t worry, a disheartened, tired voice inside you says.
Just get home, put on Netflix and it will tell you what you’ll like, based on previous selections. No need to discover or explore. No need to think anymore.
Work in the morning.
Or you can listen to compliance.
Suddenly saying Stephen King or Nick Hornby are your favourite authors is embarrassing. You could safely upscale to Bukowski or Hunter S. Thomson because they’re pretty cool. But you have to know they’re cool because of the drugs and the drinking, not really think about the message behind what they’re saying.
You need bite size quotes. Bite size quotes impress.
Who cares if you didn’t read the whole story. You can only tweet 140 characters anyway. Or you can just put a selfie on Facebook of you in black rimmed glasses, drinking a latte with the book next to you, you don’t even need a quote for that.
Later, of course, you will have to know the more ‘literary’ writers. You’ll need to be familiar with canonical texts and learn to pronounce authors like Dostoyevsky* correctly.
You’ll need to know at least a summary of Shakespeare’s plays. Was Hamlet the one where he holds out the skull, and Macbeth the one where he goes murderously mad, or the other way round?
Just learn to remember the facts, and when it comes up at the pub quiz, over a craft ale, you’ll sound very intelligent indeed.
You learn it all, and you know all the best lines. You can say all the right words in the right places. You fit right in. You’re successful. A real grown up.
But you feel sad and you don’t know why.
You can’t express yourself, and you feel like you shouldn’t. You’ve learned so many second hand opinions, you’re not even sure what you think anymore.
Don’t worry, put on Netflix and it will tell you what you’ll like, based on previous selections.
No need to think anymore. Work in the morning.
So, readers, Small Stories is here to tell you you needn’t choose either.
Literature, in whichever way you choose to write it, read it, perform it, or listen to it, is cathartic.
It’s good for you.
It makes you question life, consider other points of view, and tell your own truth, however you wish to tell it.
Ask stupid questions, because that’s how you learn.
Tell your truths despite being a ‘proper grown up’, and never stop daydreaming and doodling at the back of class.
Thanks to everyone who came to the event, and thanks for getting involved and writing down your confessions. There’s a selection below and I’m sure there’ll be more from Small Stories soon… so keep in touch @smallstorybris
Confessions from the evening can be found below…
*My truth: Dos-toy-ev-sky. I had to do that in my mind when writing this. I also wiki searched the spelling. Just in case.
A selection of your confessions from the Literature Festival launch:
“Sometimes at poetry readings I switch off and just think about myself” – Er, thanks for coming Graham
“I am as soft as down & as frightened as a chicken” – Carol
“I love Jonny” – Well Sophie, if he’s reading this, can I count matchmaking as one of the services provided by Small Stories? Keep me posted eh.
“I should have known I was a lesbian when I fancied Mary Poppins as a child”. Cassie
“I’m going to be an English teacher and I still don’t fully understand how apostrophes work”. Hannah
“I own hundreds of DVDs, but don’t have a DVD player”. Josh
“I am over 30 & I still can’t tell my left from my right. Now I have developed a system where I have to clap in order to know which way is left. It’s weird”. Yer tis Christie, but whatever works!
Hopefully see you all at the other amazing Bristol Festival of Literature events on around Bristol this week…