What We Talk About When We Talk About Writing About Talking About Writing.

Categorised as ART., LITERATURE.

Since graduating with a degree in the subject last summer I have ceased to be a creative writer; my always admittedly shallow well of imagination has ceased to be pumpable, any ambition that I once possessed to ‘make it’ as a craftsman of short fiction has been expertly slide tackled and left on the floor, laces untied, the ceaseless hawking of the same few stories to any website I browsed with a ‘submissions’ section has, finally, been ceased and silenced. I am an ex-writer with no fiction published in print. My career ended before it began. The characters I drew were thinly veiled sketches of myself (even R’n’B stars were imbued with my interests and faults), the scenarios I plonked them into were intentionally dull (it saved me from the embarrassment of reaching for something unobtainable). It was clear that I would never write sentences like Martin Amis, never have insights like David Foster Wallace, never craft plot like Jeffrey Archer. 

So, the other day I turned to Google. It turns out that they write more entertaining prose on my behalf than I ever really managed myself. Praise them. This is a collaboration between man and machine. This is a potential direction in which my practice could take: talking is, marginally at least, often less embarrassing than writing, and as a result there is less pressure to produce something ‘good’ – especially as the production rests on the cybershoulders of whatever the algorithms – if indeed it is algorithms that carry out tasks of this nature – throw up. Admittedly the initial embarrassment of talking into your laptop in an otherwise empty and silent room has to be overcome, but soon the orator gets used to this broken hush and attunes to the sound of themselves.

My literary embarrassment; my style-induced shamefacedness comes from fear of being thought of as pretentious, self-indulgent, as someone who thinks that what they are producing is ‘good’ or ‘worthy of reading’. This fear leads to writing in a comfort zone, retreading old footsteps; I was recently reminded of both a short story and a one act play I’d written at school. The play was a timed exercise in class, the story was assigned coursework. The story, despite having a schlocky, unnecessary, tacked-on teen suicide ending, was well received. The play, despite being a future-millitaristic romp featuring assembled members of the class, was well received also. It struck me that both these pieces were my creative zenith, the last time that I wrote freely, without expectation, without restraint. Indeed it was this work, and a piece based on Philip Larkin’s wonderful ‘High Windows’, that inspired me to apply for my chosen degree. The thing that got me onto the course was perhaps the thing that stopped me from excelling. Of course this is probably just retrospective cod-psychoanalysis, but there is potential for it being true.

I went on Google Translate and translated my speech from English to English using my laptop’s on-board microphone. Without repeating any of the uttered phrases (for reasons of verisimilitude and ‘fairness’) I simply copy and pasted what Google thought I’d ‘said’ in an attempt to explore the gulf between expression and mediation: human beings find it difficult to communicate with one another at the best of times and I was interested in noting how software, in its attempts to mimic humanity, only pushes us further away from ‘meaning’, robbing the words I spoke – words specifically chosen, language as a premeditated form of communication – of their intended function. These new abstractions, mistakes, glitches, paradoxically serve to make the software seem almost human. [Soft Break][Soft Break]The second section is me reading Ernest Hemmingway’s famously brief short story aloud three times. I chose to do this to examine how the system copes with repetition. I was entertained by how my slight tonal changes in each reading resulted in total textual changes by the programme. Hemmingway’s absurdly evocative story, a story that demonstrates the precision and power of language, seemed like a perfect fit.

Experiment with this new medium as you will. Feed it Shakespeare’s plays, Larkin’s poetry. Read to it in foreign languages and see if it catches you out. Test it. Enjoy it. Let us put our pens down until we’re a little older.


this is a turbo price (this is a piece of)

supercuts translate (experimental prose)

speech at the bottom boys (in which I turn speech into the written word)

did it before text to you think of that software (using internet software)

put it in Bozeman (the process involves me)

using printf prices (using brief phrases)

she sent to (in an attempt to)

beyond good for the programs (be understood by the program)

fifth and attempt to (in an attempt to)

flexible a shin ship this way (track the relationship between)

football listen to tension google written communication (verbal and written communication)

writing is mediation (writing is mediation)

donald douglas loop (dialogue is less focused)

this is obvious (this is obvious)

how was work (however)

interesting topic (in choosing a topic)

to talk about (to talk about)

open it it was beach (the spontaneity of my speech)

who is in tonic Oakland (is entirely compromised)



who are you playstations the pool (For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.)

who is the pool no no no (For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.)

fort for you vacation sniffle (For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.)

Joshua Baines 

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