You know, I wasn’t entirely expecting to reach this point. Sure, I’ve been planning An Inspired Mess for months now. I’ve felt the excitement building, the anticipation, the impatience of not being able to do everything immediately. Finally, I’m going to take that big, scary step.
Before we continue, I should first point out that Episode 1 of the Jack Hansard series can be found here. If you are one of the small but wonderful group of people who has been following me through Facebook, I’m sincerely grateful you stuck around to see the launch of the site. I hope it does not disappoint.
If you aren’t in the know, ‘Jack Hansard’ is my short story series about the eponymous Mr Hansard and his strange misadventures navigating the underworld of the occult Black Market. Each episode is just that, an episode out of Hansard’s odd life.
Once a fortnight, on Wednesdays, I will upload a new Hansard episode. At the same time I’ll write a short blog post to accompany it. A blog about what? Nothing in particular, currently. Maybe some interesting snippet of mythology relating to the week’s episode, maybe some writing-related insights. The blog isn’t really the important bit; it’s more of an excuse to have a conversation with you. The important bit is the selection of short stories here and, hopefully, your enjoyment of them.
What actually is An Inspired Mess?
For me: a kick up the arse. For you: a free short story series, delivered fortnightly. And, maybe, some other bits and bobs along the way.
The title of the website is an obvious nod to the first Jack Hansard episode of the same name. But it is also a fairly apt description of myself. I am a mess of half-spun tales, fleeting ideas and almost-thoughts.
I seem to be inspired by everything. I want to write everything. Just as a random spark will ignite a creative fire for a gritty dystopian sci-fi, I simultaneously yearn to write high fantasy. And comic fantasy, and urban fantasy, and space fantasy because how cool is that. I have an urge to write dark, disturbing horror, and light, lifting humour – usually both at once.
Jack Hansard is just one of these passing ideas I’ve managed to pluck out of the mess, disentangle from the noise and create something coherent out of. It’s a bit of an experiment. In reality, what I really wanted to do was make a webcomic. But I don’t have the artsy skill for this; I’m more of a wordy person. It occurred to me that you must be able to create something a little similar to a webcomic, but in text form. Obviously, there are big differences between the two, each with their own set of limitations, but why not have a go at writing a sort of episodic series of short stories?
There is an ulterior motive, of course. There always is; nothing comes for free. And the ulterior motive behind An Inspired Mess is . . . an exercise in overcoming stage fright.
I suffer, as I’m sure many other writers suffer, from that nasty little bug of self-doubt. That venomous voice that viciously likes to whisper: ‘What if, at the end of the day, you’re just shit?’
It’s the voice that prevents us from showing off our work, and benefiting from both the praise and the criticism it engenders. Both are necessary for growth, and I’ve come to feel a deep, pressing urge for growth. Currently, I am so shy about my writing that my behaviour is frankly embarrassing. Recently, a friend saw me hastily jotting down some plot notes while I was staying over. When they asked about it, I cagily mumbled that I was doodling and hid it in my bag. Who gets that embarrassed over writing notes?
I once tried to announce through Facebook that I’d had some success in a writing competition, but I phrased it in such a self-deprecating way (‘I doubt if anyone would be interested…’) that afterwards I felt it sounded like the kind of attention-seeking posts I abhor. I can’t help but dwell on the egotistical nature of talking about something you’ve created – despite my immense excitement for An Inspired Mess, the conceited nature of self-promotion makes me deeply uneasy.
I would be the first to tell you that I’m not a great writer. But sometimes I go a little too far in that direction and forget to acknowledge that I am not a bad writer, either. Having had moderate success in a couple of short story competitions should prove to me, if no-one else, that I’m not bad. And by being not bad I’ve managed to make a few people smile, and hopefully improved someone’s day.
I need to keep reminding myself of this, that the whole purpose of writing is to bring enjoyment to others, and how the hell am I going to achieve that if I don’t actually let anyone read the stuff?
So that’s what this really is.
An endeavour to let go. To release these nuggets of creation into the world, for better or worse, and to learn to embrace the prospect of an audience. An endeavour to improve and grow, to entertain for both the sake of entertaining and to become a better entertainer.
If I can amuse just a few people, raise just a handful of smiles once a fortnight, then this endeavour will have been worthwhile. Even if I don’t – if I end up with just an inbox full of criticism – it will still be worthwhile. My mind will be sharper and my skin thicker for it.
So finally, I would like to invite you to join me as I take this first big step. As we plunge into a world of the bizarre and sometimes downright surreal, I hope, for a few brief moments, I can entertain you.