by Fabrice Bourgelle


Mayakovsky, in his book about how to write poetry, stated that no poet can be instructed in the creation of verse, since any true artist invents anew the method of their craft. It can be handy however, to share practices, so here are some notes on a couple of my own. They are a set of doctrines I apply only to myself, needless to say I wouldn’t necessarily imply at anything universal about these observations.


I love people, and I find they’re far more interesting than my work. So, when I can, get as far away from them as possible. The longer I spend isolated, the more I can forget the character I want to be known as, and focus instead on more relevant concerns.


Throughout these sessions and before, a dogfight ensues, in the artist’s attempts at escaping the idea of attaching qualitative values to his output. While application of work and its presence in the world are essential in giving it life, the same concern can kill it in infancy. A piece of work must be treated, at this time, as would a person, who has their own ideas and rights, and who will not be herded or patronised. Later, when the piece is made, it can be borrowed from or redistributed.


Everything is recorded, relished and encouraged, from the sermon on the screaming hill to the last burp of the night. Everything is observed and expressed. The following day, during chores, coffee-making, the whole thing is played back, and notes are taken. Later in the week various parts are tried alongside each other, in developing a more refined piece.


While it may disappoint the reader, loneliness and remorse are in no way the aim of the process, though they can make for humerous situations. They also help, along with all other ‘big’ feelings equally, in distracting you from the useless question of whether your art is awesome or not.


Our lives are full of distractions – human, technological, functional. With the removal of these arrives a set of very colourful feelings – feelings of all kinds – we didn’t know we’d been trying to escape.


While some of the material I’ve been most excited about in these situations has turned out to be utterly forgettable, similarly some of that which I greeted with apathy or even violent shame, have turned out to be among my best moments. Aside from this altogether, though, the practice of the art has its own value, and each act of creativity is reflected in all subsequent work, they all being siblings in the same family.


The purpose of the work is not to have you the artist hailed as excellent – this eventuality would be a by-product at best. Here the question of identity comes in. At some point during the session, perhaps, a great sorrow is felt as the artist finally gives up on himself. Then at last the door is open for genuine work to begin.


A typical day in isolation:



Make breakfast and coffee whilst playing back yesterday’s recordings.

List them on the big list, and make notes on any that affected you.

Record yourself responding to the questions you recorded yourself asking, last night.

Go outside, choose an object, and talk about it into your recorder.



Copy up spoken script if some enjoyable spoken script is available.

Practice saxophone and do breathing exercises.

Cook midday meal and tidy.

Develop work from earlier in the week, based on notes on the big list.




Sing a song about what you see before you.

Cook evening meal.

Go outside with your recorder and choose a voice to communicate with.

Take a melody and fit words to it.

Sing a song about what you see before you.

Fit new words to your melody.

Become supremely and impressively drunk, and record a set of questions for yourself, that you will not remember asking, tomorrow. Ask anything at all.