The Mark E. Smith ‘Guide to Writing’ Guide

The Mark E. Smith ‘Guide to Writing’ Guide

The Fall, the notorious English post-punk founded in 1976, were known for their protean ways—often changing styles from album to album. (They recorded 32 studio albums over 40 years). But the one constant in the band was its leader, singer and songwriter Mark E. Smith. In fact, he joked (half-seriously) that “if it’s me and your granny on bongos, it’s still The Fall.”

Where did he get the creative stamina to write so much music? How did he fuel his muse? One answer came during an interview in 1983 on the radio show Creatures What You Never Knew About. Smith shared with the host his own personal guide to writing. Here is the step-by-step process to writing songs over the course of a week:

     Hello I’m Mark E. Smith and this is The Mark E. Smith ‘Guide To Writing’ Guide.
     Day-by-day breakdown
     Day One: Hang around house all day writing bits of useless information on bits of paper.
     Day Two: Decide lack of inspiration due to too much isolation and non-fraternization. Go to pub. Have drinks.
     Day Three: Get up and go to pub. Hold on in there a style is on its way. Through sheer boredom and drunkenness, talk to people in pub.
     Day Four: By now, people in the pub should be continually getting on your nerves. Write things about them on backs of beer mats.
     Day Five: Go to pub. This is where true penmanship stamina comes into its own as by now, guilt, drunkenness, the people in the pub and the fact you’re one of them should combine to enable you to write out of sheer vexation. To write out of sheer vexation.
     Day Six: If possible stay home. And write. If not go to pub.

One imagines that, like the God Jehovah in the Book of Genesis, Smith decided—after so much creative output—the seventh day was for rest.


Mark E. Smith, 1957–2018

© 1983 Mark E. Smith
Interview on Creatures What You Never Knew About from Greenwich Sound Radio

Photo by Gabor Scott

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