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Dean Whitbread 2013

Dean Whitbread 2020

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Written on June 11, 2009, and categorized as Flip side, Work.
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Stress has a peculiar way of manifesting in the Whitbread household. No, that is wrong. It actually has several ways of manifesting, depending on the severity and the longevity. I like words ending in “ity” for some reason, there is comfort in my conformity.

So I’ve been over-working, that much is certain, to the point of not taking a holiday in 14 months which is plain silly. I found my brain had turned to rodent-infested pudding

and all my thoughts were the consistency of dough with little nibbly teeth.

Spike Milligan is one of my heroes. Thank God I don’t suffer like he did from chronic manic-depression but then, I was never in a war. He made pioneering surreal radio programmes, and played the trumpet, but when he was ill he became acutely sensitive to noise. Once he was in a sanitorium in Hornsey, screaming every morning because his window was right next to where they emptied the big, clanging industrial bins.

I have suffered from recurring internet obsession since 1994. I’ve worked on balancing this tendency over the years, but, left to my own devices – and I’ll come back to that clever play on worms – I will migrate with ease towards the terminal of light which is the window on my real world, the world of digital fun, where everyone is equal and click click click clever, even after a significant break, like the one I had 13 months ago, when I went to Cyprus for most of the month of April.


I took my Nokia N95 smart-ish phone with me and somehow managed to run up a £350 bill. Most of that was GPS maps and email, but I was very aware that the small, palm-sized screen was replacing the bigger screen.

My “sane” lover and I rationed ourselves to one hour per week in a Paphos internet café, during which time I worked as intensely as I could, pretending that I was uploading photos, but actually, I was nagging a lazy bastard to fix my broken website, whilst he lied about not being able to do it knowing I was an international flight away and couldn’t prove him wrong until I got back.

You see, I was still being obsessive, even when the rest of the holiday was pretty much the mental relaxation it was supposed to be, except when my brain popped a few times, which it did a few times, because of the stress of the preceding months in which I had similarly over worked.

But during the time when I was away, at least I relaxed enough finally to have worked out that what I REALLY WANT TO DO is write musical theatre. I have tunes. I can see pictures. I have a story to tell.

So when I got back, I uploaded my photos to Flickr, and for a while, I didn’t worry as much about the internet as I had done, just got on with work and planned the next phases.

But work being what it is, I then spent most of 2008 and 2009 not really doing  what I want to do. Instead, I was

As 2008 drew to a close, I planned in 2009 to include much more music, and thus I have proceeded. Except, what I am producing is more internet than music, because

the internet is by now the most effective way to present and promote oneself as an independent artist.

Let me just explain that you should spit that line out like the received dollop of non-nutritional wisdom it is.

MySpace pages, Facebook groups, blogs, podcasts are excellent for hobbyists. Most people considering themselves entrepreneurs using these sites need to tag themselves Micawber.

Really good, genuine cultural entrepreneurs, of whom very few exist, are the exceptions which prove the rule. The internet works very well for people like John, Stephen and Lily, who have careers with lots of conventional exposure in “old media” – press, TV, radio, music, film. For the rest of us, internet “activity” simply acts as a palliative, a way to keep the wound open, bleeding a constant draining dribble of futile hope.

Ultimately, unless you invest a huge amount in an internet business which markets in-demand products or services to millions of people, even if you work like a Trojan all the hours Zeus sends, your website is nowt but a pretty electronic business card which might enable you to get a job fixing a printer, or installing Linux on a criminally substandard server.

Whenever I see the BBC’s “Have Your Say” my mind replaces it with “Have Your Pay”. It’s a con, a scam, a plea for people to do their work for them. It’s reductionist. It’s predatory. It’s vampirism. I know the old system has failed, but this new system sucks even worse than the old one for most people, and I hate to use that word “sucks” but there is no better word.

So I am left with:

  • insight telling me what I most want to do
  • the means apparently at my disposal to do it
  • the realisation that the skills I have developed are actually useless for my purposes
  • a need to do much less internet so that I can develop the skills I actually require.

What I need to do now is to step away from the internet terminal before it becomes the graveyard of my best ideas, the terminus of all my mental bus routes, the Terminator of my past and my future. This, given my obsession, will be easier said than done, but it’s a worthy challenge.

There are good brain pops, and bad brain pops. Bad ones just reduce the brain to mush, and you take a long time to recover. Burned out. Kaput. Go and get help.

Good ones may wipe out entire ecosystems of ideas, but they produce protean gloop from which new life forms emerge.

I’m going to begin by having a break.

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This thing has 5 Comments

  1. Posted 11 June, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Hm. As a fellow internet addict I applaud your sentiments, but I can't help wondering if you're being a little black and white about things ?

    You've made enough money through the items in your list to be able to pursue your musical theatre idea for the next few months – would that have happened without also participating in the “constant draining dribble of futile hope” ? Was/is it ALL that pointless ?

    As someone who has a great deal of interest invested in the odd website, and in all the supposed benefits of the futile hope-draining possibilities, I'm curious !

  2. Posted 11 June, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment. I didn't say it was pointless – without going forward and making mistakes, we never learn anything.

    The musical theatre idea will take quite a bit longer than a few months… !

  3. Posted 11 June, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    That's how it reads though…

    So are you saying, rather than doing the things on your list, you are now choosing to do what you really want to ? And, if some futile internet dribbling takes place along the way, so be it but let's keep it to a minimum ?

  4. Leisl
    Posted 11 June, 2009 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Brain pops. Breaks. Realizations. It's all good. (The dead mouse, however, made me a bit queasy.) Sometimes it takes having a break to refresh the mind and spirit and to remember what direction it really is that one is meant to be traveling. If you really want to write musical theater, then by all means DO SO! Heaven knows the theater community is starving for something fresh and new, rather then the same regurgitated tripe it turns out now. You already DO have the skills and the connections and time is all relative anyway, so it is a non-issue. And with the right bit of scheduling (i.e. turn down a few projects here and there once in awhile and get some sleep), it is possible for you to work a “day job” to support yourself while you are doing what you really want to do, what really makes your inner-most self truly happy. It's like the Chariot learning to control both the light and dark, getting both horses to work together for a common goal. You can do it.

  5. Posted 11 June, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Leisl. I love you for that comment 🙂

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  1. Posted 17 March, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    […] I was quite proud of my subtitle to Blog of Funk: the every day story of the smell of sex – because it meant everything and nothing, and because it was true, and because it generated lots of readers. I wrote Blog of Funk until the end of 2008, and then I moved my blog to a much less snappy domain with a long, difficult to remember name and a rather naff subtitle, and tried hard to lose most of my readers. I stopped blogging entirely for a few months. I started a private blog, got some things off my chest, and then abandoned that. I worked out that the internet was taking up far too much of my time, and said so. […]

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