This almost-ended term we’ve been mulling over “New Journalism” or perhaps “New Writing” or perhaps Kurt Vonnegut’s writing (Vonnegut sticks in my admiring memory as the only writer I know to publish—several times—a sketch of his own anus and to describe the purpose of a novel as being “to describe blow-jobs artistically”) or perhaps how to write long sentences containing equally long sections within parentheses or perhaps how to best annoy one’s thesis examiners or perhaps how to repeat words like “or” as many times as possible in the same paragraph or “New Lists” or “When is a list not a list?” or “New Writing Self Help Advice from a Famous Editor Without Using Full Stops” Full Stop.

Inspired, then, by the great writers of the recent past, I sit gloomily at my desk, stabbing my keyboard with my index fingers (I’m the fastest two-finger typist in the west), the tips of which are being fast eroded by years of friction, surrounded by a drift of balled-up aloe vera impregnated tissues, each the result of a vain attempt to mop up generous by-products of flu, man-flu, some vicious virulent virus that has slipped past my defences of liberal doses of vitamin C and alcohol. Note the use of “v” in that sentence and weep, as I am (by the way it is apparently a sign of writing failure to use parentheses, but a sign of writing success to ignore what people say about using parentheses. Similarly, I look forward to using “but” to begin a sentence soon.). I am being nagged by a deadline of the day before yesterday, yet can hardly see my display, let alone draw anything. Unambitious December sunlight is sidling in through the window.

 I need to pull together enough energy to drag myself up to Manchester tomorrow so that I may learn about literature reviews. I groan at the thought of reading anything other than the instructions on Lemsip™ cartons. But (yes!) nevertheless today I have managed so far to read two thoughtful articles on gun massacres, one on an Internet-thrilling orgy in China, one on the challenge to higher education of MOOCs (I wonder if we will soon have MOOPhDs, which regrettably sound rather like advanced degrees in dairy farming?). None of these will have any impact on my research, and even less on the task I need to complete to meet that deadline. I have checked Facebook twice, and Twitter once. The only emails I’ve received this morning have been advertisements. My nose is sore, despite liberal applications of lip balm, and I am even deafer than usual.

 Writing when feeling sorry for oneself is hideously tedious for one’s readers but great therapy, almost as good as paracetamol. Actually, I wonder if the urge to write is often strongest exactly when the author is feeling really miserable, when his lover has just run off with his best friend (I’ve found a good way to avoid this happening is to have no friends), or he’s sitting, about to be eviscerated by shrapnel, in a muddy trench during a WWI battle (again best avoided by being born well after the event). There, I’ve managed a three-part list! Or he is an alcoholic in terminal decline (ah, my hero Raymond Carver). Or he suspects, with only 33 months to go, that his PhD topic is rubbish, or at least not as earth-shattering and Nobel Prize-winning as he’d fantasised. Jejune. That’s a word I had to look up yesterday, in my book-scattered bed. In one of the works I shall be referring to in my literature review. It struck me as appropriate.