Most writers are reacting to what’s around them when they word-monkey. Sometimes we’re having a very direct and honest conversation with the world, no messing, straight to the point and who cares if the world goes off in a huff halfway through? It’s a big, grown-up world. It can take a bit of bluntness.
Sometimes we’re being more obtuse, maybe trying to tell the world something without coming right out and saying it. You’ve had those conversations. You don’t want to actually tell your friends, to their actual faces, that they need to do something about the halitosis. Maybe you wax lyrical about something else instead. The remarkable health benefits of mints, or how doctors think that sucking mints adds five years to your life, or that brilliant adventure you both had that one time when you were sucking mints, or PLEASEGODHAVEAMINTNOFRIENDSHIPISWORTHTHIS.
Sometimes, maybe when the stench has become so ever-present that you’ve actually forgotten it’s there, mints just pop up in conversation and you don’t even realise why.
I’m not trying to tell you that you smell*. I’m trying to point out that writers are having a conversation with what’s around them when they make up stories. Don’t do the paranoid face.
I said no. Don’t do it.
One of my problems of late has been how the world has lost its mind. It is no longer a rational conversationalist. It’s joined an armageddon cult that does weird stuff to puppies and thinks that’s fine and that we should respect its choices and to hell with the puppy and who said puppies had feelings anyway? There’s so much to talk to it about, but I don’t know how to even begin having that conversation. To be honest, I want to lock the world in a special cell and give it electro-shock therapy until it’s either cured or rendered harmless.
All of my story urges in response to this new state of weird are to go big, but nothing that comes out is big enough for the special kind of crazytimes that we seem to have blundered into. That’s been a bit paralysing, and led to a creative deadlock of sorts. I need to break out of it, and so I’ve begun 2017 by reversing direction. Instead of going big, I’m going small. I’m looking for the little moments and exploring those, with my back turned to the world and my fingers in my ears.
I’m already discovering, or perhaps remembering, that those small moments are sometimes the whole world too.
It’s a place to begin. If I get even a single short story out of it, then 2017 will be off to a transformative start.
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari – A follow up to the brilliant Sapiens, and so far a fascinating thought experiment about what humans will be next.
In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware – So far intensely readable thriller that’s unfurling slowly and with massive charm.
*Although, you know, I wasn’t thinking of mints at all when we sat down to have this chat, so who knows?