Keep calm and carry on writing? I wish. by Jo Carroll
We live in dangerous times.
Not that you need telling - unless you’ve decided that the news is just too terrible to watch any more. I know someone who rations her news-watching to once a day, as she finds it too distressing. I get that - if we allow ourselves to think about the full horror of everything that is going on (not just here in the west but all over the world) we can easily by paralysed by it.
But where does that leave us as writers? I present this as a dilemma - I have no solutions. For if we are going to write about the fires and the terrorist attacks and the political shenanigans and the civil wars and floods and droughts … where do we begin? Is it possible to write about all this in a way that is new, and different, and enables the reader to think about things differently? Are there any new words for horror, or trauma, or tragedy? Is it possible to tell the story of one man or woman in the middle of all this and let that stand for all the others - when each story is utterly unique?
I'm sure there are fiction writers, somewhere, constructing novels against the backdrop of this mayhem. How do they keep up? What it is like to weave characters in and out of terrorist attacks, a tower fire, political incompetences - with situations changing by the day?
And what does it do to us? I worked in Child Protection and was good at keeping a distance between my professional and personal lives. I stayed intact, most of the time. But at the moment journalists are racing from one disaster to another and have so little time for personal reflection that they must surely feel permanently bruised.
We can, of course, write fantasy, or history, or crime. We can fill the pages with fiction and entertain our readers. Which is wonderful, of course - we all need to escape from reality from time to time.
At the same time, how is it possible to write in a vacuum? Is it possible to clear your head of all the contemporary crap and concentrate on something you've made up?
I don't have an answer - and maybe I'm simply voicing my own concerns. But if anyone has found a way to carry on writing as if none of this were going on, then please tell me.
I might add your recommendations to my website: http://jocarroll.co.uk