Today on facebook, someone posted how they’re having increasing issues writing, because they feel as if it doesn’t matter, it will never matter, and why are they spending time on this anyway…
I kind of live there. Partly, I think, because my family had crazy expectations for me. For instance mom wanted me to be diplomat. No, really.
And while I managed to attend a lot of embassy parties (well consulates. I didn’t live in Lisbon) because I was the 4th best language student in the country, without setting anything on fire, that was only because the American consul was a decent Texan and the Italians had a lot of ice cream. (For some reason at the time Italians owned all the ice cream parlors in Porto) which meant I was too busy shoveling ice-cream in my mouth to get in trouble. (This was back in the days when I ate a full meal a week, part out of economy (eating in restaurants was beyond my pay grade and my study/tutor days often ran 12 to 14 hours out of the house) and partly because I was convinced I was massively fat. So the Italian consulate parties were my one allowed indulgence. Because ice cream you don’t pay for is THE best.)
And honestly, I don’t know if a consul/ambassador or — as I was likely to be — a lowly translator in the Portuguese (for heaven’s sake) diplomatic corps would have made any more difference than a writer, but I guess at the back of my mind I imprinted the idea that I should do something that matters.
Which is why, in my early years of attempting to get published, I often took a detour down the hall and through the living room, and found myself in the kitchen making carrot cake, because you know, words might eventually pay off, but carrot cake made my husband happy right then. (Which btw, yes, does mean I equate food with love. Which explains much about this family’s BMI)
Because food was more tangible, more substantial.
I mean, when it is entirely possible the republic will be gone by this time next month, or on its way out, at the very least, and if so we are –ipso facto — heading to bad times, what does it mean that I can write a few stories and maybe make a little money. What compelling reason do I have to write? What is it good for?
…. I’m reminded of a scene in Asterix. I can no longer remember the context, haven’t re-read in probably over a decade, but in one of the books, the Romans want the forest cut, and the various national-groups of slaves are coming up with delaying tactics, one of which is singing. I remember the line “It’s the Germans. Singing in a choir, they’re terrifying.” Anyway, the Lusitan, dressed in Portuguese fashion, says “I can’t sing, but I could recite some poetry.” That still cracks me up. Partly because it’s me.
I can’t do anything useful, other than cook, clean, refinish furniture and lay down wood flooring…. maybe I can write a few novels?
Talk about bringing your accordion to the war.
This is bad stuff this sort of thinking. And not just for writers.
Let’s face it, we live in a very complex society. Most of us specialize in things which neither grow food nor put it on the table, and as for weaving, only a few of you artsy freaks do it, and certainly not to cover your bodies, or at least not primarily.
It’s not even that the devil whispers: it’s good, but is it art?
It’s that the devil whispers: “Interesting. You do that well, but what is it for?”
Well, in the middle of some of the worst episodes in my life, books kept me sane. I might only read Pride and Prejudice variations, one after the other, when things get bad. Or I might read Disney comics for six months, but do you know how bad things would be if I didn’t have that? I might have had to sniff glue, and when and where I grew up that was the nasty bostik stuff, before superglue came in. And sometimes, sometimes, I escape by writing. I crawl into the hole and write my way back out of it.
But it wasn’t just books that kept me sane. During one of the most depressing years of my life, my husband spent $40 we didn’t have buying me (used) a beautiful coffee table book on the works of Leonardo da Vinci.
I didn’t realize how starved I was for beauty, until that book soothed my soul.
Or there was the Christmas we were really really broke, and my husband bought me a $5 blown-glass owl. It was the best gift ever, both because he went out of his way to get SOMETHING and because it’s a very cute owl (even if it’s a craft, not art.)
Not of bread along lives man. No matter how bad things get, we need to keep up our spirits. Where we’re going we might not need roads, but we will still need relief. Art, beauty, even crafts can provide that.
No, they don’t help directly, but they help. They remind us we’re still human, still have hope, and that life is still worth living.
Also, as a commenter on my other blog reminded me, it might give us the hints we need to find our way out of a bad spot.
Seriously, I’m probably the champion of finding often good advice in the weirdest books (recently figured out how to make scrambled eggs moist from a cozy which is not about cooking, for instance.) But I think everyone does it sometime.
And sometimes the advice is “Oh, this is how sane/non-depressive people see the world.” And you adjust your pattern…
Yesterday I linked this at instapundit: Satan’s Anus: Dishwashing through the Pandemic.
It says more than I have time to unpack about catastrophic change, and about how cancel culture is destroying some people in the professions the crazy arsonists dominate.
But to me, it was the reminder that after his tour of hell, Dante has to crawl up the asshole of the Prince of Darkness to escape (this, btw, makes me believe he was an ancestor of our Kate Paulk. I’m amazed she hasn’t yet plotted this into one of the con books.)
Sometimes you need to crawl up Satan’s ass. But someone has to shine a flashlight on it, first, so you know the way.
And some of us are in charge of keeping that flashlight trained like a laser on the puckered opening of the prince of darkness.
It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. And whether you do writing, art, crafting, or just bake really good carrot cake, I suggest you get on it. Because it’s getting darker by the minute, and you can’t climb up what you can’t see.