It’s been a busy Christmas period for our local volunteer ambulance service, so I’m neither as well-slept or bright as I might be. That’s one of the better reasons for having your kids relatively young, disturbed sleep is slightly easier to cope with (no, it’s never easy). The older I get the less scintillating brilliant and creative I am the next day after three hours sleep. I’m on call tonight, yet again, and again New Year’s eve, and I suspect that won’t be any better.
This is a problem in anyone’s life, but even more so when you’re trying to be creative. Sometimes that’s just an exercise in futility (and obstinacy, when you’re yawning your head off). The same is true with stress and worry – which I am having a dose of at the moment.
Well… it’s actually only partly true. My mind does keep turning back to the issues I’m dealing with… but once I managed to get started well and truly, I found my own story was doing for me what a good book will do: absorbing me enough to displace (at least temporarily) my other worries. And that escape provides more than just a temporary get-away – it restores the tone of your mind, lifts you up and lets you attack the problem from a fresh angle. Sometimes that angle may not help either! But a good book is the best thing, outside of a dog when things are tough (and inside of a dog, as Groucho Marx would have it, it’s too dark to read).
Some products are counter-cyclical to economic trends. When things are good, they sell badly. When things are bad, they sell well. The classic examples are vegetable seeds and camping gear. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the unpleasant reality behind why these sell well when things are grim. Books were once one of the things that always did well in depressions and recessions, for the reason I talked about above. They provided escape and uplift when people needed it. At one time (Not in Australia at present) they were relatively cheap… and compared to other forms of escapism (beer? Or a movie?) one got more for the same cost – and it was more re-usable than beer or that now valueless cinema ticket. You might be able to pass it on, swap it, or even resell it.
Anyone who derides escapism… yeah, isn’t suicide prevention and kicking the black dog away a noble goal in your world? It certainly is to millions of people.
Of course the traditional publishing industry wasn’t counter-cyclical in the last economic downturn. I put that largely at the doorway of publishers having lost sight of the value of uplifting escapism and the fact that cheap is good, when you have very little extra money. I figure somewhere between 2-3 beers is going to be a ball-park, if things get really tight. If I can get a 3-4 hours reading for the cost of a cup of coffee, I know what I am going to spend my money on, even though I love coffee. With e-books, that’s possible. If things are less bad, well, the price ‘affordable’ will go up (and the demand may go down).
I hope things aren’t about to turn economically pear-shaped. But there is certain degree of satisfaction in knowing that, just like that ambulance officer, you’re providing something people need and appreciate at a time when they really need it.
So: I will do my best to write more escapist stories which uplift readers. I hope that those of you here who write will do likewise.
And may 2021 bring less than I expect and more than I hope, for all of you. May it bring a bright new dawn and great flights of fantasy.