Escapism

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.

Image by xresch from Pixabay

14 comments

  1. Aye. I gave up on a lot as it was so much dystopianism – and seemed to delight in the bathing in sewage, as I saw it. Seeing stuff that was positive and hopeful (not trivial, or easy, just Not Depressing) was a great and welcome change!

  2. On that note, St. Nicholas brought my eldest Changeling Island for December 6th. (Shoes set out the night of the 5th, and apparently my kids always get books. Sure.) I very much appreciated the Australia-from-Australian POV, because almost everything else I’ve read about there has been written by someone who doesn’t live there.

  3. My former broker liked to say that there are products, and product sectors, for which people will always find the money. He particularly liked entertainment stocks — Disney was one — that he felt were essentially loss-proof. But he never recommended the stock of a publisher to me. Maybe there weren’t / aren’t any back then.

    Yes, people need diversions when things are tough. But they need hope as much if not more. Stories that lift the spirit are those that are suffused with the sense of hope: the hero marshaling his resources and his courage, overcoming seemingly insuperable obstacles, defeating his adversary, and getting the girl. It’s the writers of the indie community that are producing that sort of story. This is our time.

    1. He particularly liked entertainment stocks — Disney was one — that he felt were essentially loss-proof.

      An interesting perspective, in the full literary sense of the word. “Recession proof” I’ll give him, but “loss-proof”? Does he not remember what happened to Disney in the 70s and 80s?

      Just because they’re the entertainment king now doesn’t mean that they’re going to stay on the upward trajectory forever. And given the way that they’ve recently been pandering to the woke, my guess is the fall will come sooner rather than later.

  4. I really like the idea that, even if it’s harder to get over that initial hump to enter your story world, that being in that world and writing might offer a similar necessary escape as reading. Instead of “I have to do this” as a burden, rather “I get to do this” as a treat.

    1. I need to write. That;s been part of my stress problem this past few months: Day Job is demanding more and more time, and I can’t write. So I have no way to release the stress, which starts to show up at Day Job, and . . .

      I assume things will go economically down hill, since I am going to ask for a load reduction at Day Job (not for stress, but for professional reasons.)

  5. Yes, it is a truth universally acknowledged that in hard times, people want escape, even if only for a couple of hours, in a fluffy musical fantasy or a good engaging book. It’s only in good and prosperous times that people have the mental luxury of contemplating despair and dysfunction.
    In the Depression, and in WWII, people wanted escape, happy endings, fluffy romance, to know that there were nice people and good possibilities out there. (This is why I write the Luna City books – because we desperately need the escape to the little town where nothing really, totally, awfully bad happens. Weirdly enough, that series has over time been the most profitable…)

    1. In Harsh Times, it is also nice to have “enemies” that can be fought and defeated. 😀

      1. Right? That’s why in my stories the Good Guys have ways to find out -exactly- who is screwing with them. Then they go to that guy’s office and grab him by the tie. So amazingly satisfying.

        IMHO most of the world’s ills could be cured just by being able to do that. Go downtown and meet the son of a bitch who first proposed the Carbon Tax and grab him by the tie. “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!” Possibly followed by a Glasgow Kiss if the answer is insufficiently apologetic…

    2. Yeah, that explains the $40 worth of e-books downloaded to the Kindle last night.

      I just hope 2021 doesn’t ask 2020 to hold its beer.

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