Saturday 18 April 2020

What's the point of anything? by Lu Hersey

It's day 26 of lockdown today. Like everyone else, I'm trapped - but lucky because I'm trapped with a nice view, a bit of garden, and pleasant walks available from the front door. Further from hospitals and healthcare, maybe - but there are advantages and disadvantages wherever you are.

Also, I'm not alone. My two youngest (both adults) decided to come here and be trapped in the country with me. It's lovely having family move back in with you when they mostly live their own lives back in the city, yet strange at the same time. But then strange is the new normal.
The new normal

Apart from anything else, we're all starting to look different - who knew barbers, hairdressers and dentists were so important? Owing to a slight accident with some home hair dye,  I now have white hair, getting longer and stragglier by the day, and a tooth  missing at the front where a crown fell out. Basically I look like an ancient crone. I rather like it, although still vain enough to stick my tooth back in with Fixodent for all the zooming and video chats - which is the new way we all interact with the world.

But how long can we keep up appearances? What happens to all the Kardashian followers of the world when they can't get botox, lip fillers or new nails? Perhaps an unexpected side effect of all this is that we end up looking how we actually are, and maybe that's not so bad.
Better before, right?

There are some definite pluses to all this, as well as the obvious sadnesses. The environment is benefitting from the lack of planes and cars. Wildlife is booming and blooming without our interference. Unless you're working from home or you're an essential service worker, you probably have a lot of time to do all those things you always meant to do, like learning new skills, yoga, meditation, catching up on box sets, reading through your tbr pile - whatever.

But you also have a lot of time to ponder life questions, like what's the point of it all? And why bother to write? Is it really that important? Healthcare workers, refuse collectors and shelf stackers are a lot more use to society. And who's going to publish anything right now, or possibly ever again?

At the start of this, I was still busy editing my latest book. I took a lot of time and care over it and at last it was ready to go out...somewhere.  I decided I'd share it with a few people to see what they thought.

I started by sending it to my agent. I eagerly awaited his call to tell me what a work of genius it is.

Silence. (Admittedly only a few days, but time goes slowly at the moment)

I checked out his social media. To endure the pain of his excruciating toothache (no dentists will see people face to face - which is usually the point of dentists) it seems his main activity is sharing the portends of the day found in stones he picks up on the beach. This form of beach augury tells him he needs a dog with a patch over over one eye. It doesn't tell him he needs a manuscript.
What my agent's new dog will look like. Apparently.

That's annoying, I thought. (Although agree about the dog) All those publishers, just twiddling their thumbs, desperate for a work of genius like mine to fall into their hands, and he's on the beach looking at pebbles. The only way I'd get his attention would be if all the stones on the beach suddenly had my name on them...and maybe if the dentist fixed his tooth.

Actually, he called the next day to say he'd read it as soon as his toothache subsided and that he was really looking forward to it, which was nice - especially as he was still in crippling pain. But then I read an article from the Bookseller about how all the major publishers seem to be either working from home (most have children and are probably going insane trying to keep them occupied without schools open) - or they've furloughed their staff for the foreseeable future.


Gloom set in. What's the point of writing anything at a crisis time like this? Some bright spark on twitter said the world needed stories more than ever before because everyone is now dependent on Netflix to get through the tough times. It was retweeted a zillion times by bored (and probably also gloomy) writers.

On a scale of how are Netflix going to even see my book to obviously it's not going to happen, that isn't much comfort. Some writers are busy reading their stories online, or holding workshops to encourage other writers to write even more books. And I know these are great things to do, and as constructive as anything can be right now. It just spiralled me into wondering. What's the point of anything?

But writing is a compulsion. A bit like breathing. If your nose is blocked, you breathe through your mouth. If you can't write one thing, you try something else. And yesterday a writer friend sent me a wonderful lifeline - an idea for a joint book venture.

She writes real life, important issues, in YA fiction. I mostly write MG and teen fiction about the wonder of magic, portends, and creating order from chaos (or something like that) - so we're coming from totally different ends of the writing spectrum. And now we're trying something completely outside our usual comfort zones to see if it works.

It's fun. Something to occupy us and it doesn't matter about the outcome. I'm useless at virtual pub quizzes, and zoom yoga class with my 75 year old yoga teacher had me cheating like crazy because she couldn't see what I was doing (balancing is so much easier when there's a desk in front of you to lean on). Suddenly I have a purpose, even if it's just making my co-writer laugh.

So if you're feeling stuck and struggling with any aspect of your writing life, maybe try something completely different. Don't worry about the point of what you're doing. It doesn't even have to be writing if you don't have any ideas right now. Maybe try to see the future in the patterns of birds flying overhead instead.

After all, that's how Rome was founded.

by Lu Hersey



Steve Gladwin said...

Glad you're finding a way through it Lou. As you say, nice setting to do it in. Happy creating and crowning. Hey,couldn't you lend your agent your tooth! xx

Steve Gladwin said...

Should have said 'croning'. Obviously a Freudian tooth slip😁

LuWrites said...

Thanks Steve - very helpful suggestions and I'm sure my agent will appreciate it.😆

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks Lu, and good luck with the new venture!

Susan Mann said...

Good luck with your new adventure. It is strange times x

LuWrites said...

Thanks Joan and Susan - it's just something different to pass the time, and will keep writing my own stuff too - but it's fun to try something new!

Anne Booth said...

I love this! Good luck with what you submitted and your new venture!