Monday, 18 January 2021

Small shreds of comfort - by Lu Hersey

If you're old enough (which probably most of you are), you'll remember where you were the day the twin towers fell on 11 September 2001. I was working as an advertising copywriter for a small copywriting company, and it was the day of my annual review. We were based in a tiny, open-plan office, so reviews were held in the enormous (and mostly empty) Wetherspoons nearby, over coffee. To be honest, I never really liked the job anyway, but it paid the bills. Copywriting is all about convincing people to buy things they don't need, or that something is good (like new bank charges, or a building development over a green site) when it clearly isn't. 

As my boss droned on about company targets and the improvements 'we' (he meant me) needed to make, I was completely distracted by the vast TV screen behind him, watching in horror as the second plane crashed into the twin towers. I remember nothing about what he said. I was transfixed. In the end, I had to tell him to shut up a minute and turn around to look. Weirdly (in my opinion) he showed no interest, left me sitting there and went back to work. It was several minutes before I realised he'd stopped talking and had gone. Work was more important to him than anything, and I had to admire his focus - even if I thought his priorities were skewed (it tends to happen if you work in advertising for too long). In real time, people were dying in their thousands, but he couldn't bring himself to stop writing the M&S company report (or whatever he was working on) for even a moment. 

To be fair to him, I was probably a nightmare employee - good on the creative side, but crap on the supreme importance of financial services. I stuck it there for another few years before leaving to work in a library - less money, much nicer people, and ALL THE BOOKS! Like going to heaven after a long period in purgatory.

Anyway, when it came to writing this month's blog post, it felt a bit like it did that day. I started writing something and then the news came on - it was the day the Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. I can't remember for the life of me what piece of pertinent folklore (or whatever) I was going to spout at you, as it got taken over by events. Instead, I started marvelling that any of us are able to write anything in a hideous global pandemic where life increasingly looks like some kind of horrific dystopian nightmare. 

If you're currently writing dystopian fiction, you'll be getting more ideas than you need. Or if you write so-called 'issues' stories, this is a time when everyone needs them, as mental health and other problems spiral out of control. But I write about folklore and magic, and I began to wonder if there was any point to my existence. Not a key worker, writing nothing of use to anyone. A few days of deep gloom followed when I watched too much telly and ate the rest of the Christmas chocolate. 

Then I realised. At least half of what I was watching was fantasy. Magic. Superheroes. And looking at the 'most popular in the UK' Netflix chart, seems I'm not alone. And a good 75% of the books I read are also folklore based, magic, or fantasy. 

So maybe there are others out there, children included, who still need that stuff too? People looking for small shreds of comfort at a difficult time. And I've started writing again, because maybe it's important to keep trying.

Everyone needs to escape from time to time. (Even those who write company reports.)

Lu Hersey


Steve Gladwin said...

Especially those who write company reports. I was actually working on a dystopic story submission last year, Lu, but had to stop when it got outdone by real news. Also, I like to think magic and fantasy is there to terrify the powers that be, because secretly it terrifies them. Hoorah!

LuWrites said...

😆 Thanks, Steve!

Tooty Nolan said...

I know I write my comedy fantasy because of its cathartic qualities. It takes me into realms that deny the real world and all its problems. You may think me odd, but I rush-wrote my last story whilst my wife lay beside me in bed whilst in her final weeks of life.It helped me deal with the situation when I needed all the help i could get. That was an extreme example perhaps; but in that case I had to get it finished before she died, when I knew I couldn't possibly finsh it afterwards. And I was able to dedicate it to her, which makes it special.

Joan Haig said...

Ah, don’t stop. Young readers need you!

Joan Haig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joan Haig said...

Ah, don’t stop. Young readers need you!

Susan Mann said...

This! This is why I read and attempt to write books. They are escapism and we need them more now than ever.

Lynne Benton said...

Great post, Lu - sorry this is late: I've only just got round to reading it!

LuWrites said...

Thanks, Lynne - it was kind of you to read it at all! X