The Loss Of Words
I’m now on the 151st day of my own personal lockdown, and only just realised it’s almost two months since I posted anything here. I don’t often talk about my day job for fear of mixing work and writing (and politics), but sometimes they inevitably collide and mix. And what I am about to write breaks none of the confidences that I am pledged to keep. So rest easy, conscience and readers.
I have lost count of the people who’ve said to me that I must be writing so much during Lockdown, that it’s been the best opportunity creatives have had to focus on what they love, and what they would regard as their first and foremost priority. In sad fact, this has probably been one of the least productive periods of my life. Let me explain.
I have spent the last 151 days on a virtual frontline. The charity I work for has been very active in making grants to social care and healthcare charities all but decimated by covid-19. I have often been working 12-hour days, and weekends, in order to keep up with the need that’s out there, in the real world. You know, before all this, I often laughed at social media posts prefaced with IRL because the separation between virtual and real seemed such a weirdness to me. But now, sitting in my safe office at home, and having worked from home (not always in this job) since about 2000, I can see the death and misery this virus is causing, and the mismanagement of it by politicians of all political colours and creeds, and I can see (and read the reports of) the frontline underpaid and exhausted healthcare workers (from doctors to nurses to midwives to healthcare assistants to health workers and on and on) risking their lives on an hourly basis, and this reality fills me with the kind of despair that feels almost terminal (and even writing that makes me feel hypocritical). This period in our lives is an impossibility.
This is not writer’s block. I actually have some poems written about the whole situation that I just don’t want to put out there yet, just not as many as some might think. I actually have lots of words in my head that are looking for poems, lots of other words in some other part of my head that are looking for novels and short stories to come alive in, and in the last creative compartment of my mind there are images screaming for me to put them on canvas and pull them into some sort of shape and colour for people to look at. But I don’t feel like pouring all this out right now. I’m exhausted at the end of every day, and the pen and the brush need energy to push them (as do the letters on the keyboard that drives my creations). And then I feel guilty for feeling so exhausted without having risked my life, without having directly healed or helped have a good death someone ill and suffering.
Earlier today, I was on the phone to someone from a hospice I’m dealing with at the moment. We wandered off into the realms of philosophy (because tangents are important in any conversation or relationship and give context and vibrancy and education), and started to discuss the concept of altruism, and whether or not it exists, if it is merely a self-serving approach to life to stop us feeling bad about ourselves, or if it is actually a genuine negation of self. As always, since my therapy last year, I came up with this ideology of the middle way, where the extremes are nothing but barren wastelands, and the middle ground (the one I had always seen as grey and boring and featureless) is actually the most fertile. And it’s not a ground of compromise, but the ground of mutual understanding and mutual benefit. That’s as far as my philosophy goes.
But this loss of words on the page is what I worry about most. I am one false start and one real start into the sequel to The Immortality Clock, to be called either Icons or The Mortality Code, and the characters have already led me to the place they want to be and decided what happens next, but I lack the motivation to write their stories right now. Maybe that’s because my existence and work In Real Life are more important, more mentally draining than they ever have been before.
I had told myself I had to write something positive, but it’s not quite turned out like that. BUT (deliberate caps lock) there are so many kindnesses right now, so many people doing wonderful and altruistic and healing and passionate things if only we look for them, if only we recognise them. In truth, wearing a mask (if you can) is a kindness. Compare and contrast with the absolute lack of kindness displayed by our government and the individuals running it, and you’ll see the depth of their malevolence and ignorance.
On a side note, a very good writer friend of mine says she cannot write if there’s music on. I, on the other hand, have written this entire post with Falling by Harry Styles on repeat.
So many confidences waiting to be broken. But not now. And never by me.