A friend hexed me the other day. Not intentionally. We were on the phone talking about the state of the world when she asked me about the point of writing. Why indeed? Who cares about plot and character when the actual world is in torment? Why should anyone care what my character J Jones whispers to her lover, when the world is at war and people are being shot in the street? Graham Greene got away with it in the End of the Affair, but I am no Greene.
I ponder on the validity in my writing. Is it selfish that I am even contemplating these questions? I sit waiting for inspiration to come. The television is all white noise and static, the clocks spin, the dogs bark – Auden, Auden, how did you deal with the ineptitude of words?
Fear, my friend says. Write about what you know. But fear is paralyzing. It makes it impossible to have clear thoughts and ideas. Not even emotions are possible when fear lurks behind the curtains. Enter entropy. Enter nihilism. What is the point when all is dead or dying?
Normally, I don’t wallow in depression. I don’t have patience for self-pity. I sit like the vegetables of my memory, the ones I used to photograph and reverse-expose, to see what I would find inside. Where my past explorations were tainted in optimism, it now feel like a rubbish heap. A recycled pile of aluminum cans and newspapers; vegetable peels, piling higher and higher until we block out the sun.
Fear, my friend insists. You need to write about fear .But why should I make my characters feel fear when disaster lurks around the actual corner? It is hard to focus on the fictional when everything around me vibrates with the message that something is not quite right. I read somewhere that if you concentrate you can detect the minor polar shifts of the Earth’s rotation. In the vastness of a changing universe writing feels very insignificant.