I almost titled this 'Post(cards) from the edge' but enough with the doom and gloom already. So how are you doing? Good weekend? (Shrugs) - me too. Do you think it is mad to believe the weather is mirroring your mood? Phenomenon like SAD have been scientifically proven, but in literature the 'pathetic fallacy' is a time old romantic tool - the thunderstorm at the funeral, the clouds parting as the hero/ine finds new hope. With all the huge blows to the economy and unemployment rising maybe I'm not the only one who has seen the ice storms and constant rain reflecting my thoughts. As someone wrote in the newspaper the other day - January is a bitch of a time for tough changes. If you could wave a magic wand where would you be right now? I'm thinking warm, sunny (the pilot is in Aruba for a week which is ... challenging). Which places in the world are you longing to visit? Why not give yourself an excuse for a little armchair travelling and set a short story in somewhere you'd love to go - research it - browse brochures, websites, read some of the great travel writing out there and give yourself something to look forward to. When you eventually visit for real you will get so much out of the trip.
Downstairs in the basement I have a stack of books on Venice. It was going to be our tenth wedding anniversary trip, and I bought Jan (James) Morris' fabulous book, started brushing up my Italian. As the trip grew closer the prospect of romantic, childfree travel for the first time in five years was thrilling. Then it was suggested I should hire an editor to knock book one into shape. It was a choice - Venice or the book, couldn't afford both. The book won (not quite Sophie's Choice, but painful ...). I am still dying to go there, and sketching out a short story. Didn't Janet Winterson write an entire book about Venice without visiting? At least when other people are cutting back, we still have our imaginations.
As writers and artists we are well placed to cope with hardship - number one suggestion in dealing with crises/changes in circumstances is ... write a journal. Another idea that has really grabbed me recently is PostSecret. People send postcards from all over the world expressing a secret they have never admitted to anyone. It's a genius idea - every one of the cards in today's video clip is a writer's prompt in itself. As one who writes first draft longhand - preferably with inkpen, and never knowingly passes a stationery store by, I feel people should write postcards and letters more often - it's a dying art. In fact, that's when I first discovered how much fun writing was - friends would get me to write love letters on the school bus for them to send to their boyfriends. Since then, seeing the happiness and emotion that words conjure has never lost its appeal.
TODAY'S PROMPT: What have you been wanting to say but feel unable? Perhaps like most people who choose to write rather than say act, I feel I express myself better in words than speech. Living in the orange groves and mountains of Spain for months on end when the only people I spoke to were the pilot, Jesus in the post office and Faber the husky most days my conversational skills atrophied - but I wrote and wrote and wrote, and read every book on writing Amazon could deliver. It was like a writing retreat/bootcamp. I learnt if you can't say it - write it. If you can't write it in your own voice, get one of your characters to say it for you. Above all when times are tough, get the thoughts out of your mind - the cold light of day disarms the worst fears. Talk to people, write a journal (interestingly the BBC Writer's Room site's tagline is 'Use Your Weapon' above a pencil, biro, marker). Tough times - smile in the face of them, fight back. We have a great armoury at our disposal. Philip Hensher wrote a while ago: 'Someone once called it the "splinter of ice in the heart"; that element of the artistic personality which doesn't care about suffering, which is merely interested in it. The artist is fascinated by emotion, by love and hurt, and most artists have been through the emotional gamut. But at the moment he sets them down, it would be hard to say that the artist, or novelist, cares much about the feeling; it is a question of cold observation.' What do you think?