I’m in the periodic limbo stretch. Just finished stages of multiple projects—6th draft of a new novel, interior layout on another ready for publication, billionth rewrite of a short story (well, start with a title like “William Blake at Starbucks” and see what happens to you), etc.—and wondering what’s next.
Fortunately, this next week I’ll have my fingers in papier mache, creating a mask for a friend, and that’s a project with a finish. Words are another matter: they never dry up. Words are like politics: there’s always something more to do.
Which brings up the election. Bots run rampant in my brain at 2 a.m., stilled only by counting my breaths or imagining myself screaming Whee! Whee! Whee! in a crowded subway. (Those who know me would find that image uncharacteristic.) Writing—even writing political Facebook posts—is a form of vaccination: immunizing oneself by taking in a less treacherous form of the virus. Writing is pretty harmless.
Excluding, of course, words for a demagogue or a California proposition or a legal brief—those can have their effect. But a short story or a novel, not so much. That’s scant comfort, of course, if your readership numbers in the dozens.
Yet there’s a certain grim comfort in the notion that you’re doing something that (a) is up to your standards, (b) has integrity, and (c) does no harm. Organic farmers, massage therapists, and chess masters can share this, but most professions run the risk, however slight, of ending in something hideous.
Not without exceptions. Uncle Tom’s Cabin may be credited or damned for promoting abolition, causing the Civil War, pushing Black stereotypes, mixing protest with sentiment, inspiring the theatrical “Tom show,” etc. (Nevertheless, a compelling story, in my opinion.) So it could be that our words might have effect, at least if we were a best-seller second only to the Bible. But we’ll just have to risk it.