Learning about Loss

“You’re gonna learn about loss,” growled Robert De Niro in my favourite role of his (yes, even Travis Bickle), playing Max Cady in Cape Fear. Now, a quarter of century later, and even longer since Robert Mitchum may have spoken the line (I dunno), the lesson has reached me.

 

It being the last day of Nanowrimo, this should have been my triumphant announcement, 50,000 words in a month, yay me! But no, not this year. I’ve been Nanoing since 2011, and always book the 30th off for last day finishing – they must think I’m half Scottish at work, because I’m never there on St. Andrew’s Day. And in those years, the only previous non-win was in 2014 when the kitchen was being re-fitted, and I had very little time to myself. No such excuses this year.

Instead, my lack of success was on, or rather in, my own head, as I lapsed into the nasty habit of wallowing in an unhappiness that was largely of my own making. Nevertheless, I stayed in the game for the first half of the month, behind the rate but not insurmountably so, but when it came down to a choice between going all in or giving up, I froze and ended up choosing the latter by default.

And anyway, it’s only Nanowrimo, and not my first time not winning, certainly not enough to learn about loss. So what else have I lost? Well my stiff upper lip for one. After growing up driven by not wanting to show weakness or admit vulnerability, I have lived with untreated depression for all my adult life. That’s now changed: at the start of the month I had my first mental health GP appointment, and at the end of the month I had my first appointment with the iTalk counselling service. That’s actually a gain rather than a loss, but a heavy loss came with it, thanks to my stupidly walking away from that GP appointment without a prescription of anti-depressants. Knowing I needed treatment on two levels, but not yet receiving either, affected me badly and I sank to a pretty low place. Much worse, I was petty and selfish while I was down there, and managed to completely alienate one of my closest online friends. That’s some loss to learn about, right there.

Another friend stepped up, which I will be eternally grateful for, but the cruellest irony is that she herself has now suffered a terrible loss and bereavement of her own. Apart from the heartbreak and the unfairness of it all, it makes me see my little problems in a new light. I’ve lost a writing challenge and a couple of Facebook accounts, but that’s all really. So as much as I’ve learned about loss, I’ve learned about perspective. Now let’s hope I can use the lesson wisely.

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Yes, it’s Somewhat Political

Okay, so I can’t really ignore The Thing That Happened. Nor do I want to go on about it too much. To some, I’m a lily livered bleeding heart who’s ‘butthurt’ at the result; to others I’m the white male enemy who made this happen.

So I’m going to comment as a writer and stick to the creative impact on this seeming global shift to the right. It’s a pisser for me personally, and for many authors of dystopia, as the bleak reality threatens to overtake the worst future we can imagine.

Ever since early spring I’ve been pitching a prospective PhD project on dystopian fiction, twinned with a dissertation on whether it could come true, theorising that right wing politics had already set the wheels in motion. Honestly dear reader, this was a bold assertion in those innocent pre-Brexit, ‘Trump has no chance’ days, but now that the motion of those right wing wheels is so terrifyingly fast, either I have the easiest doctorate ever, or my research is invalid and worthless. And in this era of diminished optimism, I’m seeing the latter as the more likely.

I have previously written on the subject of a reactionary American uprising, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Moreover; I had it down as a result of the apocalypse, not the cause of it. The two sequels to my painstakingly still being rewritten zombie novel The Dead Shall Feed depict an America overthrown by an opportunistic militia in the aftermath of the chaos.

Some five years ago, in making The Blood Shall Spill my Nanowrimo debut, I wrote:

“At first it was just a bunch of rich people protecting their own interests, but then it spiralled out of control, got taken over and turned into this unholy alliance of bigots and haters. The Republicans, the Christian Right, the National Rifle Association, the Ku Klux Klan, the Pro Lifers, the God Hates Faggers, the Holocaust Deniers, the Captains of Industry, the bankers, the oil men, the rednecks, they all got together and formed this Axis of Hatred. They came in the night to take away all the foreigners, then all the blacks, the Jews, the Hispanics, the Asians, the gays, the disabled, the sick, the poor, the unemployed, the socialists, anybody whose politics they didn’t like.”

And written two years earlier, but for the final part of the trilogy, I wrote in the short story / first chapter of the novel The World Shall Know, set in the technologically regressed far future after the overthrow:

The Scriptures said women should be chaste and quiet, and respectful to men. They should have children and look after the home, and cook for their husbands, and never want anything more. The men should work hard; breaking the horses, building the houses and farming the land. They should be vigilant in ridding the world of the Jew, and the talking ape, and the sodomite, who were inherently evil and had brought the plague upon the world.

And maybe it’s not that bad yet, but unless something changes for the better, it feels like the direction we’re headed. And I do feel a little uncomfortable complaining about all this impinging on my works in progress, when it will have a much more direct and serious effect on the lives of so many. So as much as I try to make this blog about the craft and profession of writing, in this instance, yes, it’s somewhat political.

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