I’m confused. And I’m a news junkie too. It’s a bad combination.
I think if I watch just a little more bloodshed and misery, I might understand the world better. It might all become clear. It doesn’t. Today tanks roll through Ukraine, asylum seekers could be flown to Rwanda, Boris Johnson is Prime Minister. How confusing is all that?
And in other news, millions of terrified animals are butchered every week while we humans stare at ourselves in the mirror and worry about our hairstyles. What’s going on? In my street, men in shorts stand in their driveways cleaning their block paving with pressure washers. Why? Have alien parasites taken over their brains? It’s all a terrible dream. I don’t understand any of it.
When I write, I feel a burden to solve these problems – to write Something Major and Important That Will Change Everything. But I can’t. I just stop writing. Often I don’t even start.
I remember years ago talking to a writer – an old socialist warhorse – who said if we want to know what to write about, we have to pull out our guts and slap them on the table. It sounds thrilling, dramatic! But I’d just dither. I wouldn’t know which table to slap them on – and then I’d worry that my guts might put some people off their pudding – or slither onto the floor obliging me to apologise to the cleaners.
Recently I created a character who slags off art because art can’t change the world. I realised I was writing about my own frustrations.
I also came across an old unfinished poem that discussed the power of art. In my poem, art brings down governments, causes tidal waves and earthquakes, and blasts open prison doors. Wishful thinking. Poems can’t stop tanks – but I’ve obviously been worrying about this for a long time.
Interestingly, when I draw, I’m only interested in the pencil line. I don’t need to do anything but watch that line. The rest of the crazy world evaporates, the gunfire fades – along with my messianic duty to change world history.
Above is a cartoon bird I drew years ago. It’s a daft doodle but the bigger bird still gives me pleasure. Just one line from the tip of the beak until it meets itself again. It means nothing, solves nothing… but it’s fun to do.
Maybe that’s how I should write. Just follow the line, just write Something Unimportant But Delightful…
And if I still get the urge to change the world, maybe I should just write to my MP more often. Stephen Jackson