Last month I was bemoaning the unseasonal rainfall for the region; this month, we are facing droughts and record-breaking temperatures. Three days ago, the smoke from the fires around Bordeaux drifted as far as my valley, casting a weird light over the landscape. A little rain two nights ago cleared the air slightly, but the situation is well-defined – we live in an altered world. Since my very first book, Floodland, was based around climate change, the thought of writing things in this changed world isn’t exactly new to me. Or anyone, for that matter. For the last four years, I have been feeling there is nothing else to write about, and yet as with all themes in writing, the feeling that it’s all been done to death already is always present. Plus, writing about the end of the world seems less attractive to readers and maybe writers once it starts to actually feel real to more and more people, as it did this week when the smoke rolled in.
So, for a while now, I have been wondering about how to write about the end of the world without writing about the end of the world, and my answers to this problem have so far come in the form of Snowflake, AZ, and more recently, the novella, Wrath. I want to continue to explore these matters and am fortunate to have just signed a contract in the last few weeks for a duology in which I will try to explore these questions from within a fantasy landscape, as well as using the books to study the notion of transgenerational trauma, both on an individual and a global level.
So that’s what I’m working on now, bit by bit, steadily trying to do my planning thing, or some version of it, and a day feels okay if I manage to add one more building block to the plan, and it does not feel okay if I don’t. My mood suffers. I am not alone in this – almost every writer I know tells me that they are happier when they are working; their mood can drop if they are not. I’ve never questioned too closely why this is; I think I have just always suspected that the drive to write is such a deeply-ingrained thing in those of us that have it that it must surely ben connected to profound subconscious motivations and mechanisms, and I believe these are very often born of trauma.
The connection between writing and trauma is explicit to me now, as is a third thing which forms a triangle with these first two; illness. This is why I have created a course online for Arvon that I will be running this month with psychotherapist Louise Kenward – we both have a fascination with and personal experience of the ways to write through an ailing body, and I am hopeful that the week we will deliver online will be of succour to some people.
Meanwhile, I try to work on my own things in the mornings in my writing shed. The afternoons are too hot; the shed becomes a sauna, and it is then time to lie in the shade, or the cool of the house, till the heat drops. As evening comes on, I sometimes drift like smoke into the garden, secateurs in hand, and do a little pruning. With the world burning around us, all can seem lost, and yet, there must always be a way to go on, as long as we can. As Voltaire wrote at the end of Candide: il faut cultiver le jardin… People have argued about what he meant precisely – was he speaking figuratively about our private gardens, or our global responsibilities? Or was he speaking literally? It’s this final interpretation that I hold to, for now, in my somewhat cooler evenings, and in the mornings, before the heat becomes too much, I will cultivate my garden of words as best I can.
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Author Marcus Sedgwick is 2022 Novel Writer-in-Residence for the Hub, WriteMentor’s community learning platform that connects like-minded storytellers and provides all the tools they need for writing success.
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