What are you adding to the conversation?

Is writing anything in this day and age stupid?

As I’m working through my current WIP and working on shorter things I’m plagued by this question:

What’s the point really?

It feels like every day there’s a new piece of bad news. It feels like every day another writer (usually, but not always, a white cis man, like myself) is outed as being a creep or a literal cartoon villain.

And I’m not normally one to give into despair – my actual day-to-day life is pretty great – but, still…

Last weekend I took part in an online class with Benjamin Percy on the writing of comics. He talked about the structure and “story math” of comics and how they can be applied to writing novels, short stories, and even memoir.

The whole four-hour class was a blast and I learned a lot and have revisited my extensive notes again and again over the past few days. He’s got a lot to impart to writers because he can do the genre thing but also the “literary” thing. The kind of shuffle I wish I could pull off.

However, one thing he said towards the end caught my attention.

“What do you have to add to the conversation?”

It’s such a simple question but one I’ve probably only briefly considered: Why me? Why now?

He said he’d been asking himself in recent months, what, if anything, was his art bringing to the table? Is it just a mirror regurgitation of things he consumed and enjoyed?

I realised that it resonated with me because I’ve been wondering the same thing.

Three months ago, I said on here that I was going to make my work as personal and strange as can be. That I wanted to burrow into what, hopefully, makes my worldview unique. And then I have to spotlight my work and say, is that what I’m doing?

Now is a good time as any to remind myself that I should be working harder to do that.

It’s still in an early drafting stage so everything can change but I want to write things that feel true and that genuinely interest me.

So here’s me re-upping on that promise, mostly to myself.

Related, but maybe not, I keep having this image in my head…

An empty town. Burnt out cars. Windowless buildings. Cobalt sky with streaks of white. Warm, sickly winds that taste… wrong. Here and there, flickering lights of small communities huddled together.

And beneath an overturned, slightly crushed car, is a figure, silhouetted by a torch rigged to hang from a headrest.

The figure is hunched over, furiously scribbling on something. The hand they’re using to steady the page is wrapped, bandaged, with a discoloured shirt. In their other hand, they clutch an orange crayon and scribble in the margins and faded yellow spaces left on old newspapers and books. Paper, when they can find it. The inside of the car is filled with these scribblings.

But what would worth writing in the midst of a wasteland?

I like to imagine it’s a play.

Something that people could come together perform one day. If the author doesn’t screw it up or ruin the last section. If they don’t run out of paper. If they can only get it just right.

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