I’m constantly thinking of topics I must blog about. Sensible topics, which will be instructional, functional, knowledge-enhancing; the growing toolkit into which you will be able to delve as writers. ‘Ah, here’s just what I need,’ you’ll say – ‘a leaf blower, a power-saw.’ (You’ll understand, of course, that I’m talking in metaphors here.)
And then, just as I’m mentally constructing my utilitarian piece of prose – a cool dissection of royalty rates; an exposition on ‘out of print’ clauses; an exegesis on the perfect opening line to a novel – something will happen to throw me right off and I’ll find myself with a heart chock full of something quite different.
And that’s where I am today – this brilliant, rip-roaring, sky-blue Fall afternoon. The crisp golden leaves crunch like cookies under my boots, and shafts of lemon light strew themselves across the dust-haven of my desk. No one would be in their office right now unless they were certifiably insane. (Or a literary agent.) It’s a day to crunch sharp apples, kick acorns for the sheer hell of it, and run whooping through banks of fallen leaves, a crazy dog at your heels.
Today is a day of glory – and it’s a day of deep black. It’s a day when I put my head in my hands because of what’s been in my newspaper this week; because of the complicated, unpredictable, confusing, unfair, infuriating mess of life on earth. I could say a million things about politics, religion, money, bigotry, cruelty, stupidity and much more, but of course I won’t. Because that is not what the Greenhouse is about, and the last thing the world needs is another pundit.
So I shall say it the best way I can. Who out there can write me a novel – a big, clever, glorious, stylish novel – which will speak to me, and the millions of young people who surely must long to leap onto a life raft and paddle away to another planet? A novel with big ideas rendered in an accessible way; a layered story that asks the big questions of life and philosophy; a story that can make us laugh and cry; make us feel and sense and bear to live with the human conundrum. I know it’s out there somewhere, and I long to represent it in all its daring beauty.
In Britain this week a girl went to prison because she smashed into, and killed, another girl – while texting. But hey, the dead girl had been texting too. (If only good and bad, right and wrong, were as clear as we used to find them.) In the USA thirteen people died in a storm of bullets – and the ramifications will be huge. Afghanistan is a giant, whopping muddle. The massive new house down the road, a masterpiece of ostentation, is weed strewn and apparently vacant –can it really have been repossessed just months after being occupied? And so the list of dreary confusion, the secret stories of shame and loneliness and failure, continues.
The world is awash with blathering blogs, advice, chatter, criticism – and a fair bit of vile, spewing, self-righteous hatred.
So what might we writers do? The pen is mightier than the sword. Skip that – the world of ideas is mightier than the darkness. Compassion, creativity, insight are our candlelight. Because the Word is – has always has been – the light in that darkness.