New Year’s Thoughts

I haven’t blogged in a long time, mostly because I haven’t had any significant writing news. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing. I am now busy editing my second novel. I think that’s going ok, but what do I know?

As always, I’ve enjoyed reading lots of great books. No day ever goes by for me without literature. It is my most dependable companion. Literature allows me to step into other people’s lives and have my own reflected back at me. It provides escapism, but it also reminds me of what’s important and how ephemeral it all is.

Platitudes abound at this time of year but mostly they’re not very helpful. I get really tired of hearing phrases like, ‘seize the day,’ and ‘you only live once,’ and ‘make the most of every moment.’ What does all that mean? It’s impossible to live life to the full all the time and it’s not helpful to be made to feel like a failure if you don’t. There should be plenty of latitude to be morose and bored and lost.

For me, a more useful maxim is ‘don’t sweat the small stuff.’ Of course, it’s impossible to adhere to this too. We all sweat the small stuff. This is the danger of human interaction: obsessing about stuff that doesn’t actually matter. Relationships can turn on such trivial and insignificant concerns. Two people can have very different interpretations of the same thing. We all have our own reality. This is one of the driving forces of conflict in fiction. So easy to recognise in others, not so easy to call to attention in ourselves.

Another common theme in fiction is the transience of life. ‘This too shall pass’ is a saying I’ve never really understood. To me, it’s always sounded like an inane, bland and somewhat negative take on life. It seems to say, nothing matters because you’re all going to die. But I’ve come to realise that it’s a more compassionate message than that. No matter how bad things are, they won’t stay that way. The same is true for good things – you can’t sustain them forever so don’t pin all your hopes and happiness onto a transient state. You cannot control life, but that doesn’t mean it has to control you.

Fiction often deals in make-believe, fantasy and heightened reality. But it can also encompass the ordinary, the quiet and the every day. While social media is obsessed with proving how exciting and extraordinary our lives are, when the chips are down, I’ve often longed for those normal, uneventful days when I can go about life without fuss or pain. I wouldn’t want it all the time, but sometimes I love waking up and thinking, today is an ordinary day.

Literature for me acts as a counterpoint to all the noise and the hype. Sometimes when someone tells me they’re upset, frustrated, depressed, or anxious, I feel like saying, why don’t you read a book? I don’t say it, because it sounds far too trite. Reading a book won’t solve your problems or reveal the meaning of life. But, if it’s a book worth reading, it will be an enriching experience. Rather than seize the day, or live life to the full, ‘read a book’ makes the most sense to me.

This post is dedicated to Alan Doyle, who set up and managed this website for me as a friend for free and who sadly passed away this month.

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8 Responses to New Year’s Thoughts

  1. Linda says:

    Most thought-provoking, Claudia. So sorry about Alan.

  2. Jan Hopper says:

    Just brilliant Claudia – you always manage to clarify my own thoughts in a way that I simply can’t…………….. maybe that’s what makes you a writer rather than me !

    And another thing………….. without contrasts (highs/lows etc) there would be no highs and lows (if that makes sense). We have to have contrasts in order to understand happiness/sadness anger/serenity etc.

    • claudia says:

      Thanks, Jan. I’m glad this resonates with you. I thought perhaps it was a bit gloomy as a new year’s missive but that’s not really how it’s meant to be read. Wishing you a 2018 where the highs outweigh the lows!

  3. Marina Sofia says:

    I’ve had a tough old 2017 (to follow a tough 2016 and 2014), but you are right: my consolation has been mainly of the bookish sort. And I don’t mean pure escapism. I’ve actually read quite a lot of dark and grim books. But it just helps to get out of my head into the heads of others.

    • claudia says:

      I agree, Marina. Sometimes when you’re feeling dark and grim those are the books you gravitate towards. The darker the better! I hope 2018 is an up year for you though – may you be reading comedy all the way!

  4. Lane says:

    Thanks, good to read. Wishing you lots of good things in 2018.

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