O minions of darkness, let us consider our position. I am about to write a blog post. I live in Toronto. I have a well-documented tendency to begin a blog post by ruminating on some current event, and then to execute a hairpin bend into some literary topic, attempting to link the two in some way that probably makes sense only to me and to people on heavy medication.
All the day long, my computer machine has been lighting up like a radioactive Christmas tree. Everybody has been talking about a scandal which is mainly relevant to those of us in Toronto, though, judging from the state of the Internets, people around the world are tuning in.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Are you frightened? You should be.
It’s all right, though- you don’t need to assume crash positions; stop shrieking and clawing at your eyes. I am not going to blither on about Rob Ford.
Not because I am too classy for that. Heavens, no. I don’t suffer from any delectable degree of class. Pretty much I outsource all class-related activities to my sisters, who do it better.
But it’s become boring, hasn’t it? Like the eighth time that the leftovers from the Thanksgiving turkey are put out on the table, topped with the same withered parsley sprig. There’s only so many times you can get worked up on the same subject before you yawn and start playing with your phone.
All of which brings us to literature. (Hairpin bend into some literary topic that makes sense to only me and to people on heavy medication: #nailedit.)
I am a firm believer that you should write about what you find fantastically interesting and nothing else. We can’t expect anyone else to be interested in a book we’ve written unless we adore it ourselves- not to the point of losing all sense of proportion and self-critique, but enough to lavish care and attention upon it during its infancy, like a colicky babe, and to give it tough love when it is an unruly adolescent.
There’s never a reason to write a chapter that bores you. There’s never a reason to write a sentence that bores you. Not when anything, literally anything, could happen in your world at any moment. Even if your book has its feet firmly rooted in reality and you want to keep out robots, ray guns, and telepathic dinosaurs, you have the whole seething mass of the human mind to work with. Anyone can suddenly question everything that she knows. Anyone can suddenly find her entire world turned upside down. Anyone can be backed so far into a corner that she has to do things that break her heart. Anyone can have a terrible secret that she’s never ever told. (Perhaps she has been a robot all along.)
And yet it can be surprisingly difficult to wrap your mind around the notion that when you are writing, the pool of possibility has no bottom. Again and again, I catch myself glumly typing away at scenes I despise because they “have to happen” in order to “move the plot along”- as if the plot is some kind of great big iron crate which I must trundle in a wheelbarrow of exposition from one place to another. I have learned that if the only reason I’m writing a scene is because I think it has to be written, it will pretty much definitely turn out to be rubbish.
To counter this tendency, I’ve created an absolute rule for myself: If an idea makes me cackle with mad delight, it goes in, even if I have to make some major structural changes in order to get it into the story. I am not exaggerating when I say I have rewritten characters’ entire destinies to justify a pun or a sarcastic remark. Maybe my efforts in this area go a little too far, but the thing is, if I’m having fun, probably someone else is too.
Think about your aunt- you know the one I mean. The one who took you to the book shop or the ice cream parlour or the art store or the candy store for your birthday. She steered you towards the goods- the bright rainbow rows of detective novels and adventure stories, or hazelnut gelato and rocky road, or fat tubes of acrylic paint, or jars of caramels and jellybeans- and she said the magic words, “Pick anything you want.”
Writing has its headaches, but it’s the time when you get to be a kid in front of the ice cream counter (the smell of waffle cones and melting chocolate) with absolutely nothing forbidden. Yes, you can have four toppings. Yes, you can have six. Yes, the ice cream can turn out to have been a robot all along.
So you see, I just can’t be bothered with Rob Ford right now. Unless he is a telepathic dinosaur in disguise.