Saturday, May 23, 2020

Coronavirus delays

It will be obvious by now that my novel, Astral Travel, which was due in early spring, has been delayed as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. My publisher Salt predicted rightly that bookshops would close, supply chains break down and sales of books would drop just as we would have been trying to launch the book into the world, and made the quick early decision to postpone their spring/summer list. I'm grateful for their perspicacity and even more grateful that they've now received an ACE grant to help them over the crisis and enable them to go ahead with the list they had planned for spring and summer.

I don't think it's just that that has given me a sense of arrest and has created in me a complete creative stalling. I read that it's not just me who can't write in this situation - other writers seem to be suffering just the same thing. I've thought long and hard about why this should be - after all, lockdown, you might think, is the perfect opportunity to get down to it: all the quietness and lack of distraction that you normally fight for to be able to carve time and headspace as a writer. But there is distraction, after all: plenty of it. In fact, there's so much to think about - making sure you don't stand too close to others, disinfecting or quarantining your shopping, watching all the time what you touch and washing your hands, worrying about your elderly relatives. You have to be on the alert for your environment, you can't just ignore it and live in your head, your day-dream world which is the psychological state that I at any rate need for writing. And it seems to me too that we're undergoing a huge psychological shift in our alignment to the world around us, a shift that is still in flux, and to write, for me, you need to feel pretty sure of your relationship with world, at least for the duration of a project. And we can't know what kind of future, and therefore what context,  you'd be writing into. It's made me realise that when I write I have a definite sense of the society I'm writing into and speaking to: its assumptions and prejudices and contradictions. But will those be different in our post-lockdown or post-coronavirus future, as some hope? Maybe they won't, maybe we'll go back quickly to our old commercial, polluting ways. But to write I need to feel I have a good grasp of at least some aspect of the world, and right now most of it seems so uncertain.

Still, I'm lucky enough to have a garden to tend, and I'm watching the birds nesting in our bushes. There's nothing better to make you feel hope and a sense of things moving forward after all than the sight of blackbirds, goldfinch and sparrows going about as usual tending their nests and their young.

Not a very good photo: he came right up to my chair but I didn't catch him before he hopped off.