I’m at that point of the year where I do have editing to do and I do have deadlines, but they are not urgent, and deadlines are far off. I have new projects I need to start, and long term plans to make, and short term things like paying bills and supporting various members of my family are always there, but there is also a curious sense of waiting.
I think I need to check my voice. I’ve always sung a great deal, and have sung in public, but I haven’t been able to sing much for the last few years and my actual voice needs help – over the years a combination of bad technique and stress being a carer has put a big strain on it, and it just doesn’t have the power or range it used to have. One of my resolutions when I next get paid is to have a couple of singing lessons. I so enjoyed singing again for ‘The Fairiest Fairy’ launch and I want to be able to sing properly again. But I think I also need to keep checking my writing voice. I know that if I am to write authentic things I need to be in touch with a deeper reality than my social media profile or twitter persona. I love twitter in so many ways, but it can be overwhelming. Terrifying facts like the number of refugees in the world is one reflection of reality, and I need to be quiet offline to take that in and still feel that my one individual voice is worth bothering about.
Really, in one way to assert that my individual writing voice is worth bothering about, in the light of so much human suffering, could be seen to be an act of unbearable arrogance – but yet I know that my individual voice is vitally important to me as a writer. I know that I am terribly grateful to those writers and artists who have true voices – they add so much Joy to the world. My own reality check is that I believe in a ‘Higher Power’ – God who is Love. Part of me having an authentic writing voice is not to be afraid of saying that. That is my own deepest reality. I believe in a God who loves each individual, and can be found in each person, religious or not, and who ultimately brings all things and people to good. It is hard to remember this reality sometimes when you see not only the heart breaking statistics about human suffering in the world, but the petty meannesses on twitter.
I found the way everyone leapt on the writer Matt Haig when he said he felt himself to be a feminist and wanted to write about masculinity to be very depressing. Why not let him say what he was going to say and THEN comment on the resulting book? He has proved himself already to have a wonderful, sensitive, authentic, individual voice – how can people want to silence him before he has even written anything, before he has been given a chance to define his terms? It’s like burning books before they are even written. Even some of the the nicest people seemed to feel it was OK to be some sort of thought police and pre-judge his worthiness to write about something on his own. I found it really frightening. Writers like Matt Haig are precious – he is extremely sensitive and gifted – give him space to write something real and authentic. It will be a gift for the world. I actually don’t think that he will write anything ‘wrong’ – I can’t imagine such a sensitive man writing anything crass – but it won’t be the end of the world if he does. Write your own take on it if you feel strongly about the subject – there is room for many voices in this world. Otherwise are we saying we must have books by committee, or that writers need to be chaperoned? How can this help Truth and Authenticity? Where is our tolerance of debate? Where is our tolerance full stop?
The frequent witch hunts and hate filled tweets on twitter can make it a depressing place to be sometimes. It can seem a scary place to be authentic and real. I think our lives are a process of BECOMING more authentic and real – I believe it is a process which doesn’t happen overnight and it is something which we have to try afresh to be every day. I don’t even think we can do it on our own – it is only by surrounding ourselves with goodness and kindness and truth and by being in the presence of the source of all goodness that we can become part of it – dwelling on the negative can’t help. Life is complicated and muddled and we inevitably get things wrong, but we still need to try. We need to give ourselves and others space to formulate theories, discuss beliefs, even, horror of horrors, change our minds sometimes. I love the writer Thomas Merton because if you read his books on religion and prayer and Catholicism you can see how he changes over the years – by the end of his life in his later writings and in his life he became very open to and knowledgeable about other religions – but his first books were much more wary of them. I think that’s a sign that he was really authentic in striving after truth. I expect that some of the opinions I hold now will have changed in a few years – hopefully through reflection and honest debate – but certainly not through being condemned or hounded or shamed.
Luckily, life is not twitter, and all around me offline is evidence of beauty and kindness as well as tragedy and suffering. In my own village there are enough stories to fill a thousand books. And twitter can also be full of love and funniness and encouragement and the Holy Spirit of love, and there are some wonderful people on it who are full of goodness as they tweet, not just about social justice and helping others, but also about biscuits and illustrations and funny pictures. Here are some words about what accompanies the presence of ultimate reality – they are from the New Testament of the bible but I think they have psychological truth even if you are not a Christian, and I think they are good tests for twitter and social media. Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I think my own reality check today is to think about – no – let me be truthful – to sit and pray about these words, in the presence of the God I believe in and who knows I am not as nice or truthful or as authentic as I present myself to be on twitter – but who still loves me and every single other person in the world. God knows how!