Tip-toe­ing through the res­o­lu­tion mine­field

Sackville Tribune - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 36 Saltwire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell. wanger­[email protected]­gram.com — Twit­ter: @ wanger­sky.

Oh, it’s res­o­lu­tion time again — and I’m hor­ri­ble at res­o­lu­tions.

I re­sist temp­ta­tion fine in the morn­ing when I’m shav­ing, be­cause I’m only just awake, but it’s pretty much down­hill ev­ery pass­ing minute af­ter that. As Os­car Wilde wrote in “Lady Win­der­mere’s Fan,” I’m afraid that “I can re­sist any­thing ex­cept temp­ta­tion.”

I have a beer glass with that quo­ta­tion on it, and the irony does not es­cape me: the glass gets a wry smile from me ev­ery time. I pour any­way.

So, ev­ery year and some­times through­out the year, I make res­o­lu­tions. I make them qui­etly and tell no one, to save my­self the em­bar­rass­ment of fail­ing. To live a healthy life: to ex­er­cise more: to be a bet­ter per­son. This year, I’m just go­ing to try and be hon­est.

Th­ese are dan­ger­ous times for hon­est writ­ers, both in jour­nal- ism and in lit­er­ary writ­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, I do both. Dan­ger­ous times, be­cause, right now, many peo­ple are read­ing less and less, and among those who do still read, there are an in­or­di­nate num­ber of peo­ple jock­ey­ing to be writ­ers them­selves. (Fights get more and more vi­cious as the re­turns di­min­ish — po­ets, for ex­am­ple, are well fa­mil­iar with the con­cept of hav­ing the many fight­ing so hard for so lit­tle.)

That jock­ey­ing takes many forms, ev­ery­thing from so­cial me­dia pile-ons to pub­lish­ers who scram­ble des­per­ately to find the lat­est ac­cept­able au­thors.

As a writer, you get gun-shy even­tu­ally: I’ve heard a lot of other writ­ers who over-think ev­ery sin­gle step they take now to con­sider who will be of­fended; they use their imag­i­na­tions not to cre­ate, but to try and fig­ure out who will tee off on them for dar­ing to let their imag­i­na­tions run, for that curse of dar­ing to imag­ine at all.

The new mantra is that you have no right to imag­ine; you must own the ex­pe­ri­ence you write about.

What a de­light­ful bor­ing read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that would cre­ate for me: stay tuned for my short­story col­lec­tion in­clud­ing the story “Dis­ap­point­ment,” in which a char­ac­ter ex­actly like me goes to a gro­cery store ex­actly like the one I go to, buys broc­coli to cook for sup­per just like I do, and is sad­dened by the fact that, once brought home, the broc­coli flo­rets in­evitably have started their gen­tle turn to stink­ing slimy ooze. Or maybe a story about snow-blow­ing the side­walk. Oh wait, I’ve al­ready done that one.

(One small point: if you write only what you have lived, is fic­tion still fic­tion? Or are we all re­quired to write only our own au­to­bi­ogra­phies?)

Here’s an­other quote I’m fond of: Grou­cho Marx’s “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a mem­ber.”

I’m a writer. Noth­ing else. It’s what I do. The vast ma­jor­ity of that writ­ing is done alone, of­ten in the dark. I have ex­cel­lent friends who are writ­ers, but I’m not part of a com­mu­nity of writ­ers, nor am I ever likely to be. I am not sure there’s any such thing as the writ­ing com­mu­nity. The few writ­ers I’m in con­tact with on a reg­u­lar ba­sis are peo­ple I like as peo­ple: that they’re writ­ers is just chance and good for­tune; like the com­mu­nity of brick­lay­ers, we have sim­i­lar aches and pains.

I look back at work I did be­fore I spent time wor­ry­ing about what other peo­ple thought of what I was try­ing to do, and the sim­ple fact is that it was bet­ter. It was bet­ter, more in­ter­est­ing, more in­ven­tive work. I want to get back to that point: I want to be in­ven­tive and colour­ful and un­afraid.

No punches pulled, no words self-edited. To do any­thing else, re­ally, would be to live a lie.

It’s a res­o­lu­tion I hope to keep. In the world we live in now, it might well be a ca­reer-end­ing one.

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