A Year On

 JpegSarah Lundberg

It has been a year today (July 25th 2014) since Sarah Lundberg ended her own life. Distressingly there has still not been an inquest, and so the full details of what happened on that day have not emerged. On a more positive note several memorial services are occurring today, some of whom I have been invited to. I decided not to attend, basically because I prefer to remember her in my own way, as I have by habit done with other friends and loved ones I have lost through the years. Friends have warned me repeatedly about the necessity of taking it easy, especially today. To be frank, I am not worried. These last weeks have been particularly difficult, and I know I have not been myself (apologies to loved ones and friends for being so difficult and thanks for your patience). I expected it, accept it and know that like all things, it will pass. Patience and taking a broad perspective on things is one of the few things learned from living past one half of a century, at least for me.

When someone close to you completes suicide, there is a sense of feeling haunted, a sense that the tremendous potential of that person’s life has not been achieved, and as such their presence lingers. I know I have felt it. It’s as though one will be forever left at that moment of loss, and to move past it seems impossible. You do move past it. You really do learn how to move on and you learn how to forgive the past. But you also get flashbacks, images, at the most unexpected moments, a sense of overwhelming sadness suffusing the happiest of times, and a level of anger and resentment at what happened that surprised me.

And then there are questions. The inevitable unanswerable questions as to why, what motivated such a terrible act of self-destruction is also something that haunts one. And despite all the talking and speculation and reading aside, it’s simply the wrong question. Suicide of someone close to you is a situation where no actual answers will ever take away either the shock and pain of what happened that day 365 days ago. The truth, and I knew Sarah better than anyone, is that she was one of the most malice free people I ever knew. You knew where you stood with her, than though she had many faults as we all do, she knew how to never hold a grudge. If she were here now she would want me to move on. And this is what I do every day, and though its immensely difficult, I can feel my old self returning.

I am not a religious person. I was once upon a time. But that was a long, long time ago now. If I were religious, I would probably agree with a friend who commented that he now knows Sarah is in a better place. She struggled against nearly impossible odds. She achieved so much and yet I often think had she lived there was so much more for her to do. I often imagine what she would have done had she lived, the new writers she would have published, the new books she would have written, the dozen or so Bob Dylan concerts she would have gone to, the animals she would have rescued, the countless kindnesses she would have given to so any people. She had a huge heart.Photo0058

The second picture I have chosen for this blog post is probably an odd one for such a sad occasion. I saw it as I was packing stuff away and immediately remembered the exact location, one of those moments of sensory immersion, almost Proustian in its intensity. For some reason I don’t really care about right now, I thought a picture of us doing something as pedestrian as shopping seemed right, as so much of our life together wasn’t taken up with big books and literary readings, but was taken up with doing little things. I remember this day back in the nineties. This photo was snapped by a friend as we came out of Tesco’s. I remember I was worried about our dogs being left alone at home and if I had left my office door open and if my pages and stuff were okay. I needn’t have worried. For once our pets were well-behaved. Everything was fine.

On Not Having a Clue What to Write

 Getting Stuck – Writers Block

As life is pretty complex, as there is an infinity of time and space out there, as there are billions of events happening out there in time and space, as it is close to impossible to actually comprehend the sheer vastness of what is beyond the stratosphere of our small planet, as we are still learning and therefore continue to make determinations about the Earth, other planets, the stars and galaxies and about the universe, there is always, always, something to write about. The truth is every writer, no matter how great the talent that writer has, has to realize that, in the words of Fight Club’s Tyler Durden “you have to give up, you have to realize that one day you will die”. In other words it is impossible to express reality, it’s impossible to describe how it is. Why? Because information is infinite. And we are very finite. If I accept this, the question has to be asked. Why do writers get blocked? What happens when I sit down and find I have nothing to say? There are many reasons why this happens to a writer. Here are two:

1. A personal upheaval. Writing requires a certain rhythm and predictability of lifestyle in order for one to complete big projects. Huge emotional crises, though they might give grist to the mill of creativity down the line, take up vast amounts of emotional and psychic energy and can cause one to shut down for a while, mainly as a form of self-protection more than anything else. Probably one of the the greatest rookie mistakes is the young writer seeking what is loosely called ‘experience’ in order to write. In other words – going out to expose themselves to life’s vicissitudes for the purposes of being able to write something of substance before perhaps many of them are ready. This has the unfortunate effect of triggering the above mentioned upheaval and sometimes depressive episodes.
That being said in the great scheme of things, personal upheavals are impossible to avoid and sometimes not always for the worst in life. One thing is important. A writer has to carry on writing, even in the midst of a chaos he or she did not cause or did not expect. A journal or notebook might be the answer to these times. Keep talking to oneself. The big project might have to wait a while.

2. A death in one’s style. This is a serious crisis in the life of a writer. They become disenchanted with their own writing, and consequently cannot continue. It may lead to upheaval as in (1) or cause them to stop writing. Style is broadly speaking how a writer uses words. Specifically it is the manifestation of the writer’s worldview in words. In a writers style one hears his or her voice. A writers voice is that note of individuality that no one will find anywhere else. This is why for instance the same story is told over and over for millennia and it never gets old. There are a couple of reasons for this, all allied to style. Firstly that there is an infinity of perspectives and secondly every writer tells a story differently. For instance – Joyce’s Ulysses is basically a day in the life of an ordinary guy in Dublin. Yet as it comes from such a unique voice as Joyce, it is extraterrestrially brilliant. Joyce, because he never stopped experimenting and developing his style, he never became disenchanted with writing. In order to prevent the death of one’s style a writer must not (a) sell out – become that kind of literary butler who writes for a pay check (b) become lazy – churn out the same kind of book year after year simply because it is easy to do so or (c) become proud – think she is too gifted and accomplished for criticism. Ego is the destruction of more talents than one can shake a stick at.

3. It’s no longer fun. If the joy goes out of writing it’s time to stop and think about doing something else. Writing is too difficult an art and a craft to pursue without loving what one does. If a writer has a real powerful gift, that gift is its own reward. If one does it for the money, one will be disappointed. If one does it for the fame and adulation, one will be very disappointed. If one does it for the love of it, it never gets old and the fun never goes.

And Just for fun lets hear it for Tyler Durden