Politics and Brexit and writing

We’re in a cauldron of hot pickle, aren’t we.

I can hardly think of anything else, day in, day out. I barely do any writing any longer — just bits at the weekend, on the whole, while during the week I do the mechanical things … invoicing that, printing this, responding to queries, updating blog posts, social media. There’s this low-level underlying stress which simmers daily and is my new normality. Heartburn too.

Image by Elionas2 from Pixabay

We can’t yet know the full extent of the damage upon the country and its people because of the Brexit crisis, and there is more to come. While I don’t wish to diminish the grim difficulties that our businesses, economy and society look set to face, here I really am interested in knowing how this is affecting writers.

Is it affecting you? It’s affecting me. I’m not really being a writer. I’m basically being a worrier, a fearer, a dreader. I’m doing the minimum I need to do to get by. I’m not pitching. I’m making do with rolling projects, and forcing myself to do something only when something needs doing. I can barely bring myself to open my BIPs (Books In Progress) (Is a BIP a thing? It should be).

I always swore to myself that I’d ignore politics on social media and remain on-topic, but lately I lapsed. I found myself reacting to two people: A Brexiteer who made a point so misinformed that the breeze from my eye-roll alone carried enough wind power to unilaterally activate the ‘Unfollow’ button; and a Remainer who Would Not Stop Tweeting at people reasons why we should remain that I simply couldn’t bear witness another word of it, and my bond with her was similarly revoked in a flash.

I hate that it’s done this to me, but it has.

I also find myself itching to take some sort of a stand when it comes to certain publications, and the writers who contribute to them, many of whom I follow. As a broadly liberal social democrat, I find the headlines and content we’ve seen in the likes of the Sun, the Express, the Spectator, and others, to be grim.

Do I stop reading them permanently? Do I unfollow them? Should I refuse to feature opportunities (eg a writing competition, as I have with the Spectator in the past) should the situation arise? Should I vouch to never work for them, or the publishers who publish these titles, or the editors who edit them?

Where does one draw the line, now that I’m determined that lines must be drawn? How much can you let politics infringe on your work and career and professional relationships? Do I leave the NUJ because Sun journalists are members? Do I refuse to sell my books on Amazon because Amazon sells books of which I do not approve? Who and what to boycott — and to what degree?

I find myself struggling with this, and it’s all mixed in with a general sense of disillusionment at the sorry state of journalism which I think is best exemplified by the BBC, who I think has done a woeful job over the last few years at conveying the meaning of the EU and of Brexit to its viewers, and has given a platform to extreme views, thereby normalising them. Despite having some great journalists, they’ve been rubbish.

And naturally that means I’m also reconsidering my TV license. More stress, more heartburn.

Previously, I told you to write about Brexit. And I did it again a year later. I tried to sell it as an opportunity. Go find a Nigel vasectomy story, I said. And now, I would seriously contemplate deleting those two posts would it not result in a buggering up of my Mistakes numbering system that I wouldn’t be able to remedy right now because ….

Well, because I’m just not doing any writing.

Except this. I’ve managed to do this. It was either this or listen to the Prime Minister, and I chose this.

Now, I’ll no doubt be going back to not writing.

I hope my regular readers are faring better?

Comments 18

  • I made a rule not to respond in writing to social media posts (I might ‘like’ or be ‘angry’ with a post, but I won’t comment on it.) So far I’ve succeeded with that rule. (But my growing frustration is making this challenging!)

    At first, I felt I was benefitting from all the kerfuffle. I was doing some editing work for an American company, so being paid in dollars with a falling pound (falling because of the Brexit uncertainty) actually benefitted me, because those dollars bought more pounds.

    I’m throwing myself into my books at the moment (the next novel for the agent, and developing updates to a couple of my others). I can’t say Brexit is stopping me from writing, but it’s now beginning to concern me what a No Deal Brexit could do. (Businesses knocked financially could mean reduced advertising in magazines, thereby less money for magazines to pay writers for articles – might book publishers tighten their belts and cut back on commissions?)

    Of course, the other aspect is that last month was that month when I became another year older, as as I get older I don’t like change, so Brexit is really doing my head in from that perspective .

    • The ageing issue is also interesting, and depressing, for me, because I’ve now come to believe that I may not get to ‘escape’ Brexit in my lifetime. It’s going to impact us for a generation, and it’s roughly a generation I have left. And yes … ‘doing my head in’ is the appropriate phrase. I’m glad it’s not affected your writing, though, Simon. I just feel permanently distracted and fretful about it, but need to learn to switch off, concentrate, and get down to it …

  • I’m fed up with it too, especially the nastiness on social media.

    From time to time I’ve lost my writing mojo, so I usually take myself to one side and try to brainstorm ways of re-inventing my writing self. Only this evening, I decided I’m going to get out and about to writing related events where they sell gin! Mingle with other writers and also attend some workshops to feed my writers soul.

    Seriously, I’m also going to try my hand at the short story comps, as well as attempting to write comedy, which will be a major challenge for me! I may well use some of the ridiculous things I’ve seen in the media of late. A general ‘piss take’ all round in other words.

    P.S. I unfollowed three writers due to their unkind words – it upset me so much, I struggled to come to terms with it. Then I came across Morning Pages. I did 60 days at the beginning of Brexit, and I’m currently on day fifty-something of my second sitting of Julia Cameron’s stream of consciousness writing. It’s magical, it changes you, and strange things start to happen all around you. I can’t fully explain it but it certainly helps you get things off your chest. Take a look Alex, maybe it will help you too.

    • Do they allow you to take guests at these gin places, Maria? …. What a great attitude you have. Morning Pages have been mentioned to me by a few writers now, so I will look into it seriously. I think I’ve been reluctant because of a sense it’s more for fiction writers than non-, and because it doesn’t sound as if it’s really ‘me’, but maybe it’s time I set both those ideas aside … Thank you.

  • I’m trying really hard not to respond to any political stuff on social media, mostly because I don’t think it does any good. There’s so much mis-information, speculation, scaremongering and general horribleness that everything else either gets lost or twisted or used to fuel another fire.

    • Exactly that. Moderate temperate voices stay silent – or at least aren’t heard – because it’s ‘dull’ and gets drowned in the outrage and mud-slinging. It’s the latter which makes the ‘news’ and sadly media have reflected that.

  • Alex, Maria beat me to it – I was also going to recommend Morning Pages. It really doesn’t matter what kind of writer you are because it’s the process rather than what you write, that matters. Think of it as a 25 minute (that’s how long it takes me), ‘writerly meditation’. You just write down anything in a stream-of-conscious way and don’t stop until you’ve done 3 pages of A4. It’s a dumping ground for all your concerns, worries, or even ideas for articles or stories or blog posts (if I write anything that I might want to use later, I put a big asterix next to it in the margin). You’re not supposed to read them back for a few weeks, though. I’ve got pads filled with my MPs that are 2 or 3 years old. I’m sure if/when I read them through, I’ll capture some writing ideas – but the main point is to clear your head. You need to do them religiously and for a couple of weeks at least, before you will start to see an effect but it’s definitely worth a try. If I’m feeling anxious and permanently distracted by the ‘outside world’, I can usually get myself back on track by doing Morning Pages again. Give it a go – let us know how you get on! (btw, I have muted the words Brexit, Brexiteer and Trump from my Twitter feed and it’s a lot less stressy to read now!)

    • I love your muting strategy! You are very wise. I will try. Does it need to be by hand? RSI means I can only type, which is faster, but unsure whether it ‘works’ as well or whether MPs are meant to be handwritten?

      • Alex – sorry for the delay in responding. You are supposed to do them by hand but I’m sure you could be excused and ‘allowed’ to do them on a keyboard. The reason for doing them by hand is that it’s slower and therefore more mindful/thoughtful (I think that’s right), so perhaps, if you are a fast typist (can you touch type?) then deliberately try to slow yourself down a bit? Give it a go, anyway. Just resist the urge to read through yesterday’s – and even today’s outpourings (don’t re-read for a few weeks, at least). Let us know how you get on! (and PS: it goes without saying, that your MPs are for your eyes only. That way, you won’t censor yourself). Good luck!

  • Well, I’m a fiction writer, however there is very little fiction in my morning pages. It’s very much me telling it how it is…getting rid of the angst, and talking stuff through with myself.

    Getting it done early sets me up for the day, although sometimes like today, I’ve only just done mine as I had to hit the ground running this morning.

    Please do give it a go, stick with it and be amazed by the stuff that starts to happen. Do also do the artists dates, which are nothing to do with art, unless you want them to be of course.

    And, yes drinking gin is far more fun with a gaggle of writerly folk. Perhaps we should organise a #writingchat outing. It has been muted before.

    • Artists dates sound fun! But perhaps one thing at a time … Thank you, Maria. I feel much better, and I’ve not started yet!

  • I am now an angry old man, I was once an angry young man and the bit in between was sometimes a bit grumpy but not ever so. Since 1979 I have seen my country deteriorate and it upsets me, yes I can pinpoint the start of its decline from that date. I know at some point the rot will stop and there will be enough people, with enough intelligence, sanity and compassion to put a stop to the stupidity and put things back together. History indicates that is what happens.
    In the meantime write, paint pictures with your words, write of how you want things to be, reach for the stars. You might not get all the way to the stars there but it will get you out of the mud.

    • Let’s hope we’ll still get to see that reversal, Philip, because I fear it could take decades …. But I love the idea of creativity as a means to leave the mud behind!

  • Hi Alex – Brexit has really stifled my writing, for many of the reasons you mention. It’s hard to be creative when the mind is constantly trying to resolve an issue it has no power over. I’ve watched, practically everything possible on Brexit, parliament TV is the daily watch. I email MPs and sign up to petitions. I find it hard to believe, or accept, that the country seems to be going backwards, wishing to be exclusive rather than inclusive. Programmes and commentary relating to Brexit have taken over everything. I’m angry, yet I’m sad, so sad. I don’t like too much change either, especially change, which, in my view, will to be for the benefit of anyone except maybe the very rich. It helps to know that I am not alone. Thanks for sharing. Kate Hogan

    • Hi Kate – that’s very sad and moving to read. Coming back to this a few months on now .. and while I’ve managed to get bits done in flurries of productivity, those have been few and far between, and my underlying feeling precisely mirrors yours. Upstream a few kind writers, Maria and Helen, suggested MPs (of a non-political kind!) and although I’ve had a false/non start with them, I feel moved to consider them again. Perhaps they may be worth a try for you too? Stay well. All the best, Alex

  • Whether you’re a leaver or a remainer, after 3 years, I think the general public now are truly sick and fed- up of it!
    The media/ news is dominated by it, and it’s endless pointless commentary and speculation. This is why I don’t follow politics lovers on SM.
    I realise it can be a worrying time for some, but it hasn’t affected my writing, thank goodness.
    Well, I won’t allow it to.
    All I can say is this – David Cameron has got a lot to answer for! He has tried answering – but in reality, it was a just ploy to help sell his book!
    I fear another GE won’t solve the problem – especially if it results in yet another hung parliament.

    • Great attitude. Maybe that’s the spirit we all need to try to take on board – ‘I won’t allow it to’. I might try it! – especially as we’re likely to have this for years and years to come …

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