That scene in The Wizard of Oz where the farmhouse is spinning through the sepia-coloured sky (2:25 below). Dorothy lies concussed inside then wakes to look out the window and watch as surreal images float by. A knitting granny in a rocking chair waves and two men in a rowboat tip their caps. There’s a rooster and chickens, a bike and, of course, a witch.
“We must be up inside the cyclone,” Dorothy says to Toto.
The word “surreal” was the most searched-for word of 2016, according to Merriam-Webster (in The Guardian). (It was almost “fascism” but the American dictionary, savvy online child of the archaic Encyclopedia Britannica, took to social media and recommended people look up other words instead. So, in a sense, that vote was rigged.)
Surreal. As in – ‘this can’t be happening, but I think maybe it is.’
It’s been a bloody awful year for so many Earth dwellers. Bloody and awful. From the murderous rampages around the world, starting on January 1st, 2016, to the appalling surprises of Brexit and the election of the short-fingered Drumpf. From the deaths of so many beloved artists and icons (David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in one year?), to our own private, agonizing tragedies, 2016 was a pile-up.
It’s too big, too horrific. Too much. Way too much. What’s there to do but turn up the music, roll an almost-legal doobie, medical or otherwise, pour double shots and toast the New World Disorder.
But that only takes care of New Year’s Eve.
When our hangovers (alcoholic and/or emotional) have abated, we must roll up our new-shirt sleeves. We are writers: we have work to do.
The pewter lining of entropy, as I see it, is that all bets are off. What you thought was real may not be. What you thought were your limitations, may not be. You could be wrong about a lot of things that you’ve been holding against yourself. And others.
It’s been a clusterfuck year but that doesn’t mean we shrug our shoulders and turn up Netflix. Okay, it does, but it can mean other things too.
Maybe you do have the inner grit to finish a writing project you started decades ago and still feel the tug of. Why haven’t you submitted an opinion piece to a newspaper, print or online? Don’t you have an opinion about something?
Maybe you actually can write a prose poem, or perform at a spoken word event. Or hire an editor for your novel draft. Or draft a novel. Or self-publish all those poems you’ve kept secret, then throw yourself a big launch party. On the new DescantOnline site I’ve compiled a shit-ton of resources for us so if you haven’t already, spend some time rummaging around in there, for information, inspiration or procrastination.
We’re all up inside the cyclone. Maybe concussed, maybe dreaming. The doors are swinging on their weakened hinges, the windows are blown out and we’re spinning. Out of control and into new, surreal territory. It ain’t Kansas. But that’s the good news.
What ridiculously “rational” logic are you still holding against yourself? What have you been convincing yourself you just cannot do, either at all, or anymore? (And just to clarify, I’m not talking about taking away human rights or responsibilities. Because now that needs clarifying.)
Gentle writer-reader, what are you waiting for?
In the fake-latin words my father carved into my cradle (I wasn’t in it at the time), Illegitimi non carborundum. But do let the bastards motivate you, in a surreal, inside-out kind of way.
I don’t have it in me to say “Happy” New Year after the almost 365 days we’ve had of 2016, though of course I wish it upon us all. Instead, here’s a few minutes of deep-down goodwill for you, care of Leonard Cohen, via KD Lang. Because whatever tears us apart, writing, music and twister-scale talent always bring us home.