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When the irrelevant becomes relevant

When I first started toying with the idea of maintaining a blog, I had this vision of a two-way communication with the world. People, I thought, would read and enjoy and occasionally leave a comment that would confirm they’d seen me, heard me. And boy, doesn’t that make me sound needy? Maybe I was.

These days, I mostly blog about historical people or events. The benefits are many: first of all, I just love diving into a research hole somewhere and spend hours reading up about things I knew little about to begin with. (At present, I am toying with the idea of reading up on the official Swedish censure laws of the 18th century – simply because I find it intriguing) ; secondly, writing about historical people makes things less personal. It is not my own beating heart I nail to a tree to be perused by the potential visitors to my blog, but that of someone who is long since reduced to dust in the wind. Thirdly, it means I leverage the research I do for my books and am able to include some discreet promo. Not that I do that often. Truth be told, I do it so rarely it probably shouldn’t count as a benefit.

Anyway: I have long since resigned myself to the fact that I blog (just as I write) because it satisfies a need in me, not because the world at large thirsts for my pearls of wisdom. To paraphrase Descartes, scribo, ergo sum. “I write, therefore I am”. IMO, it takes Descartes cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) a step further: writing requires more than just plain thinking. To properly write, one must sieve through all those thoughts, all those bursts of imaginations and distil reams and reams of words into sentences and dialogue, plot and characterisation. Or a little blog about the relevance of irrelevance…

By now, you’re wondering when I’m going to get to the point. “Why all this rambling?” you query. Because I can, dear peeps. But do not fear: I am making my circuitous way towards today’s theme.

Irrelevance 1280px-A_Lady_Writing_by_Johannes_Vermeer,_1665-6Writing of any kind with little interaction or feedback is similar to hiking up a mountain and shouting your name, only to hear it echo back at you—well, unless you’re a diarist. You reach a point where the effort feels a tad futile, no matter how delightful those hours spent down the rabbit hole of research. I began experiencing problems with my motivation late last year. Previous to that, I almost always had a blog post brewing, ensuring I could put something new up on a weekly basis. Still, I persevered, relying on discipline when inspiration failed. Problem with that is that writing is something I do for the sheer joy of it—I have plenty of must-do things in my life as it is and do not need to add to that burden.

I wasn’t only experiencing problems with my blog posts. My various WIPs (Works in Progress) no longer called out to me. My usually so voluble characters were mostly silent. Discipline, it would seem, had shackled Ms Inspiration, leading this flamboyant lady to disappear down her very own little rabbit hole somewhere in the depths of my brain. Gah!

And then came Corona…

Now, had I been into dystopian futuristic novels, the ongoing pandemic could have served as an inspiration. If nothing else, I could have used my writing to handle the anxiety the whole thing generated in me. I don’t write dystopian. I write historical and borderline paranormal contemporary with a heavy dose of love. Suddenly, my writing felt entirely irrelevant. I mean, who cares about events in the distant past when the present is drowning you in a cocktail of fear and incredulity? Because seriously, it was so totally unexpected—unless you are a dystopian fan—to watch the world as we know it more or less shut down because of a virus.

I no longer only suffered from a lack of motivation. I now struggled with the insight that what I wrote was irrelevant. In the context of what was happening around us, my books offered no insight, no comfort.

Labelling yourself as irrelevant is dispiriting. Rationally, it is a correct label. Most of us are irrelevant, making little or no waves in the fabric of the world around us. Rationally, it is also an incorrect label as to some other people we are relevant. To our families, our friends, we make a difference. But still…

So there I was, little irrelevant me. I couldn’t do anything about the Corona crisis. I deffo couldn’t do much about the (much, much more serious) climate crisis. Hey, I was even incapable of writing stuff that was relevant to our times, that sort of fit into the overall context of things. Let’s just say things were gloomy. Fortunately, there is always chocolate in moments like this.

Irrelevance Stone_Marcus_The_End_Of_The_StorySo I mooched about for a while. I drowned in reading totally irrelevant books featuring fantasy and love. It struck me halfway through one of those books that if I was finding relief from the scary present by deep diving into the world of make-believe, then maybe my books could offer a similar release to others desperate for some hours of sheer escapism. That cheered me up—so much, in fact, that I dusted off one of my WIPs. It is now blinking at me from my screen, a combined challenge and thrill. And guess what? When I slip away into the 13th century that too offers some moments of solace from the craziness that surrounds us. I emerge from both my reading and my writing reenergised, capable of coping. Ms Inspiration is back to whisper seductively in my ear. My characters are loud and voluble. My world—at least my imaginary world—has righted itself.

Maybe the answer is that simple: sometimes we need the irrelevance just to be able to cope with what is relevant. That is how the irrelevant becomes relevant.

And as to the irrelevance of me, as a person, well I patted myself on the back and said “suck it up, buttercup.” Because I am not alone in being irrelevant. Truth be told, close to 99% of the world’s population is irrelevant—which, in fact, makes the sum total VERY relevant!

17 thoughts on “When the irrelevant becomes relevant”

      1. Splendid article (as usual!) In the end the answer is always the same, “Hang in there, never give up.” You’re defeated only when you accept that you’re defeated. And Nil Carborundum!

    1. Elizabeth Fellows

      I absolutely appreciate your intelligent, and interesting blogs. I always look forward to reading whatever you scribe. You have a true talent of including each and everyone of us readers. Please don’t stop, in our convoluted world right now we need marvellous writers like you to help us distract from the horrible and look at life differently and to think and as you say write about something else not pertaining to the current state of affairs. ❤️??

  1. I nodded all the way through your article. I largely gave up blogging years ago because I felt I was just talking to myself and these days… I must to confess to spending more time in a deep sulk on the sofa, swaddled in a blanket then I do writing but everyone, include us writers, need to escape from our present reality and lose ourselves in times past. I just can’t cope with the deeply depressing or violent at the moment.

  2. Anna, I actually don’t think anyone is irrelevant. And that counts double for you. I always enjoy your posts although I must admit I rarely leave a comment. You pick out these hidden little corners of history and illuminate them and I love that – especially with the way you shine a light on women’s lives. So please keep going! I think we’re going through a very strange time at the moment – I hit the biggest reading slump of my entire life and I’m the sort of girl who will read the back of the milk packet in the absence of any better reading material. Hang in there!

    By the way, I just signed up to get notifications of new posts – that’s how relevant you are!

  3. I have come to the conclusion these periods of feeling irrelevant are quite normal so long as you don’t disappear down the rabbit hole never to be seen again. I look it as a breathing space. I think we are similar in that I write my blogs as I do my books first and foremost for me and hope people will get to enjoy some of them. Plus I love to tell people about all the lovely things there are in the world and concentrate on the positive rather than the negative. There’s too much of that elsewhere in this strange world we’re in. We are in the business of escapism. People want and need that so keep on. Louis B.Mayer recognized that when the war was on. Give people something to lift their spirits. You do that well, so go girl… keep blogging and writing.

    1. I never thought of it as a breathing space, but maybe you’re right. I think the important thing is, as you say, to remember that writing is very much about a selfish endeavour, something I do to make ME happy. Sometimes, I forget that!

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