Prize Plum

Something I have never understood about writing, or maybe I mean writers, is how the act of writing, or even the sudden rush of inspiration that precedes the act of writing, can make the world seem more or less all right for a minute or two.

You see, I’ve always been tormented by the following thought: that there is no point at all in doing anything, really. Every now and then it strikes me quite forcibly that whatever we do is utterly pointless since we are going to die. Why put any energy at all into doing anything, when for all the difference it makes one might as well curl up in a resentful ball on the living room carpet and simply wait for time to pass until inevitably the living room carpet and one become one i.e. so much indistinguishable dust?

I suppose this is a philosophical dilemma, and no doubt somebody gloomy and incomprehensible like Schopenhauer or Kant has already disposed of it. Or possibly Sartre…didn’t he and his Existentialists say something to the effect that life is totally meaningless and therefore we must create our own meaning? You see, that’s the problem, for me. I can’t randomly, artificially invent a purpose for my existence or a meaning for life in general. Either there is one or there isn’t. Part of me thinks that the only logical response to finding oneself alive for no obvious reason would be Bertrand Russell’s ‘unyielding despair’.

But unyielding despair is unpleasant and one is forced to distract oneself from it as much as possible. The only thing that distracts me is writing, and there it is.

It may be that each of us is gifted one consolation – one thing with the magical power to make everything right, for a tiny while. But this is so odd because of all the things you might be doing to distract yourself from the gloomy inevitability and pointlessness of human existence, writing is about the most useless. What is writing compared to, say, volunteering to help children in war-torn countries? What is sitting around with pencil and paper and, fitfully, making stuff up compared to cooking Sunday lunch for your extended family or painting one wall of the bathroom in Prize Plum? (Which goes well with Magnolia, as the wrinkly-and-probably-famous chap in the advert says.)


However, it seems to be the case that when the faint outline of a story materialises inside my head, when I write a single sentence, cross out one word and substitute another – for those few seconds all has become right with the world. It and I – whatever It is, and whether It exists at all – are in synch. I have a purpose. I am alive.

Unfortunately, most of my ideas come to me when I can’t write them down, and especially when driving. Wasn’t J K Rowling on a train from London to Manchester when she got the plot for the entire however-many Harry Potter books, but had nothing to write them down on? Lesson 1: never have nothing to write things down on. Either that, or have a phenomenal memory and high tolerance for stress.

So, yesterday, driving, I got an idea for a story about a cupboard – bit like the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe except that there was no rear exit through the fur coats, as it were, i.e. it wasn’t your classic portal to a fanciful other world, it was more like – a place that retained memories and eventually…retained you.

And then I thought – still not being able to write it down – maybe it’s a stationery cupboard. Think of all the things that go on in office stationery cupboards. And if it was a very old building, things might have been going on in that space before it was a stationery cupboard.

And then I thought, so what does this cupboard symbolise? I mean, come on Linda, what is He trying to tell you here? What is the cupboard and why are you contemplate locking yourself in it? I should mention that my Subconscious is a He. He wears a long black coat and hides his face, communicating with me by way of stories, poems, dreams and funny little flashes of places I have never seen and selves I can’t remember being – or maybe haven’t been yet.

And after a while I thought (changing gears, negotiating tight bends and traffic lights the while) what if it wasn’t a stationery cupboard but something considerably more gruesome like one of those formaldehyde-smelling rooms scientists keep diseased organs in, or frogs with fifteen legs, or entire Victorian babies? I remembered such a room from school – it was where the lab assistants sat around looking bored, or removed your nail varnish with neat acetone. All these bottles. Yellow. Strange things floating about in them. Fascinating. What would a room like that be called, now? The Specimen Room?

(Note to self, Google this when have access to the Fire and hands not required to be on steering wheel). But – no, maybe the stationery cupboard has more scope.

But the room with the formaldehyde babies, that would be a joy to conjure up. Now, how to convey the suffocating stink of formaldehyde…

And thus am I distracted from the pointlessness of all existence for a tiny while. Maybe the living room carpet can wait for a day or two, while I write it…



8 thoughts on “Prize Plum

  1. Lol! A writer friend keeps a small notebook in his pocket always and one by his bed, to write down ideas and lines when they strike. Writers can and do change the world for a number of people, including the writer. Thankfully so!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read in the intro to one of Andrew Taylor’s books that we actually aren’t supposed to write down our ideas. We’re supposed to try to forget them. And then the ideas that we simply can’t forget: write that story. But personally, I write those ideas down…
    As for the meaning of life, I sometimes feel that way as well. The best I can come up with is a combo of helping to make things a little better for others, creating things that weren’t there before (so writing does count, in my view) and in the end, not taking everything quite so seriously. I like the phrase, “Life is for living.”

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  3. Hi Ann –

    I think I’d heard or read about not writing ideas down too, but letting them “mulch”. I heard it described as Forgettory and there’s certainly something to the theory that the ones we can’t forget are probably the good ones. However, I like to write things down, otherwise I’m permanently in “mulch” and never in “write” mode. Sometimes I find it’s a help to start writing anything – using one of my scrappy ideas as a starter. Then it may turn into something completely different, or even starts combining itself with one of those long-forgotten ideas.

    I had a job once (quite a complex, import and export thing) where during a week’s intensive training the Personnel Manager forbade all her trainees to write down anything, on the basis that we wouldn’t learn if we were constantly scribbling. Unfortunately, that works for some kinds of brains but not for others – and mine was one of the others. Lasted a month.

    I like the idea of creating things that weren’t there before. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Know what you mean, I too am driven to write, who knows why. I think it’s my preferred method of communication to the ‘outside world’ 🙃. I once found a diamond in the stationery cupboard and took much pleasure in asking my work friend (only the 2 of us at that place) to shut her eyes and then dropping it into her cupped hands. She had lost it out of her engagement ring months before. We still write to one another, albeit it once in a blue moon. 🍂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Goodness – finding a diamond never even made it onto my list. I bet your friend could hardly believe her luck when you returned it to her.

      I did read a news story once about a woman who lost her wedding ring ‘somewhere’ on a beach, and she went back a year later and just sort of spotted it, straight away. : )

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes..cupboards! I have a stand alone one I adore. It is a beautiful piece of furniture I was lucky enough to get ‘for a song’- revamping it into it’s current use and adding a nice visual to my room.
    Now other cupboards, the built in kind….those I like neat and tidy with rows of towels, sheets etc. Orderliness gives me a sense of peace and control, even if it’s only over my dishes and bedding!

    Liked by 1 person

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