Rainy night here in Detroit. It’s supposed to turn to snow by morning. This week I’ve started digging into work on the next novel, the one after See You in the Cosmos. I can tell you this much about it: I’m between two ideas right now and one thing that keeps me going back and forth between the two, that’s preventing me from committing to one over the other, is the question of which is more likely to endure. Which is more likely to stay relevant as we start to see the consequences of the president-elect’s actions?
It’s a terrible question. But it’s the one I’m wrestling with. I’ve been thinking about a book I read years ago: The Savage Girl by Alex Shakar. A friend hand recommended it as reference when I was working on my first book. The Savage Girl is sharply written marketing satire. It reminded me a bit of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and Max Barry’s Syrup. The book had all the trappings of a huge hit; it’s only problem was its release date: September 11, 2001. The day it came out, the world changed. Overnight, the era of edgy 90s marketing satire was over.
Like I said, it’s a terrible thing to think about. I know my indecision is driven by fear, too – the fear of doing work that goes to waste. The fear of doing work that is quickly obsoleted. But when I really acknowledge the fear, I find that I start to favor one of the two story ideas over the other. And it’s not the one that seems bigger, or more enduring; it’s the one that comes more easily when I sit down to write.
That’s my solution to all this. To make art. To act more artfully. When you’re in dialogue with the art, you’re in dialogue with the world. The world seeps in, automatically. The way to make something relevant is not to strive for relevance, but to make something that touches a deep part of yourself. That’s why I keep writing. I write because even if it’s meaningless to everyone else, it’s meaningful to me. It’s a marker of interior discovery. A record of me going down to the darkest places, because they’re the ones most in need of light.
That, I suppose, is both a promise and a dare.