Silver Linings Part Three

When the original lockdown started last year I remember the difficulty I had in completing my undergraduate dissertation – a selection of short stories. I wanted my writing to be full of humour but struggled massively. Life in that moment wasn’t particularly funny.

I tried my best to push past it all those months ago, scribbling notes into a journal. I tried to make notes every single day and sometimes it would only be a line, other times it would be paragraphs. I would try to be inspired by the walks I went on or the irritating traits of my family.

I would never have thought that ten months later I would be in the exact same scenario – uninspired in another lockdown. But I am hoping this blog will force me to keep up with my writing, especially on the days where it feels like I can’t find something to say.

Lydia Davis once said it is important to observe your own feelings (but not at tiresome length). This is definitely something I hadn’t thought too much of until last year. The confinement forces everyone to observe their own feelings, always at a tiresome length.

The silver lining to all of my writing troubles is that I have more time now than ever to write. For now I will go back to the notes I have made in my journal and try to write a story about anything different to what is happening around the world now. I have always loved that part of writing – the escapism.

Lockdown Reading

With our return to ‘normal’ life seeming to stretch out further and further into the distance, our day-to-day life can seem uncertain and often times despondent. I know one thing I have found comfort in during this pandemic is reading literature; fiction or non-fiction, contemporary or historical- just anything that helps me put my phone down for an hour and stop reading every doomsday notification from the perpetual news cycle.  

And I’m not alone, I read an article this week that stated over 200-million print books were sold in the UK in 2020, the first time since 2012. It seems we are all finding some relief in the escapism reading literature offers. More than a simple boredom breaker or a healthier alternative to staring at a screen all day, reading fiction provides respite from our rather surreal reality. 

Becoming consumed by a narrative has helped me recover a sense of continuity when I’ve felt adrift, provided a space to become mindful and reflect on the issues or topics raised in the text, and often just provided a much-needed laugh. I think this is a unique ability of literature, and the arts- they help to heal culture. We look to literature and the arts to reflect on what it means to be human, and in these bizarre times this function is of particular significance. Literature and the arts provide an antidote to the isolation and hopelessness we can all relate to nowadays, ultimately helping us reconnect with ourselves and one another. For me, more time to read over this past year has been my silver lining. 

Silver Linings, Part One

I’m from a part of Denmark with a deep fondness for understatements.

Did you just have the best night of your life? Then it was fine.

Are you convinced that you got an A+ on your latest exam? Then it went okay.

Is there a world-wide pandemic, killing thousands of innocent people? Then it’s træls.

“A bit of an annoyance” might be how you’d put it in English.

But it’s okay to think that this pandemic is more than just træls. It’s okay to hate it, to complain until your face turns red, to reach out for help. It’s okay if you have trouble seeing any silver lining.

That is, however, what I will focus on for the moment – my personal silver lining.

Covid took the freedom to travel away from me, and boy, did I feel it.

But it also reprioritized my time. I was in Indonesia when the pandemic hit. My mother asked me to come home, and I did. Once there, I had two options.

I could either move into a friend’s empty apartment (she’d just moved in with her boyfriend), or I could rent a room at my brother’s. I picked the latter. An empty apartment sounded lonely in the midst of a national lockdown.

Moving in with my brother also meant moving in with his girlfriend and their two sons. My nephews, whom I’d rarely seen – I’d been too busy seeing Spain, Singapore, Australia. But now I had plenty of time to spare, and I wasn’t going to waste it.

Okay, that’s a lie. I wasted a lot of time. Mostly on Netflix.

But I wasn’t going to waste all of it. I was going to learn Spanish and the piano. I was going to write my own book and translate others. And I was going to spend some quality time with my nephews.

Of course, nothing ever goes entirely according to schedule. I didn’t write that book, and both my Spanish and piano play is… let’s go with rudimentary.

But spending quality time with my nephews was the most important thing anyway.

I have a relationship with them that didn’t exist a year ago. They ask their parents to call me. I know that the oldest loves dinosaurs and that the youngest loves to get into trouble.

I didn’t know that a year ago. They didn’t ask after me a year ago.

And that’s my silver lining.

Jessica Stevenson

Currently racking my brain for something witty to start this introduction and failing miserably. The truth is writing under strict time restraints is not my forte, but it is my hope that this blog will shake things up from my usual academic essay writing as part of the English Studies masters and help me evolve into a more varied writer, here’s hoping.

My literary journey began at a very young age, writing stories about princesses and ponies. This cringeworthy start to my oeuvre is thankfully contained to a box of old belongings stashed away in my parents attic to be forgotten until such a time as they feel fit to embarrass me at family gatherings.

Thankfully my writing has evolved since then, and my preferred topics now cover contemporary British literature, culture and visual art. My research often explores the function of literature as a means of social or cultural activism. My hope is that these research interests will blend with topical content to create an interesting addition to this blog!

Maria Sjöstrand

I don’t remember a time where fiction wasn’t part of my life. I used to swallow books like Johnny Fox would swallow swords. Except, you know, metaphorically rather than literally. I read Jane Austen and Neil Gaiman and everything in between, and writing was a natural extension of this.

I set off to write fantasy, but I quickly discovered that fantasy was only a way to get to my actual goal – humour. Sure, it’d be nice if I could make people think about life’s big questions, and it would be lovely if I could make them fall in love or even shed a tear or two.

But ultimately, I just want to make them laugh. A slight snicker. A full-blown seizure.

And that’s why I’m here, I guess. I’ve figured out what I want to do.

Now, I just need to learn how to do it.

Mhari Aitchison

I started to miss studying creative writing the moment I finished my undergraduate course. I have always loved reading what someone else is thinking and feeling – the moment you find someone else is describing perfectly how you feel in that given moment.

I grew up in London, moved briefly to Scotland, then to Switzerland. I was happy to return to Scotland for my undergraduate studies, and definitely don’t plan on leaving Scotland anytime soon.

My writing is usually inspired by the people around me. I am fascinated by the human experience and the relationships we form with one another. I always aim to write with wit and sensitive observation. I find short stories work well for what I have to say. I love reading poetry but have never had much luck with writing it.