Why I Stopped Writing Fiction by Shane Joseph

I dug up my collection of writing since the end of February 2020. It amounts to one short story, a few blog articles like this one, and half a dozen book reviews. Pathetic. Was I stuck in the dreaded “writer’s block,” or had the tank finally run dry after 20 years of writing?

Then I realized there was something else at play. All my usual stories now belonged to another time, a time that had ended in February. My contemporary fiction had become historical fiction, like how the smoking of cigarettes in restaurant scenes, or making a phone call from a telephone booth, or wearing ties to work, or pulling out the bottle of scotch during a business meeting, or the super-efficient female secretary having a chaste but flirtatious relationship with her boss had all quietly exited without so much as a goodbye. They had become anachronisms of another time. Now, my unpublished novels were anachronisms.

We are currently living in an era in which everyone’s life is more or less the same—predictable and boring. Conflict, that reliable fuel for fiction, has been reduced to shouting at someone for not wearing a mask or following physical distancing guidelines; or for those wanting higher octane, taking up a cause and mounting a protest. Writing has dwindled to barbs traded in social media, where the principle of “if you are not with us, you are against us” applies. Today’s other flash points: spousal fights from being cooped up for too long; yelling at the kids, also cooped up with you; cursing Netflix and the internet for being so slow; hanging onto absentee helpdesk phone lines to complain about an online purchase that has either not arrived or arrived but not as advertised.

Forget about office conflicts or romances. There are none, for there are no offices to go to. And airport scenes which were once great for heart-rending goodbyes have now turned into sci-fi landscapes replete with hazmat suits, masked and helmeted passengers, and staff shooting temperature guns at you.

They say that one has to live in the world in order to write about it. I first started writing at the age of 17 and quickly dried up by 24 once I had written everything I knew about in my lived experience. Twenty years later, when I picked up my pen again (it had grown into a laptop by then) I had a lot to write about, for there had been many more lived experiences. Now, in this new world in which I have been resident for a mere four months, how dare I write anything without a comprehensive lived experience? I am still in “intake” mode at the moment. When that will turn to “output” mode is anyone’s guess.

That is why I have stopped writing fiction, for now, at least. Perhaps, I should go back to my unpublished manuscripts set during the last ten years, and label them “historical fiction,” or “nostalgic fiction,” or “fantasy fiction.” I want to label my next novel, Circles in the Spiral, a black comedy, but I’m told that is politically incorrect. I hope there is a market for my old stuff, for a world we took for granted and abused like a weary pack horse, and have now lost forever.

Cover of Shane’s latest novel (written in Pre-Covidian Times), Circles in the Spiral, releasing Fall 2020

11 Comments Add yours

  1. You have expressed the new reality very well. Have the same experience. I was working on a novel, The Day Work Stopped, about people mysteriously deciding not to go to work one day and what the consequences would be for society-but the pandemic made that seem like tame stuff and pointless, Abandoned it -an anachronism as you say, an artefact of another time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shane says:

      Thanks for your comment, Chris. I am diving into writing a post-Covid story, but it is tough going. This is a new world, and every day we learn something new, although life appears to be a monotonous drudge.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Margaret Kropf says:

    Why in the hell is black comedy politically incorrect?Because it uses the word”black”????

    Glad I’m old and on the way out.

    Marg Kropf

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shane Joseph says:

      I tried using the term “dark humour” but that was also verbotten. Only “vanilla” works these days, in description and content.


  3. I know you’ve got a very active imagination, Shane Joseph. So I don’t buy most of this post. we are living in science/fantasy fiction times and I know you are busily imagining and writing about a post-pandemic time, in a universe not too far away. So keep doing what writers do: Imagine. And write. And I’d love to read that book.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shane Joseph says:

      Yes, I’d like your perspective on this new book.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Despite what you’ve written, Shane, I’m convinced that with your fertile mind you will at some point come up with something new and creative despite the pandemic plateau we seem to be currently moored on. -:)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shane Joseph says:

      All the plots I’m coming up with these days are too diabolical. I’m constantly lining up politicians and shooting them. Not politically correct, no?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Not legal, maybe? I dislike that term “politically correct” because it reeks of old-fartism and is used primarily by some older Whites who feel their power slipping away. Interesting also that in the USSR where it originated, the term referred to doing what the government wanted or risk imprisonment and even death. Here it is used to keep the powerless in their humble places.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. kimaubrey says:

    I agree, Cynthia. Most so-called “political correctness” is simply people/organizations attempting to be respectful of other people’s feelings and experiences. Labeling those acts of respect “PC” just gives an excuse to be disrespectful. But I appreciate Shane’s honesty about his discomfort around the world changing. Change is seldom easy, and most of us naturally seek ease. But sometimes we need to embrace difficulty, choose the difficult path. Sometimes we have no choice in the matter, which seems to me what Shane’s blog piece is about.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Shane Joseph says:

    Even if it’s unclassifiable, my new novel is anything but politically correct. It’s an “up yours” to the PC types, if anything.
    Mike Croucher, one of my advance readers, posted a review on the book on Goodreads this morning. His take reassured me that I’m on the right track, even if a bit off centre.

    Liked by 2 people

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