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3:AM in Lockdown 17: Toby Litt

By Toby Litt.



Just about the worst thing for a writer is to believe that someone else has written the thing you want to write.

Worse than this, though, is the belief that another, better writer is — right now, at this very moment, somewhere in the world — writing the only thing that you can write, right now.

This feeling of being ousted or ghosted by another absent writer is, I think, particularly common when you know something big is happening.

Something big is happening, and it’s partly happening online — which means that it’s possible for a writer (just like any other person) to spend many hours checking up on it, and checking what’s already been written about it.

To tell the paranoid writer — to tell you or me — not to be paranoid, or to stop checking up, or to head in what they estimate to be the opposite direction to everyone else is not helpful.

What may be helpful (I hope) is to suggest they reread stories from other bad times; and to realise these stories were probably written by ousted-ghosted writers — or writers who felt ousted-ghosted.

For example, Lorrie Moore’s story in which, during tragedy, alongside mortality, she’s advised, ‘Take notes’ – and which story ends,

There are the notes.
Now, where is the money?

While you’re quarantined, read Toby Litt’s masterpiece, Patience.

First posted: Friday, April 3rd, 2020.

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