Brexit dismay

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    Alan Rain

    Hello all,
    No, I’m not looking for debate or argument about it; I’ve had enough of that on Twitter, where the antagonism is toxic. For me, the whole thing, from June 2016 to the present, has been a huge and totally negative distraction, and there’s no doubt my writing has suffered. At the moment I have a rambling mess of 106k words, and I’m just glad I don’t have a deadline.
    So, while I can’t see any upsides to it, does anyone take a positive view, or see new opportunities?

    Or … has anyone else, like me, succumbed to brexit-blues?


    I take a positive view and think that we will be fine. Like you I don’t want to discuss the pros and cons here. There’s been enough elsewhere.

    I have had the Brexit blues while the whole thing has rumbled on, though. The uncertainty has been most unsettling and my writing has also suffered.The deep splits in the country are very unpleasant whichever side you are on. My biggest worry is that the rifts will take a long time to heal whatever the outcome otherwise. Views have had three years to become entrenched.


    Anyway, happy new year to you. It’s good to see you.


    Oh yeah, oh Lord, I got them ol’ Brexit blues…

    My writing has been dead in the water for a while now, and while the main cause of that is the totally negative results of my last submissions Brexit hasn’t helped. Like Alan, I’ve found the whole business, from first to last, intensely dispiriting, for more reasons than I can, or would even want to, list here. And it’s led me into following politics and current affairs more than is my wont, which has made me feel even worse. Pretty silly of me, really, when one of the reasons I chose to live in a fairly remote village was to get away from all the shit.

    I may be starting to recover. With its whopping majority the current government can do what it likes, so the battle’s lost, or won, depending on your point of view. Already I feel my morbid interest waning and myself slipping back into hermit mode. Which is a relief.

    But yes, the deep divisions Brexit has driven between us are very sad indeed. All you can do is avoid discussing politics with anybody you don’t know well. And probably not even then.


    I sympathise with you, Richard, over reading more politics than normal. I was the same then got cross with myself not least because it stole time from other things.

    I think some involvement, however, can make one feel better. There are many causes still to fight for – environmental and social – if one is that way inclined. Though preservation of sanity and energy is key.

    Alan Rain

    @bellam Happy new year to you, too.
    Those rifts are very deep and go way beyond mere viewpoints. Because of various issues that I won’t mention here, I don’t expect to see any healing in our society for the foreseeable future.
    I wish I could share your optimism, but I can’t.
    Good luck with your writing.

    Regarding politics, I did the same. I joined a party and actively worked for them. Yes, the end result was disappointing, but for reasons that leave the sourest of aftertastes.
    Sorry to hear of your disillusionment with the submission process. My own experiences are not exactly inspiring.
    I have always written for enjoyment, probably to the detriment of being commercial. I feel now I must get that enjoyment back, because writing in a half-hearted frame of mind simply doesn’t work.

    As @Libby says, there are other societal issues to fight for.
    Quite right.


    I agree that the political situation over the last few years has been difficult and distracting. I suspect it has affected both my writing and my mental health.

    I can name one effect Brexit has had directly on my writing. On the night of the referendum, I had run out of time to finish the William the Conqueror novel I was co-writing with Jillybean. I used to have a bad habit (now cured) of staying up all night during any kind of election, so I decided to pull an all-nighter and finish the draft, which included writing the climactic Battle of Hastings scene. As I recall, the polls had all shown one likely result, and think the exit poll did too? (Even Nigel Farage conceded defeat and allegedly went to bed). As soon as the first results came in, Newcastle and Sunderland, and showed that actually the polls might have got it wrong, the shock rippled through the pundits on the television, social media etc. And I’m pretty sure the sense of that evening made its way into the writing. I was writing about a situation where two groups held the fate of the country, which would be dramatically different depending on who won. And the group representing the status quo seemed to have the initial advantage. But as the night wore on, the realisation slowly dawned that the ‘wrong’ side was winning. You could feel the shock and disbelief on one side, the joy and realisation on the other, and most of all the sense that now nothing whatsoever was certain. As it happened I tried to pour it into the writing. I think if I’d waited even another day it wouldn’t have been possible to do that. By the next morning I’d written a lot – I can’t remember how much exactly but it was at least 6,000 and possibly as much as 10,000 words, and I honestly don’t think it would have been the same if I’d written it at any other time.


    I know that Brexit and politics in general has had an impact on my writing because I found myself getting more and more sucked into arguing on Facebook and Twitter and that, I have come to realise, is the worse kind of political discussion because there is never any nuance. It is all so polarised. But I found it hard to switch off from and it definitely interfered with my writing time. I started to pull away from it all in late 2018 in an attempt to finish my first draft and to some extent it was successful. I set aside time every day that was only for writing and I gave myself permission to switch off from everything else happening. But it was a bit hit and miss and I went round in circles a lot. Actually, it was a massive life event (my son’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment) that properly kick-started my writing again. I’m not saying that I stopped paying attention to politics because that’s not me, but I realised how important it was to prioritise what was good for my mental health and what was not and I started using writing as escapism during some very difficult months. I noticed that when I wrote (often in quiet moments on the hospital ward) my mood lifted and my head cleared but when I spent those quiet hospital moments scrolling through facebook and twitter and reading up on the latest depressing political story, I felt like I was drowning. Gradually over the course of 2019, I withdrew from discussions and chose what I wanted to read carefully. Yes, I still got angry at stuff and depressed and helpless and frustrated, but writing started to balance it out a bit. When the election was announced, I made a choice to completely remove myself from social media and I had one last big push to finish the first draft. I voted. I absorbed the result and then, because the first draft was finally finished, I took time off over Christmas and watched lots and lots of box sets and read lots of books. I’ve been on Twitter and Facebook more in the last few weeks and I can feel all the old depressing feelings sneaking back in but I have a different perspective to a year ago. My experience in my personal life in the last year has shown me that while having political views and paying attention is important, real change can happen from the ground up. My family were supported by so many different people over the last year and I have no idea what all their political views are. The day after the election, our community was represented by a different party than the day before but I still knew exactly who of my family and friends I could count on (and who not so much!) and I still lived in the same wonderful community who had supported us so well through a difficult year. So I guess what I’m saying is don’t let the blues take over. We have very little control over who represents us (especially considering the voting system that we use) or what direction our country goes in politically but we have lots of control over how involved we can be in our local communities and how much we can lead by example fostering good relationships with everyone and kindness towards all and that (not getting a different result on a vote) is what will heal the rifts of the last few years. Yes, I am worried about what will happen in the coming months, but I am also hopeful that in the grand scheme of things, it won’t change the communities we live in, because that’s up to us, not the politicians. Meanwhile I’ve got a first draft to knock into shape and that, for now, is the perfect escapism.


    I’m glad you were able to translate real life into other real life, as it were, @Daedalus . Sounds a very successful strategy.

    BTW, please can I ask you a question about linseed oil in biplanes? Was it used or have I imagined this? If it was, presumably pilots and passengers would have been able to smell it?


    I’m very sorry you and your son have had to cope with a cancer diagnosis, @skylark.

    I’ve never signed up to any social media and so far haven’t felt tempted. Not just the polarised views but the amount of time it can take up!


    Hi @Libby – I can recommend trying to channel the emotions from current affairs into writing, although I think you have to be in a reasonably strong state to do it. It can be hard to write anything much when life has you beaten down.

    Ah, oil in biplanes! I don’t know about linseed oil, but castor oil was a very common lubricant for early aircraft, and yes, crew and passengers would definitely be able to smell it – it had a very distinctive smell. In fact, certain types of rotary engine had a ‘total loss’ oil system so rather than carry a small amount of oil that circulate around the engine permanently, a relatively large amount of oil would be carried, mixed with the fuel, lubricating as it went, and be discharged with the exhaust. (This led to a story which may or may not be a myth, that pilots of certain aircraft discovered to their discomfort, a certain laxative effect). The most well-known aero-engine oil was the ubiquitous Castrol R – there’s an article about it if you’re really, really interested


    It must have been an awful time @skylark. We have been through a similar experience with our youngest grandson and it has changed everything particularly for his mum. But how wonderful that both you and @daedalus found writing helped.


    Thanks, @Daedalus. I’ll read the article with interest 🙂
    I can use castor oil as a bit of sensory detail in my novel. It was just that I know the smell of linseed but can’t remember the smell of castor though tins of Castrol were ubiquitous during my childhood, as was the smell of oil in general.

    I suspect the laxative story was probably apocryphal. I don’t see how smell would have loosened bowels unless by association, though that could have been enough if one had particularly unhappy memories of swallowing the stuff!

    Writing a novel which ends up in WW2 is interesting during present times. Some of the emotions feel transferable, or enough so to make me think hard about them.


    The Brexit Blues. Ugh. Yes. And the Climate Change existential fear. And the daughter-entering-teen-sexual-harrassment-age dread. I tell you, grown men eyeing up a twelve year old girl makes me very VERY stabby.
    But, yes, Brexit and the fundamental damage to our society that seems to have come about have had (are having) an effect on my general mental wellbeing. How could it not, really? And it’s really hard imo to find a balance between staying educated about current affairs, and getting overwhelmed by it. I’m not sure I’ve found that balance yet.

    , I’m so glad writing has given you refuge in the last year, and @daedalus, well done for funnelling that into creativity. Who was it who said (mangling the quote) ‘art is the greatest act of rebellion’? Toni Morrison? I’m not sure whether we just tell ourselves that to silence the sense of futility in the face of such societal problems, or whether it’s true. But I like it anyway.


    @libby my take on it has always been that the laxative story is apocryphal. I think you’d have to ingest an awful lot of the stuff to have any effect, and the diffusion of the oil in the exhaust would make that difficult. One version I heard was that there were all sorts of things likely to have a laxative effect on pilots of that era – alcohol consumption, stress, and good old fear, for example – and the castor oil story possibly spared a few blushes. I’ve asked some modern pilots of restored and reconstructed aircraft from that era if they’ve ever experienced that effect and the general consensus is no, but one said they did start to feel it when they were following other aircraft closely in formation, and there was also a feeling that flights these days are very short whereas a typical patrol over the Western Front might involve being up for four or five hours, so there’s a lot more time exposed to the oil.


    @Raine I like that quote (it reminds me of the fake George Orwell one). Whether it helps or not is a different question, but as Joseph Conrad pointed out, ‘action is consolatory’.

    I’ve been following your family’s journey when you’ve posted on Facebook and I can’t begin to express my admiration. The strength conferred by love is unbreakable. And I really hear what you say about communities. I’m not so big on ‘physical’ communities but the band of friends online can be a good thing too. As one of the better moments in the latest, rather mixed, Star Wars film suggested, evil ‘wins by making us think we’re alone’.


    @libby I didn’t for a long time (esp with Twitter) and now I have, it’s hard to switch off from it as it is addictive. But I think I’m learning to manage it better to get the best bits out of it without the worst bits dragging me down.

    I’m sorry you and your family have been through a similar thing. It does change everything. I hope your grandson is doing well.

    yes, finding the balance is hard but after spending more than a month switched off from everything before Christmas, I did wonder what it was I had actually missed. The news is so repetitive. It would be good to find a way to filter out the noise and only inform yourself of the important bits! And I like that quote whoever it comes from 🙂

    I like that quote too. Divide and conquer has worked so well in the last few years it’s depressing. I wish people understood it better and could see the manipulation at work.

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