Building Cathedrals From Dead Tissue
I’m writing this with one thumb dipped in a cup of hot water. it’s infected – Paronychia. Just shy of a week ago, I ripped out a hangnail. Done it a million times before, no problems. Our dishwasher recently broke, won’t be replaced for a good while, and so I’m hand washing the dishes like some kind of savage. Tragic.
Because I’d forgotten that ripping out a hangnail leaves what is essentially an open wound, I went about washing the dishes and didn’t bother with gloves. Dishwater, as the astute among you are probably aware, is dirty. As a man of season and experience, allow me to impart some esoteric wisdom: Open wounds and dirty water don’t mix well.
Which brings me onto a thing that amuses me about being a writer. Or claiming to be, at the very least: You are always studying things. My google searches have probably put me on some kind of terrorist database owned by GCHQ somewhere. My own thumb, with it’s small patch of mottled greying tissue, and bruised purple-red swelling, has become a case study. Part of a book I am plotting out at the moment involves the minor presence of illness, disease, etc. Living in the first world I don’t get to experience that first hand – oh, God – very often. I have a friend who works for the NHS and does. His descriptions of what can go wrong with your day to day bodily fluids and by-products are both alarming and insightful. Actually having my thumb infected has been fairly enlightening.
This infection has become a resource.
That’s a major part of being a writer. Everything become a resource – you get this interesting sub-part of your brain that detaches in every event and asks: ‘How can I use this?’ It’s a bit strange, but very useful. I suppose it’s the literary equivalent of the surgeon’s detachment. The ability to cut people open in a calm and calculated manner is not something that most of us possess. That is usually the reserve of psychopaths. Don’t fuck with surgeons: They’re scary. So too are writers, just not in the same way. They will break you, your pain, your joys, your experiences down into components and build things out of them. The ecstatic triumphs and soul destroying dramas of your life are Minecraft to a writer.