If I were Queen

The subjunctive mood is where we can imagine and articulate possibilities. It is how we can think and express other worlds, other systems, other politics, other structures. It is the part of language devoted to speaking our desires, wishes and dreams as things in themselves.

A language strong in subjunctive mood permits exchanges about experiences such as serendipity, intuition and premonition without slaughtering the experience through explanation and rationalisation. A complex subjunctive mood language creates a world before the corruptions of the -ologies (psychology, sociology and so forth). Yet, while the subjunctive mood is a frequent state in our actual living, it is not well tolerated when we write prose and fiction in English.

This is a problem.

We are living, and we are being, yet we have let our language slip and harden into structures of fact and reason. We have fixed ourselves to what is, not what can be.

On 19 September falls ‘Talk Like a Pirate’ day. Around the world women and men resurrect the world of Treasure Island in their everyday observations and conversations. Perhaps, in years to come, we will celebrate ‘Talk in the Subjunctive Mood’ day.


Is writer’s block a social condition?

Writer’s block, the inability to write which is unconnected to a lack of skill or indifference, is often characterised as an internal, individual condition. How then can we make sense of the benefit to writing after a change in our environment?

A change in our setting, atmosphere, tools or routine can often have a positive impact on both the quality and quantity of our writing process. Writing in a different location can mean we write more. Switching to a pencil from a keyboard can mean we write more deeply about our topic. Writing on a train or bus instead of a desk can forge new connections. A change in our environmental conditions can be a writer’s marvel.

This fact suggests writing, as an act of creation, is something other than the expressed ideas of a discrete cognitive process. Could this also be the case for writer’s block? Is there benefit to characterising writer’s block as a social or contextual response? Does such a change in perspective release us, as writers, from the burden of under-performance?