What if... Two short words which may invoke all sorts of emotions and strong feelings. What if things had been different? What if that could happen?
Both these perspectives dominated in conversations I had recently when I was talking to authors about inspiration for their recent work.
Esther Freud is well known for remembering her unusual and exotic childhood in her novel 'Hideous Kinky' but her latest book imagines what if her mother had made different decisions.
The new book, called 'I Couldn't Love You More', is published in May and Esther will be speaking to me about it at the Felixstowe Book Festival in June - the programme, which hopes to combine 'real life' and online events, is being launched tomorrow here.
Danny Wallace is known for his 'big concept' ideas for events, books, films, tv programmes, where he explores 'what if...' to an extraordinary degree, and often with stunning results.
What if you said yes to everything? What if people stopped being rude? What if thousands of people performed a random act of kindness every week?
For his latest book, for children, Danny imagines what if all the technology failed. How would we cope? This could have turned into a horror story, but it is a children's madcap adventure so it's rather lovely, and, for Danny, it turned out to be an excuse to revisit life as it was in his childhood! My interview with Danny will appear in 'Suffolk' magazine soon.
While undoubtedly 'what if' sparks all sorts of ideas creatively, we might find speculating about the future to be more helpful than looking at past decisions or events. After all, this might be something we can influence. So as we consider the end of our current circumstances, what if... we shopped locally? we spoke to our neighbours more often? we didn't use aeroplanes so often? we lived more simply? What if we could make a difference?
I was interested to hear Dame Louise Casey on Desert Island Discs this week talking about her work with the homeless. When she chose Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World', she wondered why it wasn't selected by castaways every week. Even though she sees terrible things through her work, she said that she was always reminded that no matter how dark things can get, this is still a wonderful world.
You may need to recall this message as you take a look at my recommended non-fiction title this week. It's a very troubling read but it's so beautifully written and it's important not to shut our hearts and minds to what other people are experiencing. At the very least it can remind us of how much we should be grateful for in our own situations.