We’ve been off for two weeks, in part due to travel and illness interrupting my regular schedule, and in part due to the insanity that was the American election last Tuesday. Getting anything productive done on the writing front has been all but impossible; instead, I’ve been venting my frustration and purging the germs with Christmas shopping and cleaning fits. Multiple rooms in my home are now freshly rearranged, scrubbed, or filled with holiday miscellany. Yet the mental turmoil continues.
Since we’re hosting a foreign student this fall, the election and its implications for the rest of the world have been top of mind in our home. After all, it was not only we Americans who watched another spot on the televised map light up in red every few minutes on Election Night, but also our counterparts across the pond. The subsequent conversations among my parent and minority friends have all been variations of the same theme: What does this outcome say about our country, and what do we tell our children?
To tell a story authentically, we must endeavor to understand those who are not like us.
Perhaps the events of the past week have jerked your writing, like mine, to a standstill and tossed your concentration out the window. Perhaps, too, you were focused on telling stories about a particular part of the world–one whose inhabitants you are now struggling to respect. Is your exhaustion from the election–be it result or violent protest–sapping your creativity? Worse, is it causing you to second-guess everything you’ve been working on?
It has for me. I am, quite literally, back at the drawing board this week, sketching out new story ideas. How do I write sympathetically and objectively about people I’m fighting not to hold in contempt? How do I work with a character whose interests and abilities are so fundamentally different from my own?
For some of my friends, the response has been to channel those emotions into art. Recording themselves singing their favorite songs. Drawing cartoons. Writing poetry. Chaining themselves to their computers for NaNoWriMo. For others, it has been more of an existential crisis: We’re questioning everything we’ve created.
The election did not cause this. It only highlighted an existing artistic conundrum. To tell a story authentically, we must endeavor to understand not only those who are like us, in thought, ability and action, but also, and more significantly, those who are not.
Right now, I do not understand. And so, the story waits.
It waits as I wrestle through the media overstimulation. It waits while I listen to friends and family as they vent. It waits during the afternoons when I find new things to scrub and throw away, in vain hopes of clearing my mind as well as my environment. It waits while I browse Pinterest in search of anything pretty or happy or beautiful to take my mind off the growing pains of this horribly divided nation.
It waits because for writers and creatives, this is a pivotal moment. Do we turn to light, escapist pieces? Or do we go down the rabbit hole?