The daily news is out of control. Whether one keeps up online or on TV, there is little there except alternating tragedies: the pandemic, of course; the mess in Afghanistan; riots and hate crimes; the storm in the northweast; the immigration problems along the U.S./Mexican border; polarized politics complete with lies and coverups.
Many writers cope with the continuing uproar by writing. In her latest Funds for Writers newletter, author Hope Clark said writing is cathartic for her. That is, it tends to purge negative emotions and, in doing so, creates a new attitude–or, let us say, a better or more hopeful attitude.
Writing, of course, changes one’s focus from the worst of reality to the task of stringing words together, to the subject matter of the work, or the locations and characters in the story. Whether the work is fiction or nonfiction, it usually involves research that’s a change of pace from the news. Writing takes us away, but it’s not like burying one’s head in the sand and becoming ignorant or uncaring about the issues.
Some people get away from it all by going to vacation, spending a day on the lake, camping or hiking in the mountains, or catching up on household chores. Some people repaint their houses every time there’s a national crisis. Others weed the garden.
And writers (often, but not always) spend their time in imaginary places of their own creation. It’s not always easy. As Hope Clark said, “If writing is a part of you, you crave and yearn to write. If you struggle with it, all the more reason to sit down and do it. If you write ten words in an hour, you do so. Chances are that prying those words loose might let the waters flow. Maybe only trickle, but the point is you are moving forward with getting words, any words, any amount of words, on the page.”
We aren’t writing to change the world but to stay sane in the world as it is.
10 thoughts on “How writers cope with ‘interesting times’”
Oh yeah, I love that quote. In the end, it’s all about moving the needle forward, no matter how little. And we need to make sure that at the very least, we do that every day. Thanks for this post!
If we can make things better, at least bit by bit, then, I think we’ll be okay. Thanks for your visit.
That is interesting. I wonder if that is a reason for the resurgence in popularity of historical fiction? To get away from our own ‘interesting times’.
IMHO, writing about said interesting times *now* can tend towards polemic and/or journalism rather than creative writing. This weird present we are living through has to be processed in some way, evaluated from more distant perspectives, or moved into SF or fantasy territory if it is to be written about as it is happening.
Personally, I feel a need to compartmentalise. To take one aspect of what’s happening and take that to an extreme (which may, indeed, still not outstrip reality!) to find some creative juice in it. I fear my reader would be overwhelmed if I tried to write what is actually going on in the world. And yet I am very well aware that all things are inter-connected, and to box up aspects of life is to undersell it.
Apparently, many writers are creating journals/memoirs about life during the pandemic to document events and feelings. Not necessarily for publication, these works help them try to make sense of what’s going on. Don’t know if it helps. Probably, one way or another,
I tried that, as soon as it became apparent that this was a life event out of the ordinary. But surprisingly little happened, so I stopped! Now, it may be because as a story teller I am primarily plot driven and if one was lucky (as I was) almost nothing happened. It may also be partly because – even now – the information one acquires about the pandemic is so variable ranging from conspiracy theories to common sense (eg, a friend of mine who moved heaven and earth to get vaccinations for herself and her husband as soon as possible told me she had just learned that being jabbed didn’t prevent one from catching covid). Even the numbers of the dead have been at various times unobtainable, wrong, debatable.
But it is currently difficult to write fiction that doesn’t acknowledge the pandemic. And as it recedes (we hope!) into the recent past it is going to be increasingly difficult not to bring it into fiction, even if only, as it were, set dressing. One wonders in a sort of mild panic, when that time comes, whether one will have actually made sufficient notes about it. As if the whole world has not been drenched in data, information, misinformation and disinformation about covid !
My fiction isn’t set in current times, so acknowledging the pandemic doesn’t factor in. I felt the same way about the journaling, nothing spectacular going on (thank goodness). So, I just keep writing my usual stuff as though there isn’t a pandemic. I say that for blogs and Facebook. And either place, almost anything one said is going to get into the polarized ideas people have about it.
I’ve noticed that our current interesting times are showing up in recently released novels. While writing during such times might be an escape, reading, which is supposed to be an escape, turns out not to be much of a diversion at all.
I do think reading helps, but not as much as we wish it did.
How interesting, Pat. I found that I am reading a (factual) book about the Spanish Flu. A desire to understand our own affliction better, I suppose.
I am also reading lighter, fictional things!
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