How do we write in times of strife?
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When the evening news is overwhelming, when injustice reigns and life reads like conflict straight out of a history book, how do we find the mental and emotional space to write?
This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit in recent months, but more so than ever following the events of Charlottesville this August. When a few blog readers expressed similar sentiments on Twitter, I knew it was time to unpack this topic to the best of my ability.
Writing in times of strife may seem insignificant or impossible, but nothing could be further from the truth. Your stories matter, and they are needed. Here are my best tips for bringing them to life when the world is in turmoil...
1. Know Your Why.
There are many ways to be a writer, and every one of them is valid. Some write to inform, others to inspire. Some to educate, others to entertain. No matter the current state of affairs, stories of all natures are necessary.
Readers need an escape as much as they need to expand their horizons, as much as they need a reminder of hope, as much as they need to know and empathize with the pain of others. All of these stories matter. All of them.
So why do you write? What do you hope readers will gain from your stories? No matter your answer to this question, know that there are readers out there who need your books.
Your stories matter. Writing them now is more important than ever.
2. Remember that writing is more than just writing.
I would be romanticizing the creation of stories if I said that writers didn’t experience good and bad days alike. Not every word is tapped out in a fury of inspired creativity. Writing is hard, and in times of strife, it’s even harder.
You won’t always have the mental or emotional energy to tackle drafting or revising, but that doesn’t mean you’re failing as a writer.
So much of storytelling happens outside of putting pen to paper. It happens when we daydream, when we people-watch, when we read and when we converse with others. It happens in therapists’ chairs and in lecture halls and churches and in nature.
It happens everywhere.
Life informs art. Keep your eyes and ears wide open, and live.
3. Set aside time and space.
Writing takes mental and emotional energy, no doubt. But when the day’s latest news leaves you drained of these resources, intentionally carving out time and space to write is essential.
Try to keep your writing as far from your consumption of current events as possible. Of course, this may be difficult considering where you live, who you are, and how who you are affects how you are treated by society.
But generally speaking, if you can separate those two aspects of your life, do.
This may mean writing first thing in the morning, before you pick up your phone or flick on the news, writing late at night when you’re too tired to think about the world, or reserving your energy for those ten minutes on your lunch break or after you put the kids to bed.
In any case, intentionality is key. Remember, you can’t always wait on the muse to write. Sometimes, you simply need to schedule space into your day or your week and make it happen, however and whenever you can.
Fuel your art. Make it a priority.
4. Connect with fellow writers.
If you’re keeping the right company, your fellow writers are likely just as fired up and emotionally depleted over current events as you. Sometimes, that solidarity is needed.
Who better to inspire and encourage you than your fellow writers? Who better to push you to sit down and write than those experiencing the same frustrations as yourself? Who better to remind you that your dreams still matter?
Let the support of your fellow writers motivate you to keep moving forward.
5. Write to prove the world wrong.
Chaos is the defining factor of humanity, with strife ever present in some form on this planet. Having the time, resources, and passion to pursue a creative hobby in the face of strife is the biggest "f— you" that you can deal to this chaos.
So let that reality fuel you. Be a fighter. Write to prove to the world that no matter how the worst of humanity tries to drag you down, you’ll keep fighting to make this world a better place.
One word, one page, one chapter, and one story at a time.
Writer, no matter where you are in this world, I hope you will choose to write in the face of whatever adversity throws itself your way.
It’s worth repeating: your stories matter. What brings you joy in life is worth fighting for, especially in times of strife. So stay strong, and keep on writing.