Searching for Words

Since the results of the Presidential election were announced, a lot of writers and artists have blogged or used social media to talk about their struggles to find the energy needed for creativity.

One of the most eloquent—and profane—takes on this feeling comes from the ever-amazing Chuck Wendig, who explains at length about why being creative feels wrong, and why that feeling should be ignored.

Other posts from the talented staff at Writer Unboxed and guest writers at Wendig’s blog have also tackled this issue. The general advice is: Keep creating art, but allow that what you worked on before might not be what you should work on now.

In other words, the landscape has shifted, and the writer or artist might find that projects we started before the election no longer have our attention. Perhaps it’s too sweet or too gritty, and our creativity needs a new direction to thrive amidst the changes.

Those statements ring true to me each time I sit down to work on either of my WIP.

I am revising a draft of my romance, and I just don’t feel any spark for the project anymore. Frankly, I haven’t felt a spark for it in a while—since long before the election, in fact—but I’m not sure if that means the project is DOA or if it’s just that I’m frustrated and stumped by the revisions. Admittedly, revision is the part of the writing process that I am struggling to master.

How is a writer to know when to walk away from a manuscript? That knowledge seems to come from experience, and I don’t have enough yet to judge that project. The anger and fear I feel for the new administration’s policies only complicate my abilities to judge my manuscript’s potential fairly.

Some might say that this is a perfect time to really work on my political thriller/police procedural. After all, it’s topical and timely, and finishing a first draft of it could allow me to channel all of my emotions into a powerful work.

But as Wendig’s post above points out, that feels self-indulgent. Like, I dunno, I have this really luxurious, pampered, protected life because I can sit here and tap these keys while real people—people who are threatened by the new administration’s policies—are in the streets marching, are being arrested at work, and are threatened online and in person by bigots and white supremacists. Shouldn’t I be out there getting arrested and pepper sprayed and beaten up too? Would suffering all that make me feel like I was doing something positive in the middle of the political hurricane?

I tell myself that writing can matter. Writing something well could touch people’s hearts and change their minds. But then I see all these studies that show people won’t change their minds about bedrock beliefs—even when confronted with facts—because our brains are protecting us. Knowing that, does any of my writing really matter? Even if I craft the perfect book, could it reach the people who need to read it?

I don’t have answers for any of this. I’ll keep writing and trying to make sense of what’s going on in my heart and mind. I hope I can get through the two manuscripts I have in progress. Or find a brilliant idea for a new project that taps into the current swirl of emotions I’m riding.

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