Been in a word count drought these past couple of weeks. I write every day, or close to it. Sometimes I write in the early a.m before work, and at night before bed. My butt is in the chair. I do the work.
It’s just that, lately, the work isn’t enough. It’s not quality. It’s not progress. It’s picking and adding notes. Which, sometimes that just process or necessary chores. But this feels different. I can’t get into deep writing, those lovely runs of 500, 1000 words that just flow. Or maybe it’s only 250 words, but they are 250 damn fine words and they solve 3 plot issues and introduce a necessary secondary character and glimmer with diamond-dusted thematic possibilities. Or maybe it’s only ten words. But those 10 transformed a mundane sentence into capital A art, and sucker punched all of the story that came before them.
Writing to be proud of. Writing that confirms maybe I’ve got a little talent to go along with my persistence. Writing that inspires me to keep writing. The last two weeks have had none of that.
Normally, this would be a luscious opportunity for navel gazing. Oh Fickle Muse, why have you forsaken me. But, sadly, these are not luscious times. After a year and a half of always-escalating grotesquery in national politics, I am losing my ability to compartmentalize crisis. I can’t separate Citizen and Artist long enough to settle into the creative headspace needed for deep writing. And I’m also struggling with whether I should be. As Tim Grierson said on Twitter: Being angry all the time is exhausting and corrosive. Not being angry feels morally irresponsible.
Along with the anger, I’m terrified. The government acquired, furnished and staffed internment camps and then filled them with children before anyone spoke out. How many hundreds, thousands of people were involved in the planning and said nothing? Are entire departments empty of decent human beings?
For the longest time, my day job soothed my anger. While the organization has its problems, and they’re multiplying daily, for now I feel like we’re still dong more good than bad. I alleviate anger and fear by do-gooding. I am extraordinarily lucky that my jobs puts me on the front lines of community building. Daily, I meet and work with dozens of cultures and people-not-like-me.
I used to feel like I was doing my share. I can’t fix everything wrong in the world, so I will do my honest best to fix the little piece I’ve been entrusted with. And when I can, send support, donations, and good vibes to the folks working hard on other problems. For the longest time, my honest best during work hours left me with peace enough to do creative work during free time.
Except now, there’s so much more evil and wrongness, and what I do at the day job doesn’t even begin to undo the horrific damage being inflicted. Needless suffering. Shameful injustices. It’s time to stand up.
But I also need to put my butt in a chair and create. I know the value of art. I know the value of my art. I know my value as an artist. Yet it’s so fucking hard right now to… indulge in stories. To write about magical wildfires when my country is a dumpster fire. To write romance when there are toddlers in concentration camps in America. To write characters standing up for injustice when The Orange Glob is speaking to crowds two hours away and I35 North isn’t burning.
I talk a lot about the power of feeling proud of my writing. And right now, I am questioning if my writing is proud of me.