May You Live In Interesting Times

So, I had a craft post outlined, my take on creating your own motivation and smashing through writer’s block.

But then the world intruded. Possibly a new world, and for many, not a better version.

In conversations with writer and other artist friends in the last month, I’m getting an ugly vibe. People aren’t creating. Their issue isn’t the usual writers block, or lack of motivation, or the inability to flip a coin and pick one idea out of the pile.

Instead, the problem is somewhere between “art is frivolous” and “what does it matter in the big picture?”

Despite my lack of both shame and a brain-to-mouth filter, I’ve always tried to avoid political discussions, at least publicly. I’ve never found politicians to be desirable role models or politics to be a satisfying spectator sport.

Unfortunately, opting out isn’t a benign choice anymore. How does that saying (curse) go—“May you live in interesting times?”

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum or which party you lean toward, these are unsettled times. Society is in flux. The immediacy and pervasiveness of social media brings rulings, executive orders, and speculation in a real time, non-stop flood.

The sheer amount of information, opinions, and options to protest or support are overwhelming. The urge to do something—or hide—may be equally strong. When faced with marches, sit-ins, petitions, and riots, writing may not seem important.

It can even feel self-indulgent.

That’s especially true if you write speculative fiction.

Penning tales of dragons and space battles and hillbilly witches? Fluff. Irresponsible escapism.

Except, it isn’t. Not all of us have the liberty of expressing our views without repercussions. Maybe you’re a lone minority and don’t feel safe raising your voice. Friendships, careers, and even personal safety are at stake these days.

Which makes writing and our stories all the more important. Writing can be that safe space or that arena to fight for deeply held convictions. Writing can change hearts and minds, and is crucial during times of upheaval. For me, spec fiction is a place to push boundaries and play with what-if’s. Nobody likes heavy-handed issue books. Those have about the same effect as advertising there’s bacon for breakfast, and then finding out it’s the turkey version—disappointment, betrayal, and gagging.

Writing your truth as a thread in that hillbilly witch fantasy? That’s something else, though.

My advice?

Write the diversity you see around you every day. Write the government you desire.

Write inclusivity.

Write compassion.

While writing may seem pointless right now, never underestimate the power of a book. Why do those in power seek to manipulate or control words and ideas? Because art and the written word can produce tangible results.

Personally, I’m trying not to forget that potentially world-altering fact.

Comments 5

  • Dang it, Janet. Now what am I going to write about next week??

    I wanted to write about this very subject but didn’t want to mention politics so I was dithering about it. I’ve had such a hard time concentrating on writing spec-fic. I keep feeling I should do something “more important” and less “fluffy.” You captured the way I was feeling perfectly.

  • […] my life has been, writing has kept me sane. Has helped me move forward. What Janet said a few weeks ago is right. This is exactly the time to be creating. Not writing has actually made me a bit anxious […]

  • I love this. And this blog. I’m sensing a new favorite past time in my reading future.

  • […] Janet once wrote, “nobody likes heavy-handed issue books.” I certainly don’t like books that ram their political or cultural sensitivities down my throat, but apparently some people don’t grok subtlety, even if one accepts that Star Trek or Harry Potter were at all subtle in their messages, which is highly debatable. One of the problems that new writers have is not trusting their readers. Fearing that their readers won’t grasp a concept, authors want to beat them over the head with details. Examples of people not internalizing such obvious themes as those in Harry Potter and Star Trek may not help, but it’s important to realize that there will always be people that miss the point. […]

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