Writing in Spite of it All…

Hinfallingsnow_zps0b503108I’ll be the first to admit, 2016 wasn’t a very productive year for me.

To be perfectly honest,  I lived with a growing conviction we’d see a Trump presidency, and this hamstrung and paralyzed my ability to write.

I started at least four stories last year, reached the 40 K mark, decided they were utter crap, and abandoned them. Maybe they were crap. Maybe I just lost faith in them. It was impossible to concentrate on them to work through their issues as long as I lived with this utter, horrible premonition that everything was about to go to hell.

winter is comingAnd you know what? My worst fears came true. Since I’m a writer, that’s saying something.

Not only did Trump get elected President, but within hours of his taking office, links for climate change, civil rights, and GLBTQ rights disappeared from with WhiteHouse.gov website. Republican lawmakers in five states launched bills to criminalize peaceful protests. Every Cabinet member chosen by the Trump transition team could best be summed up by choosing the biggest, most vicious fox and putting it in charge of the respective hen houses. If he proposed making Cruella DeVille the Secretary of the National Humane Society, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The gross manipulation of the confirmation hearings, with limiting questioning, means most of them will get rammed through regardless of the fitness of the nominee for office.

The GOP wants to defund Planned Parenthood and the National Endowment for the Arts. They announced plans to eliminate twenty-five of the DOJ’s Violence Against Women grant programs, and of course, they want to kill the Affordable Care Act. Millions will lose health care coverage as a result, and reinstituting the ability of companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions will doom many to backruptcy at best and death at worst. Medicare and Social Security aren’t safe, either.

I should also like to point out that because we have a Republican Congress and Senate, we are unlikely to see an impeachment go through, despite the fact Trump has already violated the Constitution he just swore to uphold by taking office without divesting from his businesses.That doesn’t even touch on the disturbing possibility the Russians interfered with the election for the sole purpose of getting Trump in office. Or the fact that given the age of most of the members of the Supreme Court, the incoming administration will have the power to influence legislation for decades to come. Let’s not forget the last time we had a Republican House, Senate, and President, we had the Great Depression and it took World War II to end it.

Wait, I take that back. We also had a GOP-controlled House, Senate, and Presidency from 2003-2006. Also one of the worst economic downturns in American history. Believe it or not, driving the economy bus off the cliff has nothing to do with POC, ‘the gays’, Muslims, immigrants, or ‘uppity’ women and everything to do with the policies of the GOP.  Not that Trump’s supporters will see it that way.

It’s a lot to take in. Not to mention, my firm belief we have an unstable man who cannot bear criticism in any form who has been given access to the nuclear codes, or that his closest advisors could double for Hitler’s Cabinet. Or that science and education are considered dirty words and in some locations, government officials are actively prohibited from using the words “climate change.”

It’s also hard to believe, in the face of all of this, that any scribblings I might create could have value or meaning. Isn’t it the height of frivolity to continue telling stories in such an environment?

I don’t think so.

It took me a while to reach this point. I’ve read posts on the subject written–far more eloquently than anything I could say–by other people. Probably the best of them have been written by Chuck Wendig, who wrote How to Create Art and Make Cool Stuff in a Time of Trouble, as well as this morning’s words of encouragement about the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States: No One’s Coming to Save Us, So We Have To Save Each Other.

Good words.They didn’t sink in right away, though. And I will probably have to refer to them again and again as I struggle with what the future brings to our country and our planet. Until this morning, when Trump was irrevocably sworn in, I think on some level I was hoping for a last minute reprieve. The Ring is tossed into the fires of Mt. Doom. Harry Potter destroys the final Horcrux. Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane. Something. Anything.

And yet, it did not. Trump has been sworn in, and the ravaging of our lands and our rights, the savaging of the public programs, the crippling of the already struggling middle class, has begun.

The battle lines have been drawn. So mourn, but don’t stop resisting. Don’t allow anyone to normalize what the GOP and the President are doing. Be outraged, but don’t let it paralyze you. Remember to take care of yourself and those around you that are struggling: emotionally, physically, financially.

Never Give UpOne of the things I’ve done that seems to help me a little is order some of these rings from Amazon. I got the idea from a post by The Bloggess–it seems someone gave her one of these rings once, and now she keeps some on hand so she can give them out to people she thinks needs them. I buy them three at a time and wear one until I give it away. When I’ve given away the last one, I buy three more.

Remember that we cannot function in a state of sustained fear and anger. Share those kitten pictures. Penguins. Otters. We need more otters. Baby otters. Corgis. Hell, Baby Corgi-Otter crosses. Sharing something that makes you happy doesn’t mean you aren’t taking things seriously enough. It means you’re in this for the long haul and you have to nourish your soul. That includes celebrating the events in your life important to you.

Read. Pull out your comfort reads, whatever they may be. I find I’m re-reading a lot of the children’s horse and dog books I grew up with, as well as historical romances. There’s something very soothing in reading about an era where the worst thing that happens is that you get cut dead by society or your sister makes an imprudent match. But if zombie apocalypse is your comfort read, that’s okay too. Read, and then share your squee. Make an author’s day and tell them how much you enjoyed their story. Leave a review.

Watch your favorite movies. Remember why you love your heroes. You know who was the biggest hero is in The Winter Soldier? Sure, Steve Rogers gave a stirring speech about doing what’s right when everyone around you is doing wrong. But the real hero in my book is the little tech guy who refuses to push the button that will activate the Insight program–which would kill thousands of people all over the world deemed as a potential ‘threat.’

He was inspired by Captain America’s words. But he refused to give in to doing wrong, even when he knew the consequences for refusal would be grave.

Also, if you are a creator, then create. More than ever we need our creators, our artists, musicians, and storytellers. Because it’s the creators that taught us about Voldemort and why he needed to be defeated. It’s the creators that give us Fight Songs, our Katniss Everdeens, and our Princess Leias. It’s creators who wrote  Captain America the inspirational speech, and creators who give us hope.

Rebellions are built on hope.

If you’re like me, and you think we’re in for a very rough time ahead, there are some practical steps you can take.

We each have to resist in the manner we can best maintain, however. I can call my Congressmen. I can donate a little to some organizations, but not all. I can write letters of protest. I can pen stories of hope. Marching in huge crowds? Makes me want to run screaming for the hills. This is a sustained march we’re on–a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself accordingly. Pick the organizations it is the most important to you to support and remember someone else will have different priorities. If every penny you have is going to your own survival, it’s okay you can’t donate money. Consider volunteering or some other way of showing the President he does not have the mandate of the people behind him. If organizing and participating in a protest march is your forte, I will cheer you on.

As for my writing, I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what kinds of stories I should be telling now. I still believe as much as ever we need stories with happy endings. Stories where two people meet, fall in love, overcome adversity and live happily together afterward. Stories that take you out of your stressful, crappy day and transport you to another world for a few hours.

More than ever we need stories where diversity and acceptance aren’t dirty words. But I also find that I have other kinds of stories within me begging to be told now. Stories about finding your inner strength and power. About standing up for what’s right. I suspect my storytelling is going to be changing over the next couple of years. I’ll keep you posted.

I think this also means I’ll be spending less time on social media in the name of self-protection and increased productivity. I’ll still be around, but less vocal, less angry. I think we have our work cut out for us in the upcoming years, and yet I will probably be making fewer posts like this one.

I have lanterns to light. Hope to share. Stories to tell.

Time to get to it.



16 thoughts on “Writing in Spite of it All…

  1. I did the same thing. Wrote to 40K and stopped cold, wondering why I bothered. Started and stopped two other stories that were promising but I did think they were good enough. They didn’t seem important. 🙁

    Today I moved to a new cottage. I will have peace and quiet… well, as much as one can have these days, given I live in a city. But better than where I was. Once I unpack and get settled, I am determined to enjoy my life again. Yes, there is a jerk in the White House. Yes, he is supported by tons of other jerks. I will resist as often as I’m able, but I am not going to buckle to depression and sadness. I want to be happy. I want to enjoy things. I want to take wonderful pictures and write engrossing stories. 2017 is going to be a better year for me. I wish the same for everyone, even if they have to painstakingly carve it out of a mountain of misery to do it.
    Theo Fenraven recently posted..Free Read: Bad Fit, Chapter 3My Profile

    • I can certainly sympathize with your inability to finish a story last year. All last year, I thought my fears were groundless, and that I was needlessly spinning my wheels, only it turned out they weren’t.

      Like you, I’m determined not to let world events suck all the joy out of my life. As frightened as I am at the rapidity with which an ugly kind of change is sweeping the nation and the world (especially since ‘checks and balances’ seems to hold no meaning for these people), with the exception of nuclear war, open civil war, and climate change, none of these events are irreversible. Perhaps two years of seeing unions being gutted, the loss of jobs and rights, and Trump and his cronies living like royalty off the blood of the middle class will be enough to make the people who voted for him realize just how little the GOP cares about their needs. I am clinging to that hope, at any rate.

      In the meantime, I’m giving some serious thought to the kinds of stories I want to write. I still want to tell tales that I will enjoy telling, and that I hope will make readers happy, but I also want to give people heroes to believe in so they can believe in themselves.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Writing in Spite of it All…My Profile

  2. Wonderful! Thank you for writing this. I’ve stopped watching almost everything on television and stopped reading any article with Tweety Bird’s name in the headline, also subscribed to the Washington Post and donated to a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth. Just my own personal rebellion but that’s all we can do since there’s no help from anyone in government. More than anything, I HOPE people will remember this in 2 years and vote but a lot of harm will be done before then.

    • *nods*

      I found myself pretty much giving up television last year, especially since I noted that 95% of my ‘must-see’ shows were incredibly violent. This past October, I tried watching a few of them again, but it didn’t take long for me to realize it just wasn’t a good idea for me.

      I’m back to reading again. I’ve subscribed to Teen Vogue, and The Guardian. I’ve donated to Planned Parenthood and the World Wildlife Federation.

      I’m clearing my debts as fast as I can. I’m taking self-defense classes. I’m planning a vegetable garden in the spring. It’s not much, but taking small, positive acts makes me feel better about the utter lack of control in my life.

      And you’re right. The damage that will occur in even just two years is incalculable. Already, measures have been implemented to make it harder for middle class Americans to buy a house, and in addition to the deletions I mention on the Whitehouse.gov site, the links to immigration have been removed–as well as all the Spanish translation options.

      Measures will be taken to suppress voting in even greater numbers than ever heard of before. Honestly, I think if they could reverse the right of women to vote, they’d do so.

      But as long as we’re not involved in a nuclear war or we’ve decimated the planet beyond recovery, I believe we *will* get through this. The darker it gets, the more we need stories of hope, and heroes to encourage us to never give up.

      The thing that boggles me the most is that many of his supporters–some of the most vulnerable people in the country–can’t see how badly his policies are going to go for them as well.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Writing in Spite of it All…My Profile

      • That last bit is true. I’m surrounded by people who still think Orange One is going to do great things for the country–despite his cabinet picks and everything else that’s come from that group in the last few weeks. I keep wondering if someone has pickled their brains if they can’t see how scary and dangerous this man and his Republican congress is?
        Theo Fenraven recently posted..Free Read: Bad Fit, Chapter 3My Profile

          • I remember reading recently that the brain of a conservative works differently than that of a liberal. After talking as briefly as possible with rabid conservatives, I’d have to agree. There is no other way to explain their obstinacy when it comes to voting for people like Orange One. They really do think–still!–he’s going to make things better in this country. And the weird thing is these people are usually quite nice otherwise. Helpful, kind, willing to go out of their way for others. Not always the brightest bulbs on the tree, but pleasant.

            I honestly don’t understand it. Is it the addiction to Faux News? Is it being hammered with campaign promises over and over about how they’ll be taken care of? I’ve had to make a personal vow not to bring up politics at all, because when they glowingly describe how much they love their Republican dickhead politician, I want to bash them over the head with a large rock and point to history: when government is run by Dems, the country prospers. When it’s run by GOP, we sink like a stone. The difference in effects between terms of Bush and Obama is a perfect example.

            It must also be said I will never be close friends with a Republican. Our values are too different for that to happen–I think those less fortunate should be taken care of, as opposed to their determination to make them suffer, for example–and their IQ is often less than impressive.
            Theo Fenraven recently posted..Free Read: Bad Fit, Chapter 3My Profile

          • That might well explain a lot. How some people only see things in black and white. How some people can steadfastly refuse to see something clearly presented to them because it doesn’t fit with their world-view.

            You can look at the record of the GOP run government and the Dem run government and see the difference just in economics alone. You’d think that would be the deciding factor for people, regardless of their level of education (which the GOP consistently dumbs down) or their belief in climate change. It can be boiled down to those numbers alone: when people have health insurance, when the middle class has a higher level of disposable income, the economy improves for everyone.

            But when ideology becomes involved, people shut their minds to facts. Because one of the hardest things for me to swallow is someone who believes very strongly in pro-life and but doesn’t believe in gun control. Who is pro-life, but against birth control, after-school programs, grants for women to protect them from domestic violence, etc. Why is it the sanctity of life begins at conception and ends the moment a child is born?

            Why is it that a person is not content to say, “These are my religious beliefs and I will abide by them” but instead tries to impose them on everyone else around them?

            I love bread. Seriously love bread. It’s the first thing I reach for in a restaurant–the bread basket. I’d rather have bread than cake. But recently, my ability to digest it has gone wonky. I’m considering eliminating all wheat from my diet and I’m not kidding when I look around and wonder what else there is to eat.

            But I don’t label wheat as evil and try to prevent others from enjoying it. If someone asks me why I gave it up, I’ll tell them. But I’m not going to try to compel them to do the same.

            I’m with you on the anger when it comes to discussing politics these days. When I see a car (usually either a beat-up pickup truck or a Mercedes SUV) with a Trump/Pence bumper sticker, I want to key it. I’ve never felt such a burning resentment toward my neighbors like this before. I strongly suspect THAT level of hostility is what FOX News and the Koch brothers have been fostering for decades, which is why conservatives have been so blockheaded and blind.

            I don’t want to turn into a person who has eliminated the ability to think critically for myself but I am not willing to ‘give Trump a chance.’ So far, he’s promised to repeal the ACA, kill funding to the NEA, kill PBS and NPR, has deleted links to climate change, immigration, civil rights, and GLBT rights on the White House page–as well as taken down the Spanish translation options, made it harder for middle class Americans to get a home mortgage, and so on.

            The very fact that people cannot see the difference between the Bush and Obama years makes me feel there is very little hope in changing their minds until the Trump changes affect them *personally*. And then it will be too late.

          • Parties make it easier to identify candidates who share your values and ideals, although these days, it’s getting tougher to tell them apart since both are stroked/owned by the elite and responding to their demands, not our needs. I feel more hopeless than ever, given what the new admin has done in just a couple of days. 🙁 I’m terrified I won’t recognize this country in two years.
            Theo Fenraven recently posted..Free Read: Bad Fit, Chapter 3My Profile

  3. I feel that in order for me to stay healthy and sane, I need to create and it may seem frivolous to some, but it’s not to me, and ultimately, I’m accountable to ME. And I think creativity and art is important. I don’t like all art. I do’nt agree with all art. but I respect every artists right to make the art that speaks to them and put it out there in the world, and I respect the courage it takes to do that. I don’t write groundbreaking things, but I do work through my own thoughts on rape culture and having female protagonists that have female friends and having female villains that are more than vamp. and having male characters that respect the women in their life and having male characters that don’t and making it obvious. I may not ring a gong in the middle of a crowded space, but I do think my viewpoint matters, and I think yours does too. Don’t devalue it by thinking it frivolous. Your creative works express how you see the world. And you never know who might pick that book up and need that viewpoint.

    • You’re right. And this is so valid, not just for you but for everyone who needs to see that the ‘norms’ they’ve been shown in books and movies isn’t necessarily true.

      I don’t write groundbreaking things, but I do work through my own thoughts on rape culture and having female protagonists that have female friends and having female villains that are more than vamp. and having male characters that respect the women in their life and having male characters that don’t and making it obvious.

      There is great value in this–and is one of the reasons I’m re-thinking my own stories to tell in the future. 🙂
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Writing in Spite of it All…My Profile

  4. I feel like the biggest battle I fought so far this season was finishing NaNoWriMo in spite of the election. It was so hard. I had to take the election week off to just cry and recover, and since then it’s been an uphill climb not to be overwhelmed by everything that’s happening. But i’m glad that my imagination, despite living in a body terrified, has continued to chug along producing new ideas.

    I hope every creative person in this community draws strength from one another and finds support to produce their best works this year *hugs*

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