Saturday Edition – In Troubled Times, Write

On Existential Dilemmas and the Creative Act:

When things get stormy, writing shines a light in the darkness.

When things get stormy, writing brings a light into the darkness.

I’ve been struggling with something lately. Though I intentionally minimize my news consumption (and try to restrict myself to the least sensationalist sources), I can’t help but notice that the world has gone a little mad. It’s scary out there. It’s as if the cruel and ridiculous worlds of satirical novelists like Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams have come to life; and suddenly the jokes aren’t so funny anymore. Global warming, economic collapse, war, terrorism, political corruption, religious intolerance, discrimination of all kinds – these are the living nightmares that keep so many of us up at night. These are Big Problems – global issues that affect all of humanity and very fate of this fragile planet.

My struggle is knowing what to do in the face of all this insanity.

··• )o( •··

It’s an old saw, but a true one: Life is Short. This fall, I will celebrate my forty-seventh trip around the sun. I sailed past forty and even forty-five with hardly a second glance, but something about being this close to the half-century mark has made the sound of my personal countdown clock – tick-tock, tick-tock – a bit louder and more ominous. I have days where I channel Marisa Tomei’s character, Mona Lisa, from the movie My Cousin Vinny (you know the scene I mean), except instead of being worried about my biological clock, I’m worried about how to best spend my remaining time on this planet.

I mean, how do any of us live our Best Life, and what does that even mean anyway? I realize that the definition of a Good Life shifts wildly from person to person, and even –over the course of a lifetime – for each individual based on changing beliefs, new experiences, and the painful process of growing up. But lately I’ve been feeling more pressure than usual to, pardon the expression, figure this shit out.

I mean, what do we do? Do we embark on crusades and tilt at windmills, knowing full well that we have only the slimmest chance of making even the smallest difference? Or, do we focus on making our own tiny corner of the world more beautiful and kind, more tolerant and hopeful?

Or, maybe – just maybe – those two things are not mutually exclusive?

··• )o( •··

I don’t know about you, but I am often torn between my desire to create and my sense of obligation to Real Life and Other People. I do my best to walk a straight and narrow line doing all the things that responsible people do, but I keep losing my balance because the gray matter inside my head is spinning at such velocity that the centrifugal force pushes me right off my feet. I feel distracted and unmoored because my attention and intention are split between taking care of the Real World and creating a world of my own.

I worry that writing is a self-indulgent waste of time, an unearned privilege, and a misuse of my one and precious life . I worry about being perpetually caught up with chronic navel gazing. But, eventually, my inner Guardian of my Writer Self steps in (usually with a slightly exasperated sigh) and straightens me out:

Writing is not self-indulgent. Writing is brave and generous. It is the act of digging deep down inside your heart, mind, and soul; extracting the truth you find there; polishing it to the best of your ability; and sharing it with others. Writing is the opposite of self-indulgent. Yes, it requires that you look within, but ultimately that internal searching is an effort to connect. Stories are not meant to be kept inside. Stories are, by nature, shared. They are the best gift you can give.

Though my conviction wavers now and again, I really do believe this.

Since the dawn of human consciousness, stories have informed, educated, inspired, and comforted us. Cautionary tales let us benefit from the wisdom of those more experienced than us. Stories about heroes and heroines inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves. Happy endings give us hope.

And, as a writer, the act of writing helps us break free of the paralyzing forces of fear and doubt. Though the state of affairs in the world may leave us feeling helpless, putting words down helps us understand our feelings and – if we share our stories – helps others understand, too. Through writing, you can transform the pain and fear. Through the alchemy of story, you can turn the darkness of conflict, tragedy, sorrow, and anger into forces for good.

··• )o( •··

I have said before that I believe the world would be a better place if more people wrote. Writers never take things at face value. We are curious creatures. We ask questions. Lots of questions. We are happy to spend whole lifetimes exploring the endless possibilities of “What if?” We are observers, seekers, and storytellers. We are magicians who have the ability to make the otherwise invisible visible, thereby revealing the world as we see it to others – opening eyes and minds and hearts, creating connections, reminding readers that they are not alone. Never alone.

Writers have the potential to be beacons of hope – a light that keeps the darkness at bay. A small flame to guide and comfort us as we walk through our days and dream through our nights. Through our characters and our stories, our essays and our memoirs, we can be voices of reason, acceptance, and compassion. We can choose to write stories that embody kindness, empathy, beauty, and joy. We can inspire generosity, laughter, and understanding.

We can also expose evil. We can mirror the horrors that we see in the Real World, raising awareness through literal or metaphorical plot lines. We can imagine the outcome of some particular cruelty, folly, or corruption and enlighten people to the danger that lurks right under their noses.

Ultimately, stories – even the ones that reveal and teach – offer a momentary escape from the weight of the world. And, sometimes, this temporary reprieve from one’s problems is the greatest gift a story can give. The space created by a story gives us the chance to step back and take a broader view, to hear ourselves think, to connect the dots. Stories bring perspective and inspire us to think about our choices and actions in a different light. Whether we are writing them or reading them, stories help us step more fully into who we truly are.

··• )o( •··

I will never stop struggling with this dilemma, but that’s okay. “Balance,” I’ve heard, is a verb, not a noun. I must gently remind myself that my Best Life is not a destination that exists entirely in either the Real World or my Writing World. My Best Life is an ongoing experience that moves seamlessly between the two unique but deeply connected hemispheres of my life. I will not tear myself apart worrying about writing when I’m fighting Real World battles or worrying about the fate of the Real World when I’m writing. I will accept that my Writer’s Life exists in both worlds, it’s just my role that changes. In the Real World, I am the observer; while in my writing world, I am a creator.

As for the question of whether it is more “right” to fight the good fight out in the Big, Wide World or to focus my energies on creating something beautiful in my small corner, I think that in a perfect world my creative efforts – no matter how modest – may be the greatest contribution I can make. Writing is how I take my stand. It represents my beliefs and my dreams. It embodies everything I want to nurture in the world. And, because I share some of what I write, writing also gives me a way to connect with others and make the world a little smaller and a little less scary.

So, if the news has you feeling a little discouraged or downright despondent, please don’t give up hope and please don’t put down your pen. The world needs writers more than ever. Write your stories. Share your thoughts. Send up a beacon of hope. Inspire and educate us. Help us to see the world in a new way. Remind us that we aren’t alone and that the good guys can still win.

.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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42 thoughts on “Saturday Edition – In Troubled Times, Write

  1. This post means a lot to me. I want to thank you for putting all our thoughts out there. It’s like the world now is trying to cut everyone off from each other, and writing…. writing is the only way to stop this process. Telling stories, spilling out the words that perpetually fill the hearts and minds and mouths and books and blogs of people like us pave a path through the dangerous and the unreliable world. It says: Hey! We’re in this together! We’re alive and we’re humans too! We got your and you got ours…
    I may be rambling on, but- hey! I am a writer. And, the point is that writing gives us ideas and ideas give us hope and hope gives us strength and strength allows us to change our world and survive in it if we can’t. So, it doesn’t matter whether you fight for the greater good of the world or help your little corner- because as long as you write- you WILL leave your mark and you will change somebody, somewhere.
    Exhibit A- me!

    • I love what you’ve said here about the way writing connects us, keeps us from being estranged and isolated by outside forces. That’s so important. Stories are the glue that hold our humanity together.

      Thanks for being here & so glad you found the post inspiring. 🙂

  2. Jamie, this has to be the most beautiful article I have ever read! It just drips of optimism and hope. What a great way to start my day and I am definitely passing this one along! I bought myself a picture the other day is say, “Your story matters, share it with the world.” I am putting this into my writing cave just to remind me.

    • “Your story matters, share it with the world.” <— I love that! 🙂

      Thank you for such kind compliments. I want to be optimistic and hopeful … even in the face of everything that's happening in the world today. It is, I think, the only sane option.

      Enjoy your writing cave!

    • I agree. A world without stories, without writers’ voices, would be a terrible place indeed.
      🙂

      Thanks for coming by!

  3. I’ve been following your posts with great interest for a few months now, this one struck a particular chord. While the world does seem to be going completely berserk, I’ve been struggling with my late-found courage to finally write, and vague sense of guilt at having retrenched into a very private non-social life, away from the ” Real World” to be able to do so – obviously except for work. But writing is what I do, while others do other things. I feel we all contribute what we have in us, as you say “Writing is how I take my stand”. And please stop worrying about the half-century mark: it’s a cool place to be, where one can start to make – some – sense of things and of oneself 🙂

    • It is always a pleasure to see you here, Bea. 🙂
      It is an odd conundrum, is it not, that in order to connect more deeply with the world (and, ultimately, with others), we must step outside of our daily life and withdraw into ourselves? It’s a strange balancing act to keep up over time, but – in my humble opinion – one of the only ways to navigate this life.

      Thanks, as always, for being here.
      And, thanks for your encouragement about the half-century mark!

  4. Thank you for this perfectly written post. So many of my older friends and relatives don’t understand why I write and why I must write. The world is pulling apart at it’s threads and the news media keeps pulling at the threads helping it unwind.

    You need to get this published for the world to see. I don’t know how you get this post out for all to read, but this is a good start.
    Shine On

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your encouragement to share this with a broader audience. I will think on that and see what I can do. Meanwhile, just glad to have the camaraderie of fellow writers here on our little corner of the Internet.

  5. A very uplifting antidote to the overwhelming sense of despair that emerges from the brutality in this world. Though there is so little any one person can do, it makes sense to do what little we can.

    • “Though there is so little any one person can do, it makes sense to do what little we can.” You’ve encapsulated this whole post in one beautifully written line. Wonderful. Thanks so much – for adding that and for being here. 🙂

  6. How beautiful and powerful a message to all the storytellers out there. Its nice to know I’m not alone in the struggles you so poetically stated above. I want to reblog this for others and print it out to put above my desk as a reminder and motivator while I write. Loved this! Thank You!!
    #writersunite

    • #writersunite <— Love this hashtag! 🙂

      And I love when someone says they'd like to print out something I've written and put it above there desk. There is no higher honor. Truly. Thank you.

      Keep on writing & never fear that you're alone. There are plenty of us out here, making the journey silently beside you.

    • Thank you so much for being here and for such a lovely comment. I’m glad you loved reading it. I loved writing it!

  7. That does it. I’ve procrastinated beyond my allotment; this post has pulled me forward with the reminder — it IS more blessed to give than to receive. I am gratefully receiving this gift, Jamie. I only hope I may inspire others as you have. Thank you.

    • I know that tricky fella, Procrastination, only too well. I am glad to here you’ve decided to go ahead and give; and I’m honored to know that this post may have played a small part in moving you forward.

      Good luck & keep writing!

  8. Great post! I am primarily a painter and much of what you have written here applies to me as well and I struggle so often with these thoughts and my own relevance to the whole of life. I do write for myself as a way of cleansing my mind and soul on occasion. Being a creative is both a curse and a gift and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Keep writing please.

    • Willena,
      Thanks for coming by. Your paintings are beautiful – so evocative and full of depth. And I love how your life as a “seeker” is woven into your art.

      Being a creative does have its moments of doubt and torment, but – like you – I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The act of creating something is, for me, what gives life purpose and joy and meaning. Creating makes me feel alive and connected to the rest of existence in a way that I rarely experience otherwise.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks again for being here.

  9. I loved this post. I’m not a writer, just a father who has an offbeat home schooling program to expose what my growing children should embrace and avoid. However, I wouldn’t mind at all if my children became writers (even part time) as what you give as insights into writing can truly inspire them and bring out their inner power. Thanks Jamie.

    • Writing really does play so many roles in our lives. When I tell people I’m a “writer,” I can almost see their preconceived notions materializing. 😉 But, in truth, there are so many different kinds of writers and so many writers who will never “go pro,” but who are legitimate writers nonetheless. I would love if more people became part-time writers, or even just hobbyists. Writing helps to both give our minds and hearts wings, and also ground us in our personal truth and in the reality of the world around us. It’s a powerful tool, indeed.

      Good luck with your home schooling. Hats off to you on that adventure!

  10. I totally relate to this! I sometimes feel people think I’m irresponsible because I don’t follow the news. I have to keep reminding myself that it is not my place to fix the world, all I can do is my small bit, and not give up doing that, and trusting God for the rest.

    Sometimes I even struggle with feeling the responsibility to write something relevant and helpful, rather than the frivolous things I feel the urge to write… so I write nothing except nano, which doesn’t matter except as useful practice… I must overcome that somehow! Surely it is better to write something frivolous than nothing at all?! 🙂

    • Hello, Knotrune. How nice to see you. 🙂

      I know the guilt you speak of re: not keeping up on all the news. I feel the same way – that I am somehow shirking my duty if I don’t stay up-to-date on all the latest human and ecological tragedies and travesties. But, sometimes, I just can’t take it and I need to focus on things I can do and change in my own space. If more people did that – tried to make their small corner of the world better – doesn’t it follow that all those corners would eventually converge and the “better world” would be all around us?

      As for writing “frivolous” things, I don’t think that any writing is frivolous, and I think you should write whatever you’re moved to write. Some writers gravitate toward deep topics, some toward ideas related to current events, but some writers are here to entertain us and make us wonder. Some writers have the job of providing a moment’s respite from the pressures of the world. One kind of writing is not better or more valuable than the other. For each, a time and place. They are all needed.

      Happy writing! Thanks for coming by.

  11. Reblogged this on Flynn Gray and commented:
    In this article, Jamie (@suddenlyjamie) discusses the role of writers during troubled times in the world. For example, Jamie notes that:

    “As a writer, the act of writing helps us break free of the paralyzing forces of fear and doubt. Though the state of affairs in the world may leave us feeling helpless, putting words down helps us understand our feelings and – if we share our stories – helps others understand, too. Through writing, you can transform the pain and fear. Through the alchemy of story, you can turn the darkness of conflict, tragedy, sorrow, and anger into forces for good.”

    And:

    “Ultimately, stories – even the ones that reveal and teach – offer a momentary escape from the weight of the world. And, sometimes, this temporary reprieve from one’s problems is the greatest gift a story can give. The space created by a story gives us the chance to step back and take a broader view, to hear ourselves think, to connect the dots. Stories bring perspective and inspire us to think about our choices and actions in a different light. Whether we are writing them or reading them, stories help us step more fully into who we truly are.”

    I highly recommend that you read the full article, it addresses concerns relevant to all of us, and is truly inspiring. ~ Flynn

  12. Pingback: Doubt and Reflection in March 2016 | The Cognitive Backyard

  13. Jamie, you have somehow miraculously expressed exactly my (and so many others’) own struggles, dilemma and worries, and added a postscript of hope, confidence and resolution. Thank you ever so much for your wisdom, and for obeying the drive to write from your heart!

  14. Pingback: Saturday Edition – What’s Holding You Back from Your Writer’s Life? | Live to Write – Write to Live

  15. Reblogged this on Short and Sweet and commented:
    For all the writers out there, I highly encourage you to read this blog post by Jamie Lee Wallace. It spoke volumes to me, and I think will help motivate you keep picking up that pen or pecking away on your computer. Dive head first into your craft; people are listening!
    #writersunite

  16. Jamie, you wrote, “Through writing, you can transform the pain and fear. Through the alchemy of story, you can turn the darkness of conflict, tragedy, sorrow, and anger into forces for good.” … That’s interesting, but some people write to promote false religions or write, unknowingly, to promote empty philosophies. In the end, they don’t turn anything into “forces for good.” “What is truth?” is still the question. Jesus Christ gives us the correct view of life and its meaning. I hope, Jamie, that you will consider him as Savior.

  17. Pingback: Writing through Pain and Confusion Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links | Live to Write – Write to Live

  18. Reblogged this on Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning" and commented:
    On Existential Dilemmas and the Creative Act:

    When things get stormy, writing shines a light in the darkness.
    When things get stormy, writing brings a light into the darkness.

    I’ve been struggling with something lately. Though I intentionally minimize my news consumption (and try to restrict myself to the least sensationalist sources), I can’t help but notice that the world has gone a little mad. It’s scary out there. It’s as if the cruel and ridiculous worlds of satirical novelists like Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams have come to life; and suddenly the jokes aren’t so funny anymore. Global warming, economic collapse, war, terrorism, political corruption, religious intolerance, discrimination of all kinds – these are the living nightmares that keep so many of us up at night. These are Big Problems – global issues that affect all of humanity and very fate of this fragile planet.

    My struggle is knowing what to do in the face of all this insanity.

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