A writer friend I hadn’t spoken to in a couple of years called me earlier this week, and I’m grateful she did. She’d picked up the phone, she said, because she could tell by my Facebook updates that she and I were experiencing a similar post-election state of mind. Like me, this woman is a freelance marcom (marketing & communications) writer, an animal lover, and a nature nut. We met a few years back while doing projects for the same agency, hit it off, and just were beginning to get to know each other a little bit better when she and her husband moved halfway across the country. We’ve kept in touch via Facebook, but haven’t really talked.
I was on my way to pick up my daughter, so our conversation was brief; but it went a long way toward making me feel less awkward about the emotions and creative challenges I’ve been facing in recent days. I learned that I am definitely not the only one trying to feel my way through a dark and disorienting maze of guilt, confusion, fear, indecision, and all manner of other emotions that seem to be (at least on the surface) decidedly unhelpful to the creative process.
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The truth is, I have been struggling to come to the page lately. Client deliverables are taking me much longer than usual, I completely gave up on NaNoWriMo, and even crafting blog posts – one of my favorite writing activities – is only possible with great effort. I realize, however, that my hesitation and inability to focus aren’t due to the usual culprits. Though she still has plenty to say, it isn’t entirely my inner critic who is to blame for my feeling so inept at the keyboard. My procrastination can’t be attributed to the expected demons associated with fear of failure or expectations of perfection. My distraction and anxiety are rooted in much deeper questions about my writing life. This goes beyond craft and practice into the realm of purpose and vision.
This line of thinking isn’t new for me. As I pointed out in a recent post, I’ve clearly been having a kind of “crisis of writing faith” for a while now. At first, I was disheartened and scared by the idea, but I’m starting to believe that maybe this is something I need to go through … something all writers need to go through.
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My friend pointed out that one of the silver linings to what has otherwise been a deeply divisive and disheartening election is that dark times have the potential to bring people together, and she’s right.
I am beginning to see that in addition to creating new conversations and connections, these trying times also have the potential to help artists of all kinds – writers very much included – clarify the purpose, meaning, and strength of their creative efforts. Clarity has great power to not only inspire a writer, but to motivate her and shape her work so that it creates a more lasting impression on readers. So that it makes a difference.
We know there is no story without conflict. Can it also be said that there is no writer without conflict?
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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself thinking more than once that this moment in history feels like the “all is lost” point in the story – the moment when the protagonist’s hopes are dashed to the ground, when the possibility of success has been torn from her grasp and it seems there is no possibility of redemption.
But, while tragedies may end on that beat, I don’t think life in general is a tragedy. I believe the story goes on. And I am finding that, while it’s uncomfortable and scary, being thrust into the action of the story ultimately empowers a writer. In recent days I have been reading much more about everything that’s happening in our country and around the world than I ever have before. And I am paying attention not only to the stories, but to how those stories make me feel. I am using my experience to forge a more defined and distinct identity as a writer. Each day, I learn a little bit more about who I want to be as a writer, who I’m writing for, why I’m writing, and what kinds of stories I want to write.
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I will continue this journey, and I plan to share it with you. My dispatches will likely be messy, but I hope you will forgive that and maybe share some of your experiences, too. I don’t think there’s a playbook we can follow here, but perhaps if we share our different perspectives and insights, we can help each other along the way. If nothing else, it’s good to have company on the road.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.