Writer’s Weekend Edition – Finding the Silver Lining When You’re Lost in the Dark

Every journey begins with a first step.

Every journey begins with a first step.

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.

Until Wednesday.

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.

··• )o( •··

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.

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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 FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: Pictures of Wales Flickr via Compfight cc

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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25 thoughts on “Writer’s Weekend Edition – Finding the Silver Lining When You’re Lost in the Dark

  1. Completely relate with what you are feeling. The election results have changed our self-image to a degree. I like what you say about this moment being like the point in the story when all seems lost. And in most books, things start falling in place, one by one, after that point. Hope this happens in real life too.

    • So interesting you should say that the election results have changed our self-image. I’ve been thinking along similar lines, but I’m also working on a post about how the election results really haven’t changed who we are … they have merely highlighted certain aspects of who we are. We are still the same people we were before, and we need to hold on and treasure that – express it as we would have before, share the genius and love of it with the world.

      I’m obviously still working through the idea, but there’s something there, to be sure.

      And – yes! – I do hope things start falling into place in real life, too. 🙂

    • I hope things will seem brighter. I think a big part, for me, of coming to terms with all of this is being able to take action on a number of fronts. Inaction smothers me, but being able to DO something helps me feel better.
      🙂

  2. Regarding Nano, I will not make it I know. It’s almost end of the month and I have only 37, 678 words on paper. Better luck next time. But I have an excuse. A valid one. I have been sick for a week (and still not out of the woodscompletely) and spent most of my time hanging over or sitting on the loo. For someone who has trouble with her writing, you can still express your trouble beautifully in black and white Jamie. No life is all roses and moonshines writer or not. Sometimes we got stuck. I think it is a necessary process of learning so we know where we stand and where we want to go. You will be okay I’m sure of that.

    • I’m SO impressed! 37K+ words is nothing to shake a stick at. Good for you – especially what with being so sick. (I hope you’re feeling MUCH better. That sounds miserable.)

      Thanks for your kind words and your encouragement. We do sometimes get stuck, but we always find a way – eventually – to take that next step in the journey.

      Feel better!

  3. My wife and I took off for Japan the day after, Nov. 9. I seriously thought about turning to her and saying, “let’s don’t go back.” But we did come back. sigh. I think backwards, please forgive me for doing this, I’m not trying to downplay the horror we are facing in the next four years…or four weeks!

    I was in the ninth grade when Kennedy was shot. It was as if the world had ended. Then Vietnam showed up. The world, became a strange terrible place. A good friend of mine died when he stepped on a mine. Another who returned from Vietnam, died in Vanderbilt Hospital, they never did know what killed him. I remember looking through the newspaper in 68 and reading where a housewife in Ohi0 set herself on fire in protest of the war. Then Kent State. And we hadn’t even gotten to Nixon yet. I didn’t think the country would hold together. But it did.

    I believe it is times like this that writers are most needed. Emily Dickenson wrote her greatest poetry during the Civil War years. We are the ones who so desperately want to make sense of a senseless world and the result can be incredibly good writing. So, as Hillary said, “Don’t Give Up.”
    So we keep on writing. Everyday.

    • Thank you, Paul. “We are the ones who so desperately want to make sense of a senseless world …” That is so true, and a perspective I hadn’t quite grasped until I read your comment. Writers are the people who are trying to get inside “life” and figure out how it works and why it is the way it is and what we can do to make it better. We are endlessly curious and relentless in our pursuit of insight. And, yes, sometimes it is the darkness that is the most powerful catalyst for discovery.
      Never give up.
      Thanks.

  4. Thank you, Jamie. Your posts always make me think, challenge me, and also reassure me. I see you as a writing mentor of sorts. I look forward to reading your process, and sharing the creative experience through the unique times ahead. Best wishes to you!

    • Thank YOU, Catherine. I am humbled by your kind words and also happy that I am able to offer any amount of comfort … especially to someone who already does such a great job embodying and spreading positivity. (Loved your idea of a Facebook legacy and your recent post about feel-good holiday movies.)

      These certainly are unique times, but as Paul pointed out in his comment, they are not the only such times we have endured in our lifetimes. And we will continue to endure – endure and grow and fight for the world we want to live in. And our stories will help us and help others as we travel together through this uncharted territory.

      Glad to know you’re here. TKS!

      • So nice to connect with you, Jamie.
        A good friend of mine wears a button on his jacket that says “Wage Peace.” It’s so simple, and so powerful. Come to think of it, maybe I can make that a theme for something for the coming year! YES!! Happy Sunday, Jamie, and see you here soon! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Edition – Finding the Silver Lining When You’re Lost in the Dark — Live to Write – Write to Live | Le Bien-Etre au bout des Doigts

  6. Thank you Jamie, I have also been creatively stuck since 11/9/ and not just on my little blog – and so am happy you were able to put the issue into words. And happy to find companionship on the journey. Thank you.

    • It is a challenging time, and I cannot fault anyone for stumbling a little. It’s a lot to take in. Each of us needs to process things in his or her own time before we “get back up on that horse” and start in on our writing work again … probably with a renewed sense of purpose, which is a good thing.
      Thanks for being here – good luck in your adjustment. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Hey, writers. Need a laugh? | Live to Write – Write to Live

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