Writing when everything is in upheaval


I’m a happy sort of writer. I write about parenting, puppies, chickens, family and the life lessons I learn.  For the most part I’m an optimist, I have always believed in the goodness of the world.

But these days it’s difficult to write happy when I’m so angry and discouraged.

Never have I felt so unsettled in my life. Never have I used some words with the frequency that I have in the past few months.  (Let’s just say that the Swear Jar my kids made as a joke right after the election is seeing a lot of action.)

This is not an anti-Trump rant (although I blame him for much of it) it’s an anti-world rant. The entire world is in upheaval. Governments are being taken over, attacks are being carried out, and people are dying because they are protesting. Heck, these days athletes are being called sons of bitches for protesting inequality.

Not only are the governments in upheaval, but the very earth itself is in upheaval. We’ve had 3 devastating hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. People have lost everything, they are waiting for help and not sure it is coming. Over in Puerto Rico the situation is critical, without power, food, and water, American lives are being lost.

I’m finding it hard to concentrate. I’m dreaming of escaping to places where there is no internet, no television, no more devastating news.

But then I feel guilty about trying to get away. What if I miss another outrage? What if my voice is not counted in protest?

I had a friend years ago who told me I was too empathetic and that I too easily absorbed the pain of others. She’s right. I even feel bad for the dead animals on the side of the road (aww, such a shame.) Although being able to feel pain is a good trait for a writer, not’s not such a good thing to have when you’re trying to sleep at night.

“Imagine a bubble of white light around you,” my friend advised. “Bright, white shining light that you can see through but that reflects the pain.” It’s not that she wanted me to become immune to pain, it’s that she wanted me to be in control of how much I wanted to let in.

These days I’m imagining an awful lot of bright light. If I want to continue as a write, I have to.

How about you? How are you able to concentrate on writing when things are in such upheaval? Does it bother you? Are you able to effectively unplug?


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

21 thoughts on “Writing when everything is in upheaval

  1. Pingback: Writing when everything is in upheaval | Matthews' Blog

  2. I find that losing myself in a story (or whatever I’m writing at the time) helps me “escape” the pain of the world, just for a little while. I’d go insane without writing. Also, turning off the television and staying away from the internet and newspapers now and then helps. The world won’t stop if I don’t see it for a few days. that’s for sure.

  3. It is upsetting and sometimes overwhelming. Like you, I become emotionally involved. I had to limit the time I spend on reading/watching/listening to it. I think the best writers are those who are sensitive to emotions. I try to let my characters carry those emotions for me. It only works when there’s wine and chocolate involved.

  4. Writerly thoughts appear throughout my day and I use social media to keep my flow going. Often I’ll compose in an editor before I go online to post a thought or subject I find compelling, from personal reflection to humour, to social issues, and, yes, sometimes politics. When I post, I frequently have a second or two of apprehension – I catch my breath – and wonder if there’s an event of global human impact I’ve yet to realize, perhaps even the passing of an iconic celebrity, a legendary figure that I’m not yet aware of, and my voice – my intentions – and the interpretation of my reality through my words – is self-centred and foolish. I double down on my efforts to check in with the universe first, before I write about my cats again. Note to self: I should check-in before I post this today…       

  5. I’m with you Wendy, on how my language has deteriorated. Maybe we should create a swear jar and use the money for escapes. This summer I went on five backpacking trips to try and create some balance in my life, to escape the constant barrage of negative news. More than anything else, I dislike the divisiveness that Trump revels in. And I can’t understand his appeal. It frightens me that people get off on his crudeness. I don’t have a political blog, it’s mainly about travel and outdoor adventures, but is do try and work in comments whenever I can. And I always feel that I should do more. –Curt

  6. Absolutely I have trouble tuning out in case I miss something. Chernobyl happened while I was sequestered off in a remote lodge in the U.P., didn’t know till 4 days later. Guilt drives this addiction to the news, same as you.

    My WIP began when I wanted to write an allegorical society where I could show how to set things right–first regarding how we devalue education. I even have ideas for sequels on stewardship of the earth and homophobia.

    And then THIS year happened! and suddenly my concerns seem quaint in the face of it all. I mean, my sci-fi stories have to deal with all THIS, now?

    I know, it IS overwhelming, but maybe all the more reason to dig into my story and hash it out with the new voices that have emerged in American society.

    But the suckiest part is, not only did I think we had gotten BEYOND all this–our story-telling helped, from Sesame Street to All in the Family–but my stories actually built on that progress as a given! It’s like the rug has been pulled out from under me, all potential context for my novel is now gone. Infuriating.

  7. Pingback: Why I Write – we all need healing.

  8. thank you for this writing expressed. I have made a firm commitment that I will write only about HOPE and my recent story of my home town I deliberately spoke from the historical viewpoint that through history there have always been horrific events yet the human spirit and people with faith and hope have ever triumphed and will until eternity. website: http://www.legacyoflimga.com While we live in such horrible times it is now that the writers of beauty, hope, values and triumphing through adversity are coming into their own. No one, unless they are mentally challenged wants to read, watch, absorb in their relaxation the same awful stuff that is part of their normal life. Even children I am finding are responding more to the stories of ‘magic’ teddy bears than they are to violent and noisy interactive stuff which is just like normal life. (Don’t blame Trump for the woes) Yes the whole earth is groaning and indeed suffering as much as we are. The question is why? Its time to be part of the solution not the problem. Lets write to bring folk ‘out of the mire’. Cheers! Amazon has my writings. Once not very wanted……in many place now highly sought. A thought for you to ponder.

  9. Thank you for sharing, I relate to this so much. I’ve been very negative/pessimistic in general since last November and feeling very disheartened at the things I see happening around the world. My current WIP is meant to be hopeful and uplifting, but I’ve struggled to write that when so much in the real world is the complete opposite. One thing that helps me is to listen to very cheerful, uplifting music when I am writing. Music always has a profound impact on my mood.

  10. I stopped watching/reading/listening to mainstream news media. Not that I don’t want to be informed, but mainstream news is a river of addictive outrage full of things you cannot control, delivered in 30 second sound bites. I’ve found that limiting myself to occasional long form news (essays, researched articles) is far more informative and less sensational. Reading for pleasure and watching movies keeps me creatively stimulated to stay writing.

      • Whatever people’s opinions or beliefs, I think we’ve reached a potentially dangerous point in our society where people can insulate themselves to create “echo chambers” and essentially tailor reality to whatever they’d like it to be. Not to mention, I think many people forget that large social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc are corporations who have their own agendas. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post discussion. 🙂

  11. For the last 2 years I have been caregiving for a cancer patient – my husband – and between the stress of those responsibilities, time spent in chemo clinics and surgical wards and shuffling to and from doc appointments of all kinds, ON TOP of the whole world upheaval “stuff” you write about…well, I feel as if I have lost my writing self too. Since my husband passed six months ago all of my writing has been full of grief and sadness about these things. I don’t agree that creating a pretend bubble of light will help.
    I also don’t believe unplugging is the thing to do. Maybe these dark times are when we learn more about ourselves. We can’t always be in the light. There are things to be discovered in the shadows, fears to face in the black holes of our souls, and debates with Pessimism to explore. Reality is, human beings have a pattern of moving THROUGH darkness and INTO the light. So there isn’t anything to do but continue to write, even if it isn’t in the same pattern of our normal writing selves.

  12. Thank you for this, and I am going through a similar process. I can’t seem to concentrate, or actually complete a project. Writing is a hobby for me, so I often find myself leaving it (as whatever subject I am writing about feels… well…. frivolous). It is time to grow from this experience.

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