Dandelion on Fire

How Can You Focus on Writing When it Feels Like the World is Ending?

Y’all, these are some trying times we’re in. In the past few days, between seasonal allergy-related fatigue and the news out of Charlottesville, I’ve lost a lot of writing time to feeling ill: Physically, emotionally and spiritually. When my head hasn’t been too congested to think, I’ve asked myself if the light-spirited blog posts I write for my clients and the love advice I give out in my column even matter. I mean there are literal nazis taking to the street!

But as Penmob’s founder Alex reminded me, James Baldwin said that we should never blame ourselves for feeling compelled to write:

It is not your fault, it is not my fault, that I write. And I never would come before you in the position of a complainant for doing something that I must do… The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets.

In times like these the arts become even more important. It’s the storytellers who remind us of our humanity. Whether it be by making us laugh with a funny story, making it possible for us to relate to other perspectives or by creating a record of what’s happening in the world. We must keep writing.

Here are some tips for doing the work even when things feel bleak:

Limit Your Consumption of the News

At some point, you have to turn off the TV and put your smartphone away. By all means, stay current on current events, but don’t fall down a spiral of reading several different versions of the same bit of horrifying news. All you’ll do is desensitize yourself to what’s happening and lose a lot of time in the process.

I have several friends who are currently limiting themselves to checking the news or logging into social media for one hour per day. You can also sign up for newsletters that aggregate all the important news of the day into one email like Muck Rack.

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Out

Whether you share your heartfelt thoughts in a Facebook post or on Medium, you shouldn’t hesitate to stand up for what’s right and make your stance known. You might even find yourself surprised by how many of your friends and family will reach out to you and thank you for saying what they were all thinking. As a writer, you have a gift with words and you should use that gift for good.

Write About What Matters

You can take this many different ways. If you’re stalling out on your latest sci-fi fantasy epic because thoughts of politics are crowding your head, try putting your project on hiatus and writing about what’s on your mind. It’s okay if this isn’t an area you have expertise in, you can always get guidance from our helpful Penmob editors.

Or you could be the opposite. Where the last thing you want to write about is anything political. That’s okay too. You can use your writing as an escape to help you reduce any anxiety or stress you have around what’s going on in the news. And the fiction you write might also allow your readers a reprieve.

I mentioned sometimes I wonder if most of the things I write even matter in times like these, but because writing is how I pay my bills, even the “fun” things I write about matter. I certainly wouldn’t go to the movies to yell at the ticket taker, “How can you be taking tickets in a time like this?!” Also, much of my writing outside of my content writing focuses on race and gender, so I feel like I’m doing my part toward a progressive society by educating my readers.

How does your writing help you get through tough times? Feel free to tweet us your thoughts.

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Image Credit: Henry Be

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