I announced a book release last weekend and it was also announced that women’s rights are in danger(again/still?!). I spent February and March writing a short Christmas story for a compilation I’m going to be part of this holiday season, and the Russians attacked Ukraine. I have a pre-order sale page and work daily on the tiny, backend details to make my dream of publishing a reality, and the number of deaths are rising again because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.
And I am exhausted.
There are these conflicting parts of me that argue about what I should do.
Should I give up on my dreams to make way for the ‘real problems’ of the world? Or should I be writing because it’s the entertainment we turn to when we are exhausted?
So why write?
For that matter, why paint? Why play music? Why make movies? What is the point?
This is something I’ve been thinking about since the lock down. As I paced around my house and tried to figure out how to care for my kid’s mental well-being as well as my own, I wondered what I could do? Well, writing was the obvious answer.
But why write?
I wasn’t trying to write an opus or manifesto to change the minds of all human kind. I was just writing ‘little stories’.
But here’s the thing, it was the little stories of others that I turned to the most during those first few weeks of the pandemic. I devoured all of my old Julie Garwood, Jude Deveraux, Nora Roberts books that were set pre-1800s. (No toilet paper drama in them.)
I turned to musicians to adjust my mood. I turned to the poets.
The Way It Is by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
I worried by Mary Oliver
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
I even dug out Boccaccio’s Decameron. He was a Florentine Writer and his book was written about 1348 when the Black Plague had begun to seize the city. His characters, faced with a horrific disease, escape to the hills surrounding Florence and spend their time dancing, eating and telling stories.
I turned to these writers to find hope and wisdom and relief. So maybe, my little stories are worth something. Maybe art is important.
Two quotes immediately come to mind when I’m trying to continue on my own path that seems so very insignificant in the face of all the world changes we’re undergoing.
One was shared with me by a friend:
The other someone share on Instagram and I went searching for the whole piece:
1. I am washing my face before bed while a country is on fire. It feels dumb to was my face, and dumb not to. It has never been this way, and it has always been this way.
Someone has always clinked a cocktail glass in one hemisphere as someone loses a home in another while someone falls in love in the same apartment building where someone grieves. The fact that suffering, mundanity and beauty coincide is unbearable and remarkable. -from NOTES FROM THE FIRST FEW DAYS OF 2020 by Mari Andrew.
But what is it about all this that calms and helps?
It’s the connection through space and time, the feeling that I’m not alone. That we aren’t alone. That we, as a collective race, have come up against difficult times before and we’ve overcome. There is definitely hope in the arts.
And creating art during troubled times, from rock gardens to murals, songs to poems, books to a meal cooked with love…these are forms of expressing our hopelessness, our rage, our resistance as well as expression our hope and love and joy.
So I write in the hope of this:
“Reading is a form of self-identification that works, paradoxically, by encouraging us to identify with others, an abstract process that changes us in the most concrete of ways.”
“Think about it: when we read, we soul travel, in the sense that we join, or enter, the consciousness of another human. We empathize—we have to—because our experience is enlarged.”
– David L. Ulin, The Lost Art of Reading: Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time
Selfishly, I write to remember.
The moments in my stories help build the world, but for me, it’s a way of remembering the shadow of a memory.
She moved to the back of the vaporetto, stood up so she could rest her arms on the top of the covering of the middle section. The city skyline of Venice appeared, out of a dream. Rising out of the water, it was all pointed steeples and bell towers that took definition first. Then the terracotta outline of domed churches and buildings in a city built by opulence and kept adrift by merchants and romantic ideals materialized.
The driver slowed and turned towrd the crowded city. The buildings parted, opening up their waterways in greeting. Five and six story cream and peach colored buildings sat atop the water. Exposed brick winked as life bloomed around her. There were more boats now, a few slowly passing, several moored along the side of walkways, rocking from the ripples of passing boats. – From La Bella Luna by Nicole Sharp
Creating something, in these days is a form of joy and resistance.
So I write and the world will fall apart and be pieced back together.
I write and men will fight and kill and we’ll put them to rest.
I write in the face of K-mart Caesars who are threatened by educated women.
I write and the sun sets and moon rises.
I write and remember, for the times we need the memories.
I write to have reprieve and to entertain.
I found this quote that brought me full circle in my thoughts today:
Making art is not selfish; it’s for the rest of us. If you don’t do your thing, you are cheating us. – Kevin Kelly
I found this reminder: “As Lisa Cron, author of Story Genius says, human beings are “wired for story.” This means that we learn, grow, heal and find relief, comfort and humor through stories. Your stories matter, even when the world is shifting and changing, and maybe even falling apart. As storytellers, we’re here to help make sense of the world, and even to help shape it as we move into the future. That’s what makes this a calling.”