Writing–and Living–in the World

I’ll start with a confession: I’m writing this blog post at midnight the morning before it’s due, and not because I’m intentionally reverting back to my high school work ethic. It’s been a tumultuous and overwhelming few weeks in recent world news, and staying engaged and informed and emotionally stable as we process all that news has often felt like a full-time job for me and several of the other writers I know. All of us seem to have the same questions: How do we write in an environment like this one, when all the other stuff of life demands so much from us? How do we maintain our creative energy? How do we sit down and focus? (How, in a world as busy as ours, can we possibly remember that we have a blog post that’s supposed to go online tomorrow?)

I don’t yet have many good answers to these questions. I’ve found so far that writing early in the morning is helpful; I sit down to work before I read the news, before my train of thought drifts too far away from my draft in progress. If I’m tempted to skim the headlines instead of writing, I turn on the software that disables my internet connection–a useful tool for all those times when sheer willpower isn’t enough. Sometimes I think of my writing as an escape from an exhausting world; at other times I try to weave my concerns and hopes into the thematic fabric of storytelling. And I aim to get words on the page each day because no matter what’s happening in the world, there are kids out there who need our stories, and I don’t want to let them down.

I’d particularly like to hear from Tollbooth readers today: Have you been distracted or overwhelmed lately, and if so, how have you been coping? How do you write (or carry on with your work in general) when large and small life events threaten to pull you away from the page? How do you balance living in the world and writing about it?

5 thoughts on “Writing–and Living–in the World

  1. Caroline — this is really helpful to hear today. I’m very much seeking my creative refuge again and can say it has been nearly impossible to stay steady in my writer shoes since Nov. 8th…I feel as though it is time, now, to seek the safe spaces of words and will that validate all of the feelings and longings that now, more than ever, are craving that voice. A voice that is fed by the very passion and emotion that wants to stifle it. Time to WRITE!!!

  2. Thank you for this post, Caroline. My form of coping seems to be taking the form of directing my energies toward activities that offer a sense of control – however slight. I sought out a part-time job, immersed myself in holiday preparations, signed up for the Women’s March on Washington and joined a church that engages in community service. Like you, I have trouble turning away from the news. And I have trouble being productive when I give over to it. I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone. And – when my schedule allows it – I make plans to write with people rather than stay at home and do battle with my will.

  3. I write stories with social justice themes, so my work has suddenly become timely, but there’s also the pressure to get it absolutely right and the concern about censorship, especially since I remember how those books were squelched in the 1980s. Right now, though, I’ve mainly been blogging about human rights issues because it’s important to raise awareness now, and traditional publication takes so long. However, I translated a picture book coming out at the end of February, titled THREE BALLS OF WOOL, about a child growing up in an unfree society (in fact, her family flees one dictatorship, only to end up in another), and it shows how people can find their own freedom in the bleakest of circumstances.

  4. It is so hard to be productive when I feel like nothing makes sense. But then, I remember that the stories I write are, like Lyn’s, about social justice and human rights and are even more important now than ever. I have a new idea I’m outlining–it’s dark, and scary, and ripped from the headlines. But it is a story that has to be told. And writing those kinds of stories make it easier to ignore Facebook and headlines that are depressing.

  5. I’ve gotten myself on a few “action-a-week” lists and I’m trying to schedule in a time for these. I haven’t been very successful as of yet. I’ve been more successful with writing poetry and sketching—allowing the emotions and fears an outlet.

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