Thursday, May 19, 2022

Has Our Changing World Changed Our Writing?

We've touched on huge worldwide changes, especially over the last two years. We've bemoaned the discouragement we've felt as writers. Instead of rolling with the horrific punches that have been thrown our way, we sometimes roll up in a ball and let those changes kick us to the curb and maybe down into the storm sewer. Giving up the ghost, as the saying goes, seems easier than rising up to fight the obstacles we never expected to face in our lifetime.

Forgive the clichés. They were used intentionally to make a point. They're called clichés because they're old, tired, trite, overused, etc. Sometimes, we feel like that — at least I do. I've lived during WW2, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Conflict, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and these few don't even begin to paint the real picture. Google lists 285 armed conflicts since I was a 7-year-old. That's a lot in just 76 years.

Even though I may be the oldest one here, it's fair to assume we all have been aware of the absence of peace and security in our world. Most of 285 wars did not involve troops from our country, but we were still affected when we knew they were happening. Why mention this? Because we all have been exposed indirectly to the horrors of war and the waste of human lives (most often civilians). When bombs and missiles and gunfire are not in our backyard, we may, however, distance ourselves from their heart-wrenching reality. 

In 2020, COVID-19 slammed the world with its terrible symptoms and high death rate. No respecter of borders or continents, it left no place safe from the reach of its virulent tentacles. Many of us lost family, friends, jobs, and/or freedom to go where we pleased, and so much more. This different kind of war most definitely invaded our backyards and our lives, taking a toll on all of us.


What does this have to do with writing? Nothing . . . and everything. As writers, we may think a little differently from nonwriters. Like many artists and musicians, we may feel a little more deeply or empathize a little more completely or view a situation from a different perspective. Why? Because this ability allows us as writers to create characters that touch our readers on an emotional level. Add to this the natural aging process, an unstable economy, and personal crises. No wonder we suffer from overwhelm. 

The same qualities that enhance our character-development skills can also make us sensitive to stresses beyond the norm, especially if we have strong empathetic tendencies. Not that others don't suffer pangs of distress over what is happening in the world today, for of course they do. It's just that our creative juices may be impacted in some way when the whole world is falling apart.

What's the remedy? For me, it starts with avoiding daily doses of the news. Constant bad news takes a toll on my writing energy and drains my reservoir of story ideas. It also puts the skids on creative drive and undermines follow-through with regular writing times. Perseverance is essential. Working each day — even a little bit — helps. Reaching out to other authors keeps the writing mindset active. Reading a good novel awakens the desire to write one. Interestingly, spring helps, perhaps because the seasonal revival of budding new life brings hope at the end of a cold, bleak winter. What do you think?

Fast forward to today. Much of what has gone on in the last few years is great grist for the writing mill. Fictionalizing current events and characters to create different scenarios without minimizing the seriousness of times or situations can result in a stunning story that rings true and appeals to readers. Do we know something or believe something that could make a difference in a reader's life? Can a character infuse hope in a person or place despite the odds? Is it possible to help build resilience where, apparently, little or none exists? Many people have strengths and reserves they don't recognize. Can our stories help someone find hers (or his)?

How are you coping with all the trauma and drama of the last 2 years? How has your writing been affected? Please share how you and your writing are working to combat writer's block in these trying days.


Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while still doing some editing. Her character-driven novels, although somewhat literary in nature, remind the reader of genre fiction because of their quick pace. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and thrillers. You can contact her through her website: LSLaneBooks.com 

7 comments :

  1. I love this post, Linda, and I hope we will see your books on our virtual shelves this year <3

    I was lucky enough to be very close to finished with a chapter book when the pandemic hit, so it was easy to keep plugging away at it - mainly working on the illustrations and cover design - and push through to publish it. It was after that was done that I hit a wall with book 2 - I have really struggled to tap into the fun, magical realm I created when reality has been so "full on" and "in my face". (Those cliches are contagious, LOL.)

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    1. It's difficult to recapture the magic when the whole world is buried under such a harsh reality. I still struggle to finish my own two final proofs and develop a serialized novel for Kindle Vella (one that I'm actually excited about) while keeping up with edits and proofs from other authors. Ironically, the work for others seems a lot easier (and more fun) than working on my own manuscripts — perhaps because I can enjoy their creativity while editing. My personal work requires me to awaken my own creative juices, not quite so simple. Love your response, Elle.

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  2. I try not to get wrapped around the axel of news ... as a sage once told me, 'the next ten years will be pretty much like the last ten years: the tide comes in and the tide goes out. To my point, I recorded a series of music programs on NPR during the 1990's and the recordings included the news breaks on the hour ... if you ignored the dates, the news sounded alarmingly current. Not to say you shouldn't keep trying to make things better, just don't allow yourself to get depressed when they aren't always better. As another sage told me, 'Be the light ... don't curse the darkness.' Best to all, Chris Hudson

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  3. Excellent advice, Chris. Music can indeed sooth the battered soul and calm the troubled heart. Thank you for sharing such a good idea. Depression is much too easy to slip into.

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  4. Great post, Linda, and I especially loved this line: "No wonder we suffer from overwhelm."

    Overwhelmed is how I've felt the past few years. Like you, I have found working on editing for others has been easier than my own writing. I thing we are so emotionally drained by the outside news that we don't have the energy needed to create. At least that's true for me.

    Hopefully as things ease on the COVID front, and we can limit our intake of news, the creative spirit will get renewed. And good for you for trying Kindle Vella. If I wasn't so limited with trigeminal neuralgia, I'd give it a try, too.

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    1. I always love your comments, Maryann. In many ways, writers are a special breed. The same sensitivity that allows us to create our characters and storylines can be inhibiting when it comes to putting ourselves front and center in the marketing arena of today's chaotic world. End result: that "overwhelm". The camaraderie, encouragement, and sharing of BRP members and guests has helped to keep me going for the last several years. Thank you for being a big part of that.

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  5. Excellent post, Linda, as always. This one hit home. The last two years has put my writing in stasis. But lately it's worse. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has been so upsetting as we watch the utter destruction of a country and are helpless to do anything about it. I haven't published a book since October of 2020. And now with the slaughter of children, I've shut off the news to keep me from crying every time I see the story, which has been endless. What horror is next? I fear for my kids and especially my grandkids.

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