Ever since president Trump has been elected I’ve had increased anxiety about the world. Wherever your political views may lie, it’s hard to ignore his administration’s attacks on education, the environment, LGBTQ rights, immigration, the news media, and even the functioning of government itself. Right now Trump himself is under threat for obstruction of justice, and his administration may have colluded with the Russians to help shift the election in his favor. These are turbulent times.
There is a reason why the quiet cabin in the woods is the writer’s cliche. There, we can be left to do our work unadulterated by the outside world, free of distractions, free of worrying about anything except our art. Of course, reality is often much different. Maybe it’s our families, our mortgage, our job, or something else that pulls us away. But what most writers crave is a safe space in which to work on their art, a place where we can temporarily escape from the world to inhabit our creations.
An unsettled world makes this difficult. Personally, I find it all very distracting and anxiety producing. Almost every day there is another piece of bad news that comes out. I try to counter this by focusing on some good trends: the renewables market is increasing; electric cars are on course to overtake internal combustion vehicles in less than two decades; several US states vowed to abide by the Paris Accords even if the Trump administration will not; California and New York passed preliminary bills for universal health care. I also do media blackouts, where I try (and often fail) to stay off news and social media sites for a few days, to clear my head. But curiosity always draws me back. It’s the old fight or flight response. We don’t want to ignore that tiger lurking in the woods. We want to know what he’s up to, so he doesn’t kill us.
All of this affects my writing. Some of it is obvious: I’m physically distracted by the news and what it means for the world. Some of it less so: I’ve noticed my fiction has become darker and bleaker since the election, and I’m trying to counter that by writing alternate narratives, ones that provide optimistic or visionary views of the future. I’ve also found myself melancholy more often. Those who know me know I have my moods, but I’m typically happy and easy going. But more often than not I’ve lately found myself gloomy and depressed. Some of those feelings, I channel into my fiction. Some of that I just have to sit with. The world is not the place I thought it was, and that sucks, and while there are some things I can do, I have to accept that many things I have little control over.
What can we do? I think expressing ourselves, through our fiction, yes, but also elsewhere is one possible answer. When we share our anxiety with others, we put ourselves in a vulnerable position, and it’s only through vulnerability that true healing can take place. When we realize that we are not alone with our feelings, that thousands of others share them too, that can be a kind of comfort. Anyway, I’m just putting this out there to let you know that, if you feel like I do, you are not alone.