July 12, 2016

WRITER'S RITES: Creatives in a Vicious World

Did you catch this year's Newbery winner on NPR the other day? Kwame Alexander was reflecting on the recent police violence in the U.S., and what that meant for him as a writer for children.

"...Does it mean I'm oblivious to what's going on in the world? No. I choose to write for children. I like to make this remark, the snide remark that I've given up on the adults. And it's a half-truth. But the real truth is I really want to focus on the children. I believe strongly that the mind of an adult begins in the imagination of a child."

I suspect various news organizations, etc., are seeking comment from writers of color, and I'm glad Kwame Alexander is a writer with words of intelligence ... because Lord knows, nobody should be asking me. I have totally given up on adults, a long time ago. I've been grateful to be taking a breather (the second or third one this year) from social media, because I feel like all my words have been used up and the prospect of shrieking until I collapse in hoarse sobs is very, very real. I've even been calling in... absent-and-pretty-sick-of-my-life on my novel, because in many ways, writing feels deeply trivial. Fictional little stories, deeply unimportant. Anything I have to say, utterly frivolous. And yet. There is Pokemon. There is the inner life of pets. The sun rises, and tweens and kids keep being kids and tweens, even when the world is crumbling, and they need appropriate behavior modeled. People still need lunch and shoes tied and to have clean laundry. People have to keep going - it's just a thing we do.

We talk a lot about the subject of self-care when national disasters come. Writers - who are at times introverted, sensitive and emotionally reliant on words-on-paper to express themselves - writers especially need to take a break, to move away from media and social media, to have those all-important offline, IRL conversations which do not come with autoplay video of atrocities. Please remember to do things like take a walk and drink water and eat something other than what you can eat with one hand while you're glued to the news -- possibly eat something raw or fresh, which has a sharp and brilliant flavor which reminds you that it is summer, a time you once dreamed of and longed for during all the months of school. Remembering who you were before this past month - that's important.

So, too, are the other things that support mental health -- things like candlelight, porch lights, and most of all, stories. What are the stories that you tell yourself to get through a difficult time? What are the flashlights you use to keep a light on the dark and scary business going on under the bed?

I've read more blog posts about baking and cooking these past couple of weeks - and it reminded me of how much Food Network I watched in September, 2001. People are sharing about favorite podcasts. Sarah blogged the other week about comfort reading - reading those old books that you utterly adored like LM Montgomery's The Blue Castle or Robin McKinley's Sunshine or Shadows or, if you need to know how to be armed to fight the goblins which have suddenly appeared Tyger, Tyger by Kerstan Hamilton, or all my Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett. Additionally, there's romance - stories with a guaranteed Happily Ever After can be comforting, if they let you into another world. I've been reading a lot of pointlessly amusing stories about weredragons. While I hate in-person shopping and want to kill it with fire, I'll go online and put a lot of shoes into a cart that I won't buy. It's oddly soothing, not spending money. Whatever you're doing, may it give you a font of ideas, and hope with wings.


When the world is not so beautiful
the flowers waste water

the women can no longer find their song,
the children refuse to play

there are no men to teach to love
the ground inside collapses

the coldest winter screams
the summer burns red
the sea is full of blues
and the sky opens up,

at least I'll have poetry
- a gathering of words,
a get-together of emotions,
a font of ideas,
hope with wings.

- Kwame Alexander

Central California Driving 13

Taken with the phone in the car through a bug-smeared window, but ...a reminder: the sky is bigger than we are; the world is bigger than this moment.
Peace and good word-counts to you.

x-posted, in some vague fashion, at fiction, instead of lies


Sarah Stevenson said...

I missed this one over the summer when things were crazed, but I'm so glad I went back and read it. Still just as relevant and necessary. Love Kwame's words and his poem...

tanita✿davis said...

@Sarah: Man, this is a reread needed for me, too!