In these days of constantly breaking news, when each update seems urgent and uncharted, how do you keep your creative momentum going?
I touched base with some writers about this issue to find out what strategies they employ to keep hope and the flame of creativity alive.
Author Jo Knowles reminds herself of the hope present in the rising generation of young people. “The rapid outpouring of activists and lawyers who descended on airports at a moment’s notice to help support people trying to come back into the country showed me that we will NOT tolerate the things this president wants. I remind myself of those images of young lawyers sitting in groups on the floor of the airport in NYC and it gives me great hope.”
Writer, librarian, and blogger Joanna Marple also mentioned the importance of hope:
“I cut back on social media presence in general because too much daily bad news was robbing me of hope and peace, which was impacting my writing. I realized my biggest voice probably remains with my influence on the next generation as a teacher and writer, so I have been concentrating even more on my writing. The topic of my WIP feels timely and pressing.”
The topic of morning writing time cropped up again and again as writers recounted how they maintain their creative balance.
“Before exposing myself to the noise and news of the day,” author Phil Bildner says, “I’ll be creative and get as much writing done as I can. Once the politics filters in, I’ll start working on the business/administrative ends of being a full-time author.”
Author Deborah Underwood is also a proponent of this approach:
"My bit of advice would be to take breaks: micro-breaks daily; macro-breaks when needed. My current practice is to try to work for two hours in the morning before going online; that’s been profoundly helpful. And I think we all need to feel free to check out for several days or even weeks if we need to for our own mental health...This is likely going to be a long haul, and we need to trust that when we clock out for a bit in terms of our activism and attention, other concerned folks will clock back in, and vice versa.”
Author Kate Messner reminds herself of the value of her work in the current climate:
“I do try to limit my social media consumption, especially in the morning. What helps me is reminding myself that the work I’m doing is even more important now. I write picture books that inspire kids to wonder about and preserve the natural world and novels that help them understand what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. So I remind myself that writing is a kind of resistance, too, and usually, that’s enough to shake off the cobwebs and get me working.”
Messner has a few other strategies for keeping her focus. “The other thing I do is keep a bullet journal with a list of my goals for the day- included on that list are writing, calling my reps in government, and other things that are important to my well being, like exercise and drinking enough water.”
Bildner echoed the importance of working out: “Exercise without political noise has become a mainstay of my existence. It is a built-in non-negotiable part of my day. I’ll work out to music or entertainment, but no news or politics.”
Author Kekla Magoon sees her work as a tool for change. "I simply don’t pay attention to much of the news on a day-to-day basis, which is not as hard for me as it seems to be for others. I vote and I write and my work is my contribution to the larger picture of what I’m hoping to see change in the world.”
Magoon takes the long view: “I keep doing what I’ve always done (which means being engaged in long-term political change regarding my chosen issues) as opposed to getting caught up in the short term issue of the moment. We can all only do so much, and this is my piece. I don’t fully relate to the struggle of political turmoil as a new phenomenon; it has been a part of my actual life and my writing life from the beginning.”
Marple adds that reading helps her to make sense of the world. “I am reading to understand how we arrived at the point we are in nationally and internationally—books like White Trash, The Hate U Give, Hillbilly Elegy. Some Netflix series like 13th and Dear White People are also helping my understanding. I feel it is so important to be listening, really listening to others at the moment.”
Author Larissa Theule has a bracing take on this issue of creativity and engagement:
“Our political mayhem has for me been a reminder that creative energy is not a fragile frame of mind needing protection and calm but is itself a political force. To counter the fear of the moment, I write the best story I can and work on it as often as possible so that the generosity of spirit that is the byproduct of a good day’s work extends to my relationships and out into the world. Also, I take very long walks in pretty places with my phone turned OFF.”
How do you balance creativity and engagement in these turbulent times?
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