The Power of the Writer
In these unprecedented times, unprecedented levels of creativity are needed to see us through and we, as writers, are particularly well-placed to help others conjure up worlds through our imagination. The promise of the possibility they offer will get us through. With that in mind, I’ve put together an acronym to help.
Keep writing—that’s the simple message. If you look at it another way, we writers are experts at working through overwhelming fear and self-doubt. We write despite the fact we know we only have a tiny chance of being published and that there is an even tinier chance of making any actual money. We write because we need to, because we know it helps us and sometimes is able to help others also. In uncertain times we need to remember that using words to build worlds people can lose themselves in is an important service. Many writers’ clubs and communities are now going online. Check out what your local group is doing, or alternatively set up a digital version yourself.
Having more time on our hands than usual means we are able to read as well as write. So many books are being launched at the moment, with many publishers having committed too much in terms of finance, print and publicity to pull back now. With bookshops already struggling, and many other venues under lockdown, it is unlikely many physical books will get into the hands of prospective readers. The best way to help fellow writers and the industry at the moment is to read and then review books. Reviewing books you have just bought is hugely helpful to authors and publishers alike. By letting other people know you’ve enjoyed something, you will help bring new authors to an audience that may not yet have discovered their work. You will also be giving authors who are facing very bleak release dates a real boost. All I can say is: nothing beats getting a positive review!
Even if you are not a sci-fi or fantasy writer, it is part of the job description of a writer to world-build away from where we are. Our culture is certainly shifting at the moment, so the worlds we create do therefore not just serve us. By interpreting what we see around us and imagining it, we have created something people can connect to. Jane Austen’s world was tiny by default, limited as it was by her class and gender, yet she wrote stories and characters that blazed forth in astounding technicolour. We adapt, is the point, with even the smallest, most insignificant things inspiring us. We are writers after all.
Up until this crisis hit, and self-isolating and social distancing became the norm, there was never enough time. I was always rushing from one thing to the next, trying to hold down a day job as well as get some writing done. In a way, I’m lucky to now have the luxury of some real time to get my thoughts and ideas down on paper. However, as I know to my cost, if there is a surfeit of time, the fog of inactivity can very often lead to ennui. Before we know it, the day has passed, and nothing has been done. Truly engaging with your writing takes courage. It means we need to be prepared to give a bit of ourselves, when all our instincts are screaming for us to protect ourselves and hunker down. It’s not physical energy we are giving away, rather spiritual and emotional energy. We want to cling onto that bit of our ego our writing demands we send into the universe. So, what do we do? Well, for me the key thing is structure. I am putting it down as a matter of record, right here and right now, that I am committing forthwith to one hour’s writing a day, and I will keep track to make sure I achieve this. I will schedule a time in which to do it and if it runs over a bit, I will celebrate my enthusiasm. I will also ensure that it sits within a balance of other writing and non-writing activities.
In difficult times like this, how do we keep positive energy levels, enough to keep us writing? Inspiration is all very well and having plenty of time to put it into practice also, but without a desire to make it happen and the energy levels to action our writing, our pages are likely to remain unfilled. I think this comes back down to structure—we need to ensure we feed ourselves body and soul. It is important to stay in the day. By tackling the tasks that face us a day at a time and not getting overwhelmed by the fear of endless chaos stretching in front of us, we can keep positive.
We are in a tough period now. We can serve it by sharing our experience, strength, and hope with others through our writing, but also creating a record of what this is, so we will have something that reminds us of how and why, when the crisis came, we were able to prioritise what really mattered: family, friends, community, and our collective health and well-being. Over the last few weeks I have started taking notice of what really matters. It’s now up to me to manifest this awareness in terms of the choices I make moving forwards. As writers, we can capture what is happening now and keep it safe. We can even help to interpret these events, shaping a more positive future for us all.
The lessons we are learning now matter. We writers have an important task. Our battle ground is based on keeping the despair at bay in the hearts and minds of our communities. It is a powerful purpose which lends our writing gravitas. If we live inspired by acts of kindness we are able to share, interpreting the beauty of our world no matter how small, and telling the truth about who we are and our feelings in our work, no matter how bleak the situation, we will get through difficult times in history. By reaching out and sharing, we will all support each other.
© 2020 Madeleine F White
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Madeleine White was born in Germany, with roots in Canada and the UK.