A World Full of Peril
As the observant among you might have noticed, I’ve been operating under radio silence for two weeks. Despite the increasingly insane levels of rhetoric before and after the U.S. election, I was able to finish my novella and get it to my editor.
Given how draining it’s been to be surrounded by reports of hate crimes and despicable policies we can now look forward to being implemented, finishing that story came as a bit of a shock to me. But then I read excellent posts from Kristine Wyllys and Leslie Knope that talked about the power of storytelling to reshape our capacity to deal with existential crises. And I saw reporting this weekend that the Hollywood box office had done better than anticipated this week, because, according to one analyst: “Two hours of moviegoing is like a massive, immersive group therapy session.”
As a side note: We went to see Dr. Strange to contribute to that higher-than-anticipated box office take. It was fantastic. The power of a singular event to reshape a person was told compellingly and movingly. And I will continue to NOT text while driving–a wholly avoidable kind of peril.
I thought a lot about why I write and the importance of standing for something. Especially after a friend shared an in-depth article about Derek Black, once the heir to the white nationalist movement, who framed the arguments about “racial realism” and “white genocide”, who’s now spent several years trying to distance himself from those beliefs. Because he had friends who were willing to talk to him gently, model peace, and share truth. It’s a different kind of powerful transformation story. From yet another perspective, Hannah Brencher gave a TED talk on the power of a personalized, hand-written letter to overcome depression and even suicide.
I had pondered my shift toward more overt romance in my stories in February, and I know I’ve talked before about the need for some kind of model for positivity, if not optimism despite the peril my characters face, but my need for a happy ending is being crystallized by the realization that in this election, our society has been dragged into the morass of darkness and despair epitomized by the hate speech our new president-elect regularly bandied about in his campaign.
So I see the stakes in our world as being impossibly high: Overcoming tyranny and oppression. But Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi and many other activists–including Derek Black’s humble college classmates–have proven in a multitude of ways that this is only possible by modeling the peace, love, and understanding we wish to see around us. And finding a healthy relationship with another person is the best microcosm I know of for radiating peace, love, and understanding toward a being who is equally as complicated as you.
Of course, there are scientifically validated tricks to help us along, too. And there are some really useful tips on overcoming gender bias while we’re raising our kids. And there’s my writer friend A.K. Anderson, who’s written a series of posts this week unpacking the nature of man, cultural shadow work, and feeling complicated, as an excellent meta-analysis of how we grow through national ego-death (from a Jungian perspective). None of it will be easy, but it’s important that we face all the things we purport to hate, to understand how this reflects on ourselves.
So I’ve kept on writing. I hadn’t left myself any kind of notes on where I’d left off with Fire to Dragon, which meant it took me several days to find my way back into the story. Yesterday, I started writing again and gave myself a new deadline of the end of November to finish this novel, which has languished in my to-do list for many more years than I ever want to force readers to face again. And I talked to the editor who’s working on the novella about getting it on her calendar for editing, too.
We’ve been busy recently again, so my phone says my daily average step count is stubbornly under 3K last week.
I have work travel to Florida for this week, as well as helping our office move across town, so my days are going to be long and busy for my day job again, but I’m more committed than ever to the idea that a story can help shift a society’s perspective in real and useful ways. I’ll be writing in whatever spare minutes I can find. And spending time reading what my fellow ROW80 writers have been going through.
One thought on “A World Full of Peril”
I loved this post! I’ve been wondering a lot lately about how I can use my art to be a force of kindness and love in the world–because I believe that is very much what the world needs at this moment. After taking some time off from writing, I’m trying to get back into the flow of storytelling, and your post definitely inspired me. Well said, and thank you!
And congrats on finishing your novella! I’d love to hear more about it.