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Writing in the Time of Global Trauma

Flickr Creative Commons: Ralf Steinberger

A universal agreement seems to be that art often comes from conflict and emotional burdens. At the very least, the process of writing holds our imagination, and part of our imagination comes from the conflicts we’ve overcome and the sense we’ve made out of our world view.

At this time, it’s hard for us writers to not be bombarded by information that is repeatedly illustrating themes of world devastation, climate change, political polarities, violence and xenophobia. The truth is that the world has always had a million things wrong with it, but our access to the news is far easier, and its immediate repercussions have never been so present.

As I write this, I have become more and more drawn towards the protests against a very bigoted law in India that threatens to tear the foundation of this country apart. As India becomes a place I don’t recognize, I find my voice through my words. I find purpose in my life as an Indian writer.

Today, I find whatever I write, whether related to the political reality, or something completely creative, is coming from a place of more defined purpose. As an intense couple of months threaten to become a new reality in the country in which I live, I’ve found a few writing truths I’ve been confronting.

What Does Your Immediate Attention Go To? Embrace It

The beauty of the world is that we are all affected differently by the same things. There are many issues that can make other people charged up, emotional, or invested but might make you yawn or disengage with completely. Generally, our culture tends to focus on why other people are so invested in things, but we rarely look at what we are invested in and why that might be. The difference in worldview is what stitches together a grand universal puzzle that all of us witness. Unless we look at the things in life that tend to make us take note and bring our emotions in, we’ll risk the potential of our writers’ voices. The human condition, especially at the intersections of identity, gender, mental health, and spirituality, are things that have always been important to me; this is why most of my work embraces these notions. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I felt the power of my voice and felt comfort in the anchoring it gave me as a writer. It doesn’t matter what you write, you could be writing non-fiction, history, science-fiction or romance, as long as you know that these are the areas you are naturally drawn to. Own the spaces and imagination that you have; the rest will evolve on its own.

Don’t Carry The Burden of Caring About Things People Tell You That You Need To Care About

Since I am a person very passionate about social justice, animal rights, and mental health, it took me many years to accept this statement. When you are taken in by topics like this, you are subconsciously taught to judge others for not caring enough about the same issues you do. In fact, a good part of your mental bandwidth then goes to fretting about others who do not seem to care. The bigger picture is that, as writers. we all have our own unique roles in this world. Think about how we look forward to watching or reading something funny when we are recovering from heartbreak. Think about the times we find solace in a poem when we are worried about something happening in our family, our community, or even in our country? All art, no matter what form, plays a role and intersects with ‘all the bad stuff’ that happens in our world. Your role is just to find your honest writing voice. Keep at it and remember it may evolve and become something completely different if you keep your mind and heart open.

Take Time To Engage With Your Community

It takes many minds to further our own art. If we’re not taking time to process the parts of the world we access on the news, social media, and in our lives, then we are only stunting our own personal growth as writers. Checking in with your writer friends, offering help without any other expectation, and opening your mind to a new perspective will always be a fruitful exercise. In the end, we must accept and pull more diversity into our communities. We will then be able to be our best selves as human beings and as writers.

How do you process the world and its many wounds we are a part of? Do you think your work has a role to play in it, even if your work is not directly involved in these topics? Do you think we evolve by adding more diversity to our thoughts and connections with other writers?

About Rheea Mukherjee [1]

Rheea Mukherjee [2] is the author of  The Body Myth, (February 2019/ Unnamed Press).  Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in several publications including Scroll.in, Southern Humanities Review, Out of Print, QLRS, and Anti Serious among others.  She is the co-founder of Write Leela Write [3], a design and content laboratory in Bangalore, India. She spends most of her spare time eating and making vegan hipster things. Learn more at www.rheeamukherjee.com [2], and follow her on Twitter [4] and Facebook [5].