Woes With the Territory
These are turbulent times. Aren’t they? I mean, we have but to scroll through our favorite social media feeds, or peruse our favorite blogs to feel it. It’s a bit odd, though. Violent crime is at a decades-long low, unemployment is below the post-WW2 average, and by most measures the economic recovery continues. Heck, even gas and milk are relatively cheap.
And yet, we all feel it. Terrible events continue to happen. Dark forces exist, and the very horror and terror engendered by their words and deeds is their tool. Resentment and anger are brewing out there. Resentment and anger that foster fear and hatred. Those who prey on, and benefit from, such emotions are busy fomenting their momentum.
Among my writing friends of late, I feel a palpable sense of woe. It’s understandable. Writers are generally smart and tuned in to the world around them. Writers are often adept at considering events in historical context.
Atop all of that, writers are generally sensitive souls. We have to be. It’s part of the gig. My friend and WU Editor-in-Chief Therese Walsh once explained it to me this way. Therese believes we writers have thinner skins because we need them to absorb the world at large, not just to accurately portray its events and its people, but to convey them authentically on the page to others. The raw side of having that thinner skin is that we perhaps feel the negatives—the hurts and pains—more easily, have less defense against them, and have a more difficult time recovering from what we’ve absorbed.
And let’s face it: these days there’s plenty of negativity—plenty of hurt and pain—to go around.
Big Sky Perspective
“The night sky is an excellent corrective to our self-importance. Everything superficial falls away. Vanity disappears. Politics, culture, and fashions of every sort fade to insignificance. It’s just us, alone beneath the infinite, as we’ve been since the beginning.” ~Author Jerry Dennis (from his essay, The Night Country)
My wife came home the other day, and had to ask me three times if anything was wrong. It was a gorgeous summer day, and I was grilling our dinner. I had to look up at the deep blue twilit sky to realize it myself: No—there’s nothing wrong. I mean, there’s always something wrong, right? I’d spent hours that day absorbing the woes of the world (mostly passed along though the online and media lens). I needed to step back and gain some perspective.
We writers know as well or better than anyone that so much of life is about perception and context. And about choices. I understand that most of us are in our heads a lot, and that many of us (including me) struggle with self-doubt. But when you think about it, we purposefully present our characters with fundamental misbeliefs and limited perception, all in the name of increasing conflict and tension. We ought to be in a good position to discern our own such issues.
And I believe it’s vital that we storytellers seek to look beyond the turbulence of the times, that we try to see beyond inundation to a cogent sorting of the meaningful. But in order to do it, we must strive to find and maintain our “Big Sky Perspective.” After all, times like these are when stories are needed the most. [Read more…]