Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Be the Change

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 04•17

Amid our lovely unfurling autumn here in the Pacific Northwest, the world seems to be crumbling. Tune into the news and one nightmare after another–monster hurricanes, a devastating earthquake in Mexico, and the senseless mass shooting in Las Vegas–keep happening. Then there’s climate change.  Living in the now has never seemed harder. Trusting humankind more difficult.

So what’s a writer to do?

Use your rage, grief, and compassion for change. Write it out, speak it loud, lead. The world needs writers and clear thinkers and change makers. We cannot wait for our government to enact laws or address climate change, or finally say no to the NRA. Sure, we can nudge and rattle our senators and congress people; sure we can attend town halls or visit a congressman’s office, cast our votes, and join organizations. And yes, do speak out on social media, sign petitions, march, protest, show up.

But if you’re a writer, mostly you need to write. Fueled by your passion, your anger, your worry. Like a weathered barn full of old wood and dry hay, blazing, engulfed in flames.

You cannot hold back afraid of the fire; you need to be the flame.

And here’s the  odd truth about writing during tragedies and hard times:  it doesn’t matter what form you choose, it’s simply vital that you do it. Often the hardest truths are faced in fiction.  So create your elaborate fantasy series; write your gritty memoir; plot your scary thriller.  Form is secondary. First comes connecting with readers, telling stories, revealing your humanity.

If you want to Tweet your outrage, post your sorrow, or send off an opinion piece to your local paper, go for it. Just don’t sit around wallowing or stewing or endlessly watching CNN. Instead turn the horror of intentional cruelty into accessible stories.

Dig down. What if your YA series features the character you most needed as a kid or your protagonist is who you most longed to be? Imagine the power in those stories, the heart you could pour into it. What if you wrote about what scares you? What if you wrote instead of disconnecting, hardening to the madness of our times?

We cannot change the crappola that’s happening overnight. But we can keep it from overwhelming us.

Instead of hating our leaders think about the traits you admire in true leaders. Would it make sense to shape your protagonist from them? What about traits that terrify you?  And what kind of villain exposes our frailties? Or do you want to create a seemingly unstoppable  monster?

In all these real-life horrors we’re witnessing other people’s vulnerability. Life is oh so fragile.  How do you want to portray human vulnerability? The harshness of traumatic experiences? How you can make readers ponder larger truths? Do you want to reveal the irony of certain situations? Do you want to expose motives like greed or racism? What inescapable truths do you want to explore?

Or do you want your stories to give readers a softer place to land than the reality we’re inhabiting? Immerse them in a story where somehow the troubles can be managed by the ending? Or a story that is simply an escape? Do you long to comfort a troubled populace?

Fully inhabit your body. Feel your heartbreak or your rawest, emptiest places within. Feel your compassion for all that’s been lost.  Treat yourself with tenderness when the world is burning around you. And then write.

keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

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