Writing

How The 2016 Election Made Me A Disoriented Writer And Human

It’s been a little over a month since the day I woke up, looked at my phone, and saw that Donald Trump had won the election. It was 4 a.m. I stared at the electoral numbers on my phone—the eerie contrast of my blistered thoughts in the comfortable silence of my home. Everyone, asleep and unaware. I got up, walked into my bathroom, and cried. Not because a republican had won—I come from a red state; I get republicans. And I respect (nah, encourage!) opposition because without it, there is no real truth. Only opinion. Only one side of a valuable coin.

But this was wrong. This flipped my stomach, and my insides have been tangled ever since.

Suddenly, I found myself questioning everything. I couldn’t tell if I had blinders taken off, or drunk goggles put on. As a person who prides herself on being reasonable and open to all voices, I found myself unable to relate to hardly any, aside from a few friends who shared my feelings of disconnect and disorientation. Where were all the moderates? Where were the people who (passionately) believe not everything is black-and-white? My guess is maybe they’re all just officially too tired to fight. Remember back in school when you’d have a group of friends, and two of them would get into a fight with each other and all the sudden it was like, “Pick a side! And if you don’t, you’re a shitty friend.” Well either way, you were going to be labeled a shitty friend by someone so why bother. The situation was defeating within itself. Maybe that’s how a lot of Americans feel right now. Which is ironic and sad because, now more than ever, we need to be talking. Like no bullshit, let’s figure this out talking.

But something I didn’t foresee being affected by this election was my writing. I didn’t think one would have anything to do with the other. But I was wrong. This election, and the state of the union at the moment, has affected my writing habits and creativity immensely.

At first, I didn’t want to write—I couldn’t. A lot of writers couldn’t. After all, there were no words. Hell, I didn’t even want to turn in my latest manuscript to my agent. Before the election, my protagonist’s journey read one way. After the election, it read differently. Do you know how depressing that is to work on something for years and suddenly—overnight—you’re looking at your work differently? Questioning it because you no longer have a grip on what’s accurate and what’s influenced? What’s offensive and what’s just uncomfortable? What’s feminism and what’s obsessive victimization? I feel very little freedom in my writing right now, and it’s all because my trust is shot. I don’t know what’s authentic anymore. Hell, I don’t even know what’s interesting anymore. Has anyone actually enjoyed a movie or novel since the election? Because personally, I can’t “escape” with the same grace and joy I could a year ago, and I don’t know how long this creative paralysis will last.

But like all good-hearted control-freaks, I am determined to conquer this disorientation. I am taking baby steps, trying to get back to truth.

Politically, I’m taking action in ways that are small, but significant to me. I’m questioning my news outlets—questioning whether or not they are biased or complacent in their selection of “newsworthy” material. I am also compiling a list of local non-profits I want to donate to more often—issues that affect me and my family. My friends. Communities that I care about—communities that don’t have a voice as loud as others. I recently wrote to my district and state representatives about such issues, and that felt nice and empowering. Will my inquiry be read? I don’t know. That’s outside of my control.

As far as writing, I will continue to explore what I know. I will stick to what is personal and close to home. I will write more poetry—a comfort that feels appropriate during this abstract time. I will seek out the joy in comedy. I will focus on intimate, naked, stripped-down storytelling. I will write for no specific audience and trust that if I stay true to myself, there will always be like-minded people searching for literary solace. And I will laugh, by god, I fill my heart with the absurd and find a way to laugh again.

I refuse to let the outcome of this election take over my life in a way that is paralytic to my way of life. Some will say that is a cop out, that I am being a “shitty friend” to a frustrated, liberal America. No, friend, I am being responsible with my attitude and state of mind. I am striving to find balance and maintain that balance for myself, my family, and all those who, like me, feel a sense of disorientation during this extremely polarizing time in our country.

This blog post is the first thing I’ve written in over three weeks. I’m proud of that. I love writing—I love it too much to let 2016 take it away like it’s taken away so much else.

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1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    December 11, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Wonderful, Jan! I feel ya.

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