Sunday, February 12, 2017

Why the words must come. | CC0

I have a confession to make. I haven't been writing much of anything for the past couple of months. I've posted a lot on Facebook, and I've written my weekly posts here, and my monthly posts at Indies Unlimited. But it's been hard to get myself to the computer to write fiction when there's a virtual fire hose two blocks from my day job, spewing streams of shocking stuff each day. And if that's not enough, I've also been distracted by some personal business related to my mother's estate.

And yet, I need to write. All of us who tell stories need to write. Because art -- which includes literature -- is one of the few things that will help us get through this crazy time with our minds intact.

Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison wrote about it in The Nation in 2005. She recounted a conversation with a friend that had occurred just after George W. Bush had been declared the winner of the 2004 presidential election. She blurted to her friend how much the election had upset her -- so much so that she couldn't write.
I am about to explain with further detail when he interrupts, shouting, "No! No, no no! This is precisely the time when artists go to work -- not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That's our job!"
I felt foolish the rest of the morning, especially when I recalled the artists who had done their work in gulags, prison cells, hospital beds; who did their work while hounded, exiled, reviled, pilloried. And those who were executed.
Despots, she goes on to say, "routinely begin their reigns" by destroying art. Imagination, as well as critical thinking, are their enemies. The dictator's subjects cannot be allowed to envision another way to live. They cannot be allowed to think any truth other than the party line -- because as soon as the despot's facade cracks, it will come tumbling down.
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
The concerns of 2004 seem almost quaint, compared with what we're facing today. But Morrison is right. It's at times like these that our stories are more important than ever.

So please excuse me for this shorter-than-usual post. I've got some writing to do.

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