Friend, if you are paying attention even with just one eye open, it’s a hard hard world. My heart goes out to everyone affected by the horrible terrorist acts in New Zealand yesterday.
And my heart broke again this week over the news of the human rights lawyer in Iran, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. It’s like something out of a medieval novel and yet all too real.
When we wake up to this kind of thing, it’s tempting sometimes to just pull the covers over our heads and stay in bed.
But what if you have an antidote?
Bear with me here: I’m not saying that you personally are saving the world through poetry. It might be true that your short stories, and mine, won’t comfort Nasrin or stop the next terrorist act. And of course it's not the only thing the world needs right now.
- What if the act of writing consistently provides you with an internal resilience as you remember who you are, and where your gifts and personal priorities lie?
- What if writing grounds and centers you in a way that makes you more sensitive and responsive to the world around you?
- What if writing helps you understand the world and the people in it today just a little better than you did yesterday?
- What if writing generates compassion and empathy, in the writer and in readers?
- What if your writing is the very thing someone needs to read today to feel understood, or to understand their fellow humans?
- What if your writing is a radical act of care and connection? What if the world needs this more now than ever?
- What if writing is what we need to wake us up?
- What if creation is just the whole damn point?
- What if you have the antidote?
I had a new friend and neighbour over for an impromptu dinner this week [waves at Leah]. She works with visual artists and I was moved at one point to feeling great gratitude for all artists. Not just the great ones, but all who create, all who try.
One of my greatest worries used to be whether or not my work was mediocre. I stopped obsessing over this a long time ago and here’s why: the world needs more people creating, because creation is a radical act of care and connection. It’s the antidote to the mixed-up, crazy, hard daily world we’re all living in right now. This has always been true, but feels especially true to me right now.
The world needs you to be creating. It absolutely does not matter if the gatekeepers and powers-that-be think your work is any “good” or not.
F*ck the Canon: what matters most is the care, compassion and connection embedded in the act of writing.
If you let yourself really think about how the very act of writing changes you, you know this. And if you think of all those times you read something that opened up the world for you, made you laugh or cry or care, you know this.
So if you are someone moved to write, or to other acts of making and creation, for the sake of us all – every last damn one of us, from New Zealand to Iran to New York and Moose Jaw and back again – we need you to keep creating. We need people populating the world with acts of compassionate imagination. And the act of doing it is as meaningful as the final product, or possibly more so.
You have an antidote. For yourself, for the rest of us. And the story you’ve been telling yourself about how your work isn’t any good, or isn’t as good as [insert your personal famous writer benchmark here] isn’t helping because it’s completely beside the point.
Just for today, I want you to consider: what if you have an antidote?
We need you writing: get to it, girlfriend.