It’s been difficult to focus on much during this chaotic period in our country’s history. Every day seems to bring divisive and disturbing news. I’ve found myself retreating from the Internet to a certain extent in order to maintain some kind of normalcy in my everyday life.
It feels odd to blog about writing and teaching when critical societal issues affecting so many people are seemingly at a tipping point, and no one knows what the future will bring. It feels like such an insecure time. In my private life I pay attention to the issues that matter to me. I write letters and donate whatever I can afford to organizations that are fighting for causes that I find critically important. But I hesitate to write much online. With all of the online bullying happening to both private and public individuals, it doesn’t seem safe to say much about anything in a public space.
What a scary thought in a country that prides itself on free speech.
What I can do is continue to work on my creative writing and to continue to encourage artistic expression. During the break between semesters, I sat at my keyboard almost every morning and drafted a new fictional short story. The story came from an idea I had a couple of months ago, and I finally had the time and space to bring it to life on the page. This morning I finished the second full draft, and tomorrow I hope to revise it into an even better third draft. At that point I’ll share it with a couple of readers to see if I’ve got something worthwhile.
I also have a personal essay that has received positive feedback from editors — it made it to the final ten essays in one writing contest — but has yet to find a home. I’ll have to take a look at some journals to see where it might fit.
It felt good to be writing again over these past few weeks, even though I had various personal challenges to navigate during the holiday season. It seems that personal and national challenges are on many minds these days.
School starts again next week. I’ll be teaching a literature course on the short story, so it feels right that I’ve been working on crafting my own during this break. It will be good to immerse myself in the work of more well-known writers who have written about the issues and challenges of their own societies and eras.
It can be surprising, when you read literature, to realize how little the human condition actually changes over time.