I recently attended and returned from my second residency at VCFA (and my first winter residency). It was in many ways even better than the first residency, and in some ways it was less, but it was incredible to be surrounded by so many creative, insightful, inspiring people, especially after the year we’ve all had.
Upon returning from VCFA, I crash landed back into reality with severe withdrawal from the community there, compounded by the horrific garbage fire political state of the US. There’s so much evil in the world, so much evil on our own home soil, and I have no idea where to begin. As an artist, I feel alternately useless, misplaced, and occasionally hopeful. I want to create stories that make a difference, but it feels too late, doesn’t it? We have so many good stories that already make a difference…but they didn’t make enough of a difference. Fuck, we even have straight up historical facts that are being ignored in favor of these “alternative facts,” gaslighting to the extreme. As a woman of Jewish heritage, I cannot ignore the way Muslims are being vilified, refugees being denied entry, and so many people buying into the disgusting hate and fear mongering tactics being employed by the real terrorists: the GOP and DJ Tr*mp.
But I don’t want to talk politics. I want to talk solutions. I want to talk passion and art and unstoppability.
And yet it’s hard to create when people are dying, or going to die. It’s hard to write stories when the story you’re living makes no sense whatsoever.
But I keep trying, like my fellow students and fellow writers and artists. We keep trying, keep thinking, keep writing and creating, even if it’s crap. Even if it goes nowhere. Even if it fails. Because merely trying to create is an act of defiance in the world today. Following your vocation is an act of rebellion. Refusing to buy into the idea that art is not important is an act of resistance.
Burning bright enough to outshine the garbage fires all over this country and this world is an act of heroism.
So on the mornings when I don’t feel like waking up early to write before work, I think of Princess Leia and Anne Frank and my favorite novelists, and I haul my ass out of bed to create something, even if it’s going to suck. In the evenings when I’m worn out from a long day at the office and being inundated with bad news from the world, I buckle down and get to work on my reading, finding new and different inspiration wherever I can get it, lapping up the dregs even from weak-ass Wikipedia articles or a single line of text in an otherwise useless essay. And when I can brain no more, I take care of myself by letting myself play. I knit, small simple projects that remind me I am capable, I can finish things, I deserve that little burst of dopamine at the crossing of the finish line.
And I reach out to my people when it feels like too much, like dopamine is not enough, like creating is a selfish, useless act. I reach out to friends and colleagues, even when it’s scary, even when I’m ashamed. Because human connection is essential, even for us introverts. Belonging is essential, even to us anxious, socially awkward outsiders. Community is essential, especially in these harrowing times when reality feels like a Snidely Wiplash cartoon, too comically villainous to possibly be real. Someone needs to ground us, and we need to ground each other, when the going gets bat-shit insane.
I don’t really know what this blog entry is about, only that I’m scared and anxious and also trying to be brave, and I think a lot of you are, too. Take care of yourself, and reach out, and reach back when people reach out. Find the thing that makes you burn a little brighter than the garbage fires in this world. Create because it’s your mother fucking right, not to prove your worth to anyone. Defy, resist, rebel. Be the change. Love more fiercely than ever before. Dare something worthy. Dare greatly. Be the man in the arena. Be the still small voice. Fight back. Take time to heal. Make yourself heard. Uplift the voices of others. Care for yourself. Rinse, repeat.
Just don’t give up, no matter what you’re fighting for. Don’t give up.
We have a lot of work to do.