The aftermath of the most recent US Presidential Election seems to have changed everything, especially social media. For people working in creative fields, this new environment has at the very least been upsetting, but at the worst has been a mental health crisis that makes it almost impossible to accomplish anything. As someone who follows a lot of authors on Twitter, I’ve seen this topic come up repeatedly. How can you keep writing fiction when it seems like the real-life problems and villains are so much more threatening? How can you be creative when it seems like there’s a new headline talking about the end of the world every day? Here’s my list of suggestions to keep yourself creative and productive even in the midst of so much political turmoil.
Are you feeling like you just can’t handle having access to social media or the internet while working lately? The first step you can take is investing in an internet blocking service. Over the years, several different software programs have been developed to completely restrict or partially block the internet access of your phone or computer, allowing you to get work done. One of the most popular programs is Freedom, which works on iPhone, iPad, Macs, and Windows computers. You can add websites and apps to a running list and block them for up to 8 hours at a time. Once a block is set you can continue adding distractions to it, but you can’t end the block until time runs out. With pricing starting at $2.42/ month, Freedom provides an excellent escape from the latest CNN headline or Twitter explosion for a few hours. There are also other programs such as RescueTime which doesn’t restrict your internet usage, but sends you a printout at the end of the day stating exactly how much time you’ve spent on each website you’ve visited. If you think you can handle having internet access while you work and only need a little bit of time management shaming to keep you in check, RescueTime might be right for you.
Make sure you have an idea or a work in progress that is interesting enough to keep that inspiration ball rolling no matter how insane the headlines. Even if you are struggling to find your next big idea, answering small writing prompts can really get your brain flowing. Books like 642 Things to Write About, or its sequel, 712 More Things to Write About, both from the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, are filled with short prompts. Even answering a small question about yourself or allowing your brain to wander down the path of “What If?” can be the start of an entire new project!
Another key to getting inspiration is keeping something to write with on you at all times. Whether it’s saving little snippets on your phone or carrying pen and paper around, you never know when inspiration might strike! There’s nothing worse than feeling that adrenaline rush of a new idea, only to have it slip away before you can jot down some notes. It’s important to be ready for inspiration to come at any time.
Self-care is all the more vital during uncertain times. Taking a break can be necessary to recharge and get your creative juices flowing again. But what exactly counts as self-care? Anything that makes you feel relaxed and recharged! Maybe it’s putting on headphones and going for a walk. Maybe it’s putting your face in a pillow and screaming out your frustrations. Maybe it’s hitting the gym, going for a run, or curling up with your favorite book and a cup of tea. Do something that lets you escape and brings your focus and energy back to center.
Often, we get so wrapped up in our daily tasks that we forget that it’s okay to take a break. The toxic policies being developed in the U.S. Government right now are hard to deal with and so is all of the violence occurring around the globe. No matter how involved you are in the social movements, or how directly affected you are by current political issues, everyone is entitled to a self-care or mental-health break. Once you take a step back and recharge you will be able to launch back into writing, activism, or any other responsibilities with renewed vigor and see better results.
Remember Why You Create:
Writers are vital to our society. We document history, scientific achievements, and the latest news. We create fantastical worlds and tell the stories of ourselves and others. In times like these, it can be easy to feel that creativity and writing pale in comparison to so many other things. In these low moments, remind yourself why you create and why you write. Readers, especially teenagers and young adults, rely on writers to help them understand the world around them. When asked by the LA Times in an interview about writing for young readers after the election, Meredith Russo, author of If I Was Your Girl, said, “They still need me. They still need us. So as tempting as it is to hunker down and go into survival mode, we have to remember that we have a responsibility to young people to preserve their sense of stability and hope.”I write because, someday, I want to tell a story that will change someone’s life the same way so many of my favorite books have changed mine.
In a time filled with so much hatred, we need more personal stories. We need to continue working to provide a platform across all genres for writers from different backgrounds and social groups. As long as writers produce positive representations of minority groups, there will be people reading them and learning to understand. So, despite how difficult these past few months have been and how difficult the next several are going to continue to be, keep writing. Stay informed on what is happening around us, but don’t let it keep you from being creative. It really could make all the difference in the world.