Creative burnout when the world is on fire

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I’d already planned to write this post today before the train wreck in North Palestine Ohio. It’s one of those coincidences that doesn’t feel coincidental. 

I’m not in Ohio, but I am in the dangerous range. We could smell the chemicals in our little town. My throat burned when I went outside. Thank God, we weren’t downriver. But we were downwind. 

The people who are living in North Palestine are living in poisoned land. They are hurting, they are suffering, and they are livid. They should be. 

I am living in tainted land. And I am pissed about it. 

I’m so pissed, that it’s been kind of hard to write. 

This isn’t the first time. I don’t need to tell you what I’ve been struggling with, because you’re struggling with it, too. Flint Michigan still doesn’t have clean water. Cops are continuing to murder innocent black people with little to no repercussions. Living is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Oh, and last year half of us lost the right to make medical decisions about our own bodies. 

And what am I doing? I’m writing my little stories about ghosts, dragons, and spaceships.

When the world is burning around us, it is easy to feel like creating art is worse than pointless. In the years since 2020, I have actively felt like I was almost mocking the world by writing and publishing stories. What did my work matter, with everything going on? What does any of our work matter? Thoughts like that are enough to still any pen. 

But stories do matter. Stories about the dark and dismal parts of our lives matter. And we have seen this in both classic and modern literature. Stories can tell truths about our world in ways that make them easier to handle. They can shine light into deep shadows we can’t, or won’t, see into. They can give us a glimpse into other people’s lives, so we can understand their world better. So we can empathize with people who live far different lives than we do. 

If you don’t think this is powerful, ask yourself this. Why are politicians working so hard to ban books? 

That being said, a lot of what I write doesn’t have a damn thing to do with current world events. My last book was about a haunted apartment building. So, am I still wasting my time if I’m not writing serious literature about the horrors we’re facing? 

Well, let me ask you something. What did you do the last time you were overwhelmed by the world?

Did you read a book? Watch tv or a movie? Listen to music? 

I did. Hell, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t do all three of those things. Stories get me through the worst of times. And I’m willing to bet they do the same for you.

So, why wouldn’t we put out stories for other people? If I can write a little ghost story that helps someone through a hard time, why not do it? That sure doesn’t sound like a waste of time to me. 

Thoughts like that are enough to get my pen moving. I hope they do the same for you.

And check out last week’s post, when we talked about creative burnout caused by trying to survive.


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