Sometimes, especially in times of crisis, it’s hard to feel useful as a creative writer. Many of us are introverts. Our talents appear on the page. One staff member tells this story about the usefulness of being a writer:
“Once, I autodialed a fellow writer who had the same name as the superintendent of my apartment building. I didn’t wait more than a second after saying hello before launching into a litany of complaints about having no hot water. After a minute, the man said, ‘Who is this?’ And then I realized I made a mistake. He laughed and told me not to worry about it. He also said it was fun for him to get such a high-stakes call; nobody ever calls writers telling them they ran out of novels or poems in the middle of the night and need it fixed right away.”
The point here is that, as writers, we sometimes feel we don’t have a meaningful way to contribute when there’s an emergency or crisis. But it’s important not to undervalue our own individual potential.
Whether a crisis is national, personal, or both, writing can lead to greater understanding, comfort, and possibly, closure. Our writing can point to core problems that engender violence. Eloquence and well-wrought insights can affect our readers, family members, fans, and lawmakers. Our impact might not be measurable, but it’s real…only if we get out there and use our talents to the best of our abilities.
This doesn’t mean that all of our writing must be overtly political; Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird doesn’t advise writers that their work should have a “message.” Instead, she says the morality in a creative writer’s work should stem from “a passionate caring,” as opposed to a desire to teach, lecture, or instruct.
But whether the “passionate caring” of our writing is overt (in letters to the editor or senators) or implicit (tucked away in poems, novels, etc.), it is powerful.
QUESTION: How do you use your talent as a writer to engage with the world in times of triumph or tragedy?