Writing Through Trump

Salatka-writing through trump-kayle-kaupanger-200964Preposterous. Unconscionable. Diabolical.

To call him childish insults young humans everywhere.

You know who I’m talking about.

His audacity takes my breath away. He also takes my sleep. And my words.

I, like many of you, am suffering from TIFPS, or Trump-Induced Frozen Pen Syndrome. My words have become a casualty of this inconceivable nightmare-cum-truth. Because it feels like an error in the order of the universe! Like we were heading, albeit upstream, toward a beautiful, self-realized place when suddenly, our canoe flipped and we are now sputtering and speeding toward a massive waterfall! Where giant hungry piranhas await us at the bottom! And even if we can somehow kick them away, the plunge pool is comprised of skin-eating acid and tall shards of glass! I fear we might be dusted.

Yet, something niggles at my brain. There must be a reason, the something whispers. A force like him doesn’t just pop onto the global stage without carting a larger lesson, like a dingleberry tangled into his comb-over.

What good can come of this new reality, where environment-haters are entrusted with our environment? Where public school-haters are entrusted with our public schools? What is the lesson here? I wonder these things as my fingers idle, frozen above the keyboard and my pen lies arrested, poised over paper.

As a Feisty Contributor and Editor, I also wonder how this new world order affects us, our tribe, the scribes of our times. Because we, as the world’s storytellers, must not freeze. Now, more than ever, the world needs us.

How do we combat TIFPS and continue to do the job the universe assigned to us? We cannot lose our words, our voice, the tool that wields the most power!

Here is one idea: let’s use the Apricot Aberration to make us better writers. Because we almost can’t get better fodder. He can be our tangerine-hued, frowny-faced writing prompt. Here are a few questions to ask ourselves to get unstuck:

  1. What words describe how he makes me feel? *
  2. What does this look like? Be specific. (And by specific, I don’t mean truthful. Use alternative facts at will.) *
  3. What is the worst case scenario? Be specific. *
  4. How can I combat this scenario? *

We witness him suck power on a daily basis as though he just rolled out from ten days under a dusty rock and straight into a 7-11 on 7-11, a.k.a., Free Slurpee Day. Sure, he can slurp all he wants, but he will not suck our power.

We must write through his reign so the world knows how we survived. We must capture this moment in time by observing, with our words, the details, the heartbreaks, and the humanity. When was the moment I took a stand? Here is what it looked like. When did I give up? Because I felt like it was too big and I was too small. When did I go from powerless to powerful? Write down all of this. Every speck.

Or maybe you aren’t there yet. You are still frozen, powerless, petrified. We get that, too, and you are not alone. But if you were to take a stand, what would you want that stand to look like? Write that down. If we are able to survive his regime, he may end up being a gift to us all. A majestic awakening. A monumental call for truth, understanding, and above all, compassion. For that to happen, we will need to remember what this time looked like. What this felt, smelled, and sounded like. We need us.

* My answers:

1) I feel powerless, fearful, despondent.

2) I stop standing up for myself at work and at home with my family because it does no good. Why expend the energy? I always lose anyway. I focus on my quilting instead. But my quilt scenes are getting weirder and angrier.

3) We go to war with nations all over the world simultaneously and are immediately close to perishing, every last one of us evaporating into a fungus-shaped cloud.

4) I contact an amazing scientist in Japan who went to my quilting camp in 8th grade. She has identified an enzyme which dissolves both plastic and rubber. With the help of some unsuspicious individuals, boom, all warplanes are grounded. We, as a nation, are forced to return to diplomacy.

 

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/collections/141077/american-political?photo=ihH2ztuBTOs

Pretend I’m a Kitten

Three newborn kittensWhile critiquing my writing, please pretend I’m a kitten. Because while I’m as feisty as they come, I’m also sensitive. This is not always a great combination. Sometimes I can serve it, but can’t return it. Sure, I’ll dish it, but I refuse to eat it. Mess with the bull, you’ll get the blubbering mess who has torn the horns from her scalp and is trying to stab herself with them while bemoaning, I don’t deserve to be so forsaken. I’m human; I have those days. For now, for the sake of argument, let’s assume every day is one of those days. And also that I’m a kitten.

Let’s role-play. Here I am, walking into our writing class/meetup/poetry jam/critique group/creepy online chat room. I might look put together because my shoes match my scrunchie, but that will be a fluke. Here’s the truth—on the inside, I’m a disaster. It doesn’t matter why. After this meeting, I’m thinking about tying a bunch of twigs together and floating myself out to sea, beckoning large black birds to come feast slowly on my vital organs, killing me softly with their beaks. (You can sing that last part.) I even brought some Styrofoam in my trunk in case the twigs aren’t buoyant enough with my weight on them, but I’d rather not use it because our oceans have enough problems without an additional slice of something with a gazillion year half-life. I will die miserable, but on good terms with our planet.

Before I take myself out, I’ve brought something to read aloud, and it stinks. Of course, it stinks, I wrote it while feeling sorry for myself. This piece reeks of Eau de VICTIM. Few people can get away with VICTIM as their theme. If the main character is a whiner, she better be darn good at something else too. As in, she’s a whiner but she bakes a crazy good cheesecake. Or, she’s a whiner, but she’s also a psychotic axe-murderer who held the word record for underwater hula hooping in 1985. Whining solely to air injustices doesn’t work. I hate to be so bIack and white about things; maybe there’s a person who can pull this off. In general, my thought is that whining is what journals and therapists are for.

Back to our group thing. It’s finally my turn. I read my woe-is-me story out loud (because I have a lot of them, in my journal). There is an extended moment of silence. You want to say, NO. Erase. Redo. Start over. Now is when you should remember that I’m just a kitten. I have big paws that I trip over. I fall asleep in crazy places and funny positions. I make noises that are considered adorable by cat people and, more often than not, I’m scared, but I puff up to look tough. Kittens like me prefer constructive criticism, because we just got here, and we have a lot to figure out. So please, tell me the truth because I’ve come here to learn and improve, but say it with kindness.

Here at thefeistywriter.com, we encourage you to embrace your feisty side, the part of you that says, “Here’s my story, no apologies!” We also remind you to create more distance between yourself and the parts of you that shun praise but shed all armor when baseless criticism is fired straight at your guts. People can be jerks. But not us feisty writers! We are gentle and helpful when people share their truth with us, even when their truth smells like a box of cat turds. We go easy. I’m a kitten; you’re a kitten. Let’s play around and be open and curious with this craft we love and encourage others to do the same.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/Y_pLBbSAhHI

Backstroking Through Peanut Butter

peanutbutter-2

I’m in the throes of a rewrite that feels like I’m backstroking through peanut butter—I can’t see for beans, but I’m kicking, stroking, kicking, stroking, and doing all the right things to muddle through. This routine is necessary if I want to get to the end of the jar and finish the sandwich, but no new ideas are bubbling to the surface because shaking loose a bubble in this muck is rough work!

I’m not sure I can hack through it. Everywhere I look, I see whirlpools forming around stale chunks of plot. Bacteria are probably festering there as well. Why is this peanut butter crunchy when the label clearly says smooth? When I get to the bottom of the jar, will it be dry and cracked, like sun-scorched mud? Or will it be pure, straight peanut oil, which is certainly easier to navigate, but only serves to sog up my sando?

This expedition is tedious and tiresome. I feel unfit. I should quit. I should drop this mess into the composter and make a burrito instead. It’s weird that I even started with peanut butter because burritos are way easier and I prefer them in every way.

I’m pretty deep in the jar, though, and I’m not sure I can extract my big sticky feet. And what if I had one more of those inspired moments, producing one last golden peanut of an idea? One final frog kick could propel me to the Dagwood at the finish line.

I haven’t had a moment like that in a while, though. It’s been too long of a dry spell. S.O.S: I’ve entered un-spreadable territory.

There was that one idea… It was a pretty good one, too, a couple of weeks ago. It felt like I grew a pair of swim fins with serrated edges to slash through the brown. I torpedoed through four chapters.

Maybe I’ll hit another bubble soon. Maybe I should wait for it…

I guess I’ll stick it out. Too much time spent in this puddle of clay to leave now, and besides, I’ve run out of room in my drawer.

If you need me, I’ll be over here, kicking, stroking, kicking, stroking…

Photo Credit: kara.allthingsd.com/files/2008/06/peanutbutter_skippy.jpg

STOP WRITING NOW!

i-will-not-rewrite-this

I bet when you clicked on thefeistywriter.com, you didn’t expect the advice to STOP WRITING NOW. Yet, here it is, and here’s why: because Mercury is in retrograde, which means this is rewrite time, baby!

Astrologists tell us that when Mercury is in retrograde, most aspects of our life are less than awesome. But for the rewriter in us, c’est fantastique! We don’t start a project when that badass planet looks like it’s spinning backwards, or create fresh content for a current project when the universe is topsy-turvy, oh no we don’t. We’re already battling with our loved ones, setting fire to our laptops, getting stuck in fluke hurricanes, and making ill-advised investment choices. Yes, our sage life skills are curled around the toilet, but the rewriter in us should do a double back handspring!

Sound the alarm—it’s RE-time! Time to REvisit old projects. REword the heinous screenplay stuck in the archives. REconfigure the chapter order of an awkward middle-grade fiction. REanalyze that hate poem, and maybe soften it. Or add more flames and REpost it! RE, RE, RE!

I guess RE-time doesn’t only have to happen during noteworthy astrological moments. Maybe we should take a beat when we feel stuck in deep, stinky brain cement. Or maybe when we’re low, tired, or sad. Or maybe when our laptop is honking because we’ve run out of space again and don’t want to pay for upgraded storage because this storage nonsense is highway robbery and I’ve had enough. Whatever the reason, there are times when it’s okay to say: I refuse to climb that mud-covered mountain during a lightning storm while wearing clogs. Just no.

So stop. Cease creating new material. But don’t stop writing—that would be crazy! This is your essence we’re talking about. Don’t quit baking because you’re too grumpy for cake—make brownies instead, out of the feces in your ancient word files! When Mercury or your mind, body, or soul is in retrograde, become a human dung beetle. Mine the crap in your Scrivener, or wherever you hide your most embarrassing attempts at your craft and add sugar. I can’t advise you to eat the result—that would be gross. But make something, anything, out of the old. Go vintage for a while; it might be just the thing for you this season.

Photo Credit: www.flickr.com Riksarkivet (National Archives of Norway)