Friday, March 13, 2020

Writing Out the Storm

These are tough times for many people. So much is happening around us that we can't control and that we don't want to consider having to deal with.  No, we can't control so many things around us, it's true. But as writers we are possessed with a wonderful tool we can put to use if our minds get troubled.  What am I talking about?  I'm talking about those magical worlds we constantly create in our heads all the time.

My prescription for dealing with the current crisis (other than taking care of yourself and those around you personally)  is escape.

Escape with writing!  Write out your fears, write out a happy ending, come up with characters you can love or give love to and write out villains you want to seee destroyed. A lot of our fear may live in our heads or we see around us.  This week I should have been in San Diego for a writing conference, but even before things turned very chaotic, I decided as an older, wiser writer, it would not be in my particular best health interest to go.  I cancelled and yesterday, after the conference started, the entire event got cancelled by the County of San Diego.

But for the past week, every day I have been consoling myself by escaping to a totally different world than one where I have to worry about the daily health crisis.  I've been working on a story and that is the prescription I offer to other writers.

Start a new book if you aren't working on one now. Create that world where YOU get to make the choices for your characters so you don't feel so helpless when you return from there.  Every day I get to escape to a small town in southern Colorado where my heroine is facing grief over her grandfather's death, but she is also facing the hope of love with an old boyfriend.  This world can be as peaceful or as dramatic as I want it to be. I get to be in control.

This morning someone on Twitter mentioned that for the first time in her career as a news reporter, everyone in the shop would be covering health and Coronavirus stories.  It made me think back to if that ever happened to me in 35 years of being a journalist. And yes, it did--several times.

The day after Mt. St. Helens exploded, television viewers got only straight coverage of what was happening in the region because life had changed for so many people and as a news producer I was in early and worked late.  That is the way of life of a journalist when big things or threats happen.

The day the Space Shuttle exploded while I sat on the phone with my sister, I immediately hung up and went to work in my news department, because I knew things would be chaotic and if we put on a newscast it would be all about the event. But we would be working all day and probably into the night.

During the Los Angeles Riots we were wrapping up our day when the violence broke out and most of us never went home that night. We stayed on the air for hours on end, with just one story.

It was the same the early morning I woke up to a shaking bed because of the Northridge Quake. I called my dad on the drive to work and told him I was fine but he wouldn't be hearing from me because I would be at work for at least the next 24 hours. Several of us stayed in a hotel near the station when he finally got off our shift so we could be close and get back to work if necessary.

The same was true of 9-11 when I was about to go on the air with a 7am broadcast in Denver.  The second plane hit the World Trade Center and I knew the next few days would be nonstop coverage and I wouldn't be going home.

But what got me through all those chaotic days was focusing on the daily job at hand. Then, eventually  I would go home and get to write something other than breaking news. I escaped into a world I had created somewhere else, whether it was writing a romantic story or an uplifting story of human endurance. I made the decisions so people did what I wanted.

 Now as a full time writer of both fiction and non-fiction , I've found that escape into fantasy can be therapeutic. We as writers can make things come out right. We can do the things that need to be done and then go into OUR world and set a happy or unhappy ending. If you're feeling tense or as though things are out of control right now, take some time to escape into YOUR world. Make your characters cry if you want, make them strong and stand up to a bully or make them turn over the apple cart and do what is needed. We can ride out this current storm by writing it out!

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