Three years ago, during that January after the inauguration, I watched as family and friends ranted, hid under the covers, cried or baked. A few even collapsed.
Eventually, women marched, ran for office and earned positions of power in Washington. Businesspeople innovated. Reporters dug deeper. My daughter became a board member for a women’s nonprofit. My husband spent Saturdays campaigning for political candidates.
I wanted to DO something, too, beyond voting, signing petitions and writing small checks.
But what could a writer – a teacher and coach of writing – do to make a difference?
I searched quotation databases for wisdom using phrases like “moving through shock” and “coming back from defeat” and “when bad things happen” to help to soothe my soul. I played Sara Bareilles and Leslie Odom, Jr’s song, “Seriously” on repeat. Watched political spoofs on Saturday Night Live. Listened to storytellers expressing how they were feeling at live lit events. Followed the quotes, photos, paintings, sculpture slogans and political cartoons running through my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds.
That’s when I noticed that what was providing me with respite and some solace was art.
Art wasn’t changing the nature of things – we can’t change the nature of things – but it was making a difference in how I was feeling. Because that’s what art does best. It makes you feel. Sometimes you feel better, sometimes you feel worse. But feeling strongly can move you to get up and do something. Maybe that something is making art.
I’ve seen what can happen when people get what’s on their mind onto the page. When they manage to get a big story from their life out of their head and body and into words.
They feel lighter. They breathe a little easier. There’s a bit more room, more energy, for other things. Maybe to give more of themselves to the world. Maybe that thing is to help someone change a vote, run for office, or create a ruckus. Or maybe it’s to soothe someone’s soul.
So in 2020, I’m recommitting myself to this. To more feeling leading to making art. Less reeling. And to facilitating this in others, to help them get big stories from their head, heart and through their hands and onto the page.
I’m here for that. Whether it’s writing an About Me page for a website, personal essay for graduate school admission, an essay for publication, putting writing back into your life for self-discovery or leaving a story or family, friends and future generations.
This is something we can do.
Don’t you feel it, too?