Flattened Pieces of Cardboard & Creativity During Pandemics
Forbidden Warrior came out this week, and I’ll be honest–it was a tough one for me.
I want to send prayers and hugs to anyone who needs them in these dark days. Stories from the news can get very real very quickly these days. If you’ve been hit with some tragically or frightening Real Things, I’m sending good energy. You’re not alone.
I don’t actually know how I finished this book. There were days (and days…and days) where the extent of my creativity was to change “She’d” to “She had,” and it’s hard to call that ‘creative.’ It certainly didn’t feel like it. I didn’t feel creative at all.
I felt like a flattened piece of cardboard.
I cried a lot while writing it—because this story beat me up, and the world beat me up–so I guess I wasn’t entirely flattened.
But leaking tears wasn’t what I was aiming for.
Maybe I should retitle this post, because it looks like I don’t have Deep Thoughts about writing during a global pandemic.
If you’re in a creative field, you’re told repeatedly, in not so many words, to keep the shite side of creative work–and your opinions on the output–to yourself.
It’s true for everything from writing to visual arts to making lasagna for a dinner with friends (which you can’t do right now)
You can talk about the struggle of the work itself, such as how you spent days (and days…and days) doing nothing but changing “She’d” to “She had,” or how you cried ACTUAL TEARS on the keyboard or you used a slightly different recipe for the red sauce that had more oregano (!!), because there’s glory and beautiful angst in that suffering.
But your feelings on the works themselves? The soul-deep uncertainty about that thing you were able to dredge up from the almost-empty well of creativity or your kitchen pantry?
Never let them see you sweat.
But the truth is, we sweat. We blink and falter and cry and don’t know if what we have is good enough anymore. Who knows, maybe it’s not.
But showing up matters.
Okay, I decided I do have a Deep Thought for the writers & creatives out there: there’s value, at a soul-deep, personal level, in going back to the almost-empty well, in digging deeper into the pantry and cooking the f’ng lasagna anyhow.
I’m hoping it’s one tiny triumph for the sometimes-soiled human spirit.
It’s definitely a big, fat ‘F You” to despair.
To the extent I have advice, that’s it.
Forbidden Warrior does not have the plot heavy, epic scale of my other stories. It’s a simple tale. I focused on making it fun & accessible, with lots of banter, because I think a lot of us need that kind of story right now.
I wrote, then removed, more angsty, emotionally raw scenes. I kept the plot simple. I asked the characters to be their best, fun selves, and show up on the page with banter and connection.
I tried to make it the kind of story I needed right now.
Which I guess would be my other Deep Thought? Now, more than ever, write the story YOU want to read.
Not the only kind of story you’ll ever want to read, but the one you need right now.
Some of my readers won’t like this as much as my other, ‘bigger’ stories. That’s okay. In the end, what I was able to call up for my readers was a story intended to be one thing: a reprieve from the harshness of the world.
I hope it serves.