Like many of you, I’m finding it difficult to write right now, after the shootings in Uvalde, TX, and Buffalo, NY, and so many others. After those tragedies, reminded once again of our failures as a society to protect the innocent and to deal with conflict without violence, writing, painting, and other creative work can feel impossible. As pointless as the tragedies themselves. But it is not.
Editor, writer, and teacher Tiffany Yates Martin wrote a deeply heartfelt, practical essay earlier this week titled How Can Writing Matter in the Face of Suffering, including several ways to use our creative work to process pain, find a way into action, to connect, to give voice, and to write for hope. Read it. Here’s one paragraph that struck me.
“Story illuminates the world, a lens through which others may find some measure of understanding of their own tragedies, their own pain. Working through difficult and painful things in our writing may offer insight and aid to others amid their own struggles.“
Martin ends by quoting another writer, editor Susan De Freitas, that also struck me when I read it in a piece on Jane Friedman’s blog: “Wherever you are, if you’ve been struggling with this question, Why write when the world is on fire?, remember: Your words are water.”
And if you’re thinking what can any of us do to change the laws or public policy or diminish hatred, remember Margaret Mead’s words. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.“
“Be water, my friend,” as the late Bruce Lee wrote, reminding us that flow is our natural and most powerful state. Let your tears flow, and the words will follow.
(Illustration: photo of an unattributed quote and collage I spotted online months ago, printed out, and keep on my desk. It reads: Do what you can with what you have where you are.”)