In a class, quite recently, I signed into the Zoom call late and those already present were deep into a Covid discussion.
Usually, I start class with upbeat music and silly dance moves—my on-line equivalent of the sage smudging techniques you might find in Native American traditions or in many spiritual communities—but as I increased the volume, the tide of conversation increased too, in both volume and misery.
In many ways, this conversation should have increased. People need a place to let off steam, to share, to express, and to lament. Never more than now.
But wait. This is a place to improve our craft as artists and to hone our thinking. This is a place to improve craft and reflect on the horrors of our world, not enter those horrors in real time where all one can do it react.
Usually, staying on track isn’t difficult. The tidal wave of similar discord around the Trump election back in 2016taught me how to step into the rising fury and ask student to please leave politics at the door but I hadn’t gotten there yet with Covid. I’d been avoiding the conversation with dance and play. This time though, I tossed my hands up and said, “You’re all right. Life is a mess. Let’s run for the door. Head for the hills. Get the hell out because it’s all a horror that cannot be redeemed.”
My outburst, a magnification of the despair within the group conversation required an apology, a recognition of my own struggles at this time, and finally, a return to the truth that we cannot be the writers we hope to be by dodging bullets currently flying around us. We must leave the present world to work itself out and write about that which we can reflect upon over revision upon revision. We are not reporters of the now, we are storytellers of what came before. We must then leave Covid, just like we did the Trump election, at the door.
There is a saying:
What the good builds up, the bad tears down.
What the bad builds up, the good tears down.
Like writing a novel, or a memoir, or even a collection of short stories or essays, life is a long game and what we do—as writers—in the process of this building up and tearing down is practice moderation, self-control, and wisdom. Trump will come and go. Covid will come and, (yes, it will go). Life goes on, and on. And, on.
The middle path, I’ve been taught by spiritual advisors. Always take the middle path because with one foot up or down, on the divided path of high and low (or Right and Left), balance becomes harder to achieve.
A storyteller must learn to find balance in our work thematically, showing both the positives and negatives in our narratives to have any merit or longevity. We writers are required to temper our passions in order our story rise to its best iteration.
Leave your passions at the door is the true teaching in all this, and then figure out a way to weave those passions into your prose via the honing of your technique. This too shall pass, we are taught, but story will forever be with us. It is story that will endure long after we are gone.
~ Jennifer, Oct. 2021