This past year has felt a bit surreal. As if the world was unplugged and we are collectively holding our breath, waiting for it to be plugged back in and spring to life like my laptop after a hard shut down.
Some writers I know have been absolutely unable to write. Their worlds disrupted understandably.
Today writing seems like a better option than watching the news. But then again, that’s probably the better option most days.
And yet, the news informs our writing. It’s hard not to let political opinions and party affiliations slip into our prose. I consciously censor myself. Never wanting a snap judgment of my politics to keep a reader from hearing my story.
That wasn’t always the case. I am deeply passionate about my own political beliefs, and there was a time I knocked on doors and watched polls and wrote op-eds.
As politics has gotten more divisive, I made a conscious decision to keep it out of my writing community. I want to be an open-minded person who can handle hearing beliefs on both sides, but these days it’s so very hard to have a civil conversation. There is too much judgment, too much assuming and blaming and generalizing.
So, right now, while the future of my country hangs in the balance, I know that speaking my mind won’t change any hearts or the outcome of the election. It will only alienate friends and invite argument.
But as we move forward from whatever happens, I wish I could find the words to share my absolute desire that we learn to listen to one another. That we lead with our hearts, informed by our heads, but without the knee-jerk judgment and the hate mongering. We have to—there is no other way to save the soul of this country.
In my stories, even in my ‘dogoirs’, I always, always stress the positive. I believe in happy endings. I write them into my fiction and I advocate for them in my work with shelters and rescues.
I believe that the heart of this country is good, and that most people would rather choose love than hate. Hate leaves a bad taste on your soul and poisons your days. It makes the world darker, heavier, and so very sad. It isolates you, even when you join forces and hate something together. Somehow we need to learn to disagree without hating.
That’s my own challenge, and one I am wrestling this week while watching the election returns. We will never, ever move forward and tackle the bigger issues of this world until we stop hating each other and start agreeing to disagree on some issues, while working together to tackle others. We cannot let hate and judgment and the crazy need to be right or to win, dictate what comes next.
What comes next will impact the lives of our children and our grandchildren. Maybe we need to remember this as we face our ‘foes’.
I don’t know what comes next for this country. I can only control my response to the outcome, and no matter the outcome, I plan to choose love. I will acknowledge my own frustration or disappointment or even my joy at the outcome, but I will also remember and respect that at least half my country wanted a different outcome.
It is a great temptation to disengage, to bow out and retreat. That seems the easier path. And maybe one I will take for a while. But the lessons of this election season will inform me; they will inform my writing.
I hope I can move forward gently, with calm acceptance and genuine curiosity of other people’s views, allowing for respectful disagreement, but knowing that a heart is a heart and one is not worth more than another.
Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.
If you live anywhere near the PA/MD border, I’d love to meet you this Saturday when I’ll be supporting my favorite locally owned shop, Soulshine Boutique. Stop by to see me and ALL of my books between 10am and 2pm (the shop is open until 8 and I will likely stick around longer than 2, but the books will definitely stick around longer because Lisa carries them in her shop). I’ll have special gifts for anyone who drops in to see me.
If you’re curious about what I’m up to, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.
If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.
My latest book was recently released from Pegasus books – 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues is available anywhere books are sold, but if you’d like some help finding it (or want to read some lovely reviews), click here.
The hardest part of writing is the first line—it’s just summoning up the gumption to start.
Some days I sit for minutes that drag on and on, finger poised over the keyboard, unmoving. When nothing comes to me, I distract myself with e-mail or Instagram, talk to the dogs, or scroll through Facebook, anything to delay those first words.
The thing about writing is that you are always taking a risk. If you aren’t taking that risk, then you’re probably not writing anything that matters.
If there is no danger involved, you are likely regurgitating a five-paragraph essay for your high school English teacher.
Doing what’s expected, what won’t raise any alarms or get anyone fired up enough to challenge you, is flimsy writing. It won’t hold up; it won’t motivate anyone to change their lives or fire off a rebuttal, let alone turn the page.
In fiction, it’s the conflict that generally drives a plot. It’s what keeps us reading – wondering if a character will get what’s coming to them, survive the threat hanging over them, or have a fight with the crazy ex-girlfriend.
But in real life, it’s human instinct to avoid conflict. Sometimes, though, conflict finds you.
The last few months have been a whirlwind of launching Another Good Dog into the world. It’s been beyond my wildest imagination, surprising me again and again.
I’ve done enough TV now that I’m finally getting better at not blinking so much while talking and actually answering the question that was asked (as opposed to rambling on in questionable English while my mind is screaming, “OMG – I’m on TV!”).