Nancy: Writing Is Our Superpower

The times, they are a-changin'.

The times, they are a-changin’.

Wow, what a week.

As I sat down to compose this post, it was hard to know where to begin, how to find my way into writing the true-life story I’ve lived this past week. Last Monday, at 6 AM, I was on a plane from Baltimore to Boston. Within hours, I’d met a stranger who became a fast friend who was willing to pick me up at Logan airport at 7:30 AM, had shared breakfast and lunch with more new friends I’d just met, and was passing my phone around a table so these wonderful people could put their phone numbers into my contacts so we could stay in touch during our week together. No, I had not joined a commune or entered some weird alternate reality where strangers are your new best friends. Well…maybe I had. I had entered the Writers Unboxed Un-Conference.

With my own personal favorite mentors like Lisa Cron and Donald Maass, and authors/teachers such as Cathy Yardley, Kathryn Craft, and Barbara O’Neal (just to name a few) presenting deep-dive, hands-on workshops, this was already on track to be a writing-changing experience. I thought the writing workshops would be the thing that rocked my world last week. Oh, innocent, optimistic, naïve Nancy of November 7, how I miss you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you as a card-carrying member of Pantsuit Nation, I wanted our country to make history in a very different way last Tuesday. When the exact opposite of my hopes happened, it triggered stages of grief – shock, anger, depression – on an endless loop. The majority (but not all!) of the conference attendees had a similar reaction. Perhaps it was because we’d self-selected to be part of a group of people whom we intuitively sensed were ‘on the same side’.  Perhaps it was because writers are empaths by nature; putting ourselves in the shoes of ‘the other’ is fundamental to our writing process, and there are many ‘others’ who have legitimate fears given the outcome of this election. This shared grief created a strange, bubble-wrapped enclave where we could rant, cry, and  – eventually – begin to heal.

“Community is a flashlight on a dark road. It keeps us pointed ahead.” – participant, WU Un-Conference 2016

Wednesday morning, after a night of very little sleep, many of us were exhausted and world-weary. Our first speaker of the morning, Donald Maass, was not about to let us wallow in our despondency. He shared a truly lovely personal story about messages he’d exchanged that morning with his wife. I won’t discuss that here as it is not my story to share, nor would I do it justice. But I will share something uplifting he told us many times throughout the remainder of the conference:

“Things that feel impossible now are possible…Things will change…What we write in this room creates conditions for that change, the conditions that will change hearts and minds.” – Donald Maass, presenter, WU Un-Conference 2016

We have chosen writing. Or perhaps, more accurately, writing has chosen us. Readers look to story, and therefore to us, to help them make sense of the world around them. The more the world shifts and changes beneath our feet, the more important stories that bind us together become. It is our job, our burden to bear. It might now be more difficult than ever to keep calm and write on, but the world needs our stories.

“If books are a job, why would you do anything else?” – Barbara O’Neal, presenter, WU Un-Conference 2016

Lisa Cron was the second speaker I heard on Wednesday, and she shared her own grief over the election results and echoed Don’s call to be part of the solution to problems we see around us. When I had a moment to speak with Lisa privately, I thanked her for sharing her own very feminist perspective in such an honest and respectful way. Her response distilled the lesson I’d been learning and internalizing all week long. She said she doesn’t think we as artists can be true to ourselves unless we are “full-throated” about our opinions on the issues that affect us most deeply. Thus, my big take-away from a week too amazing to adequately express with words: for better or for worse, we are writers. Writing is our superpower. Through our writing, we must be true to ourselves and our ideals. We must elevate discourse, affect policy, and start a revolution of ideas and solutions.

“Story is about how what happens affects someone in pursuit of a deceptively difficult goal, and how the person changes inherently as a result.” – Lisa Cron, presenter, WU Un-Conference 2016

We are all living a true story. How we inherently change as a result will determine our destinies as individuals, as a nation, and as a world. Be the voice of the change you want to see in the world. Now, more than ever, be loud. Be strong. And write on.

16 thoughts on “Nancy: Writing Is Our Superpower

  1. This is absolutely wonderful, Nancy. And this: “Oh, innocent, optimistic, naïve Nancy of November 7, how I miss you,” was EXACTLY how I felt, too, and this: “for better or for worse, we are writers.” YES! A thousand times yes.

    • And there is no time like now to call that superpower into action.

      I hope to be able to participate in your writing sprint challenge this Friday. I haven’t been able to do so for quite some time now, and I find myself wanting to clear my mind, take some prompts, and let my subconscious run wild :-)!

  2. YES! Although, right now, my full-throated opinion is an incoherent howl. I want change, just as badly as any Trump supporter. We’ve lived through eight years of compromises and blockages, and it’s frustrating. “Let it all burn!” is one of the running themes in my mind since November 10th (when I knew for sure that Trump and the Republicans had taken over two branches of our government). It’s not the only theme — I tried to be positive on Saturday. But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought of the pleasures of building from bedrock.

    None of us have time for that, though.

    This next bit is very personal and I recognize the craziness of it — it’s just that I can’t dismiss it completely. A couple of weeks before the election, I put a tarot app on my phone. I don’t believe it tells the future. I believe it offers some random, wild card options that I can take on board, or forget, as they pertain to me. But I keep getting these spooky cards calling for change. Today was the second time I’ve gotten the Death card, which means a major change. I followed up, asking, “What do I need to start doing to start major change?” And I got the very happy Ten of Cups. It’s a beautiful card full of love and support and blue skies. So, in this time of global change, that’s what I can do: do the things that make me happy, and bring joy to me and my family.

    Yes, I think writing is my superpower to get me through this.

    So glad you had a productive time at your workshops! I look forward to more posts about it!

    • Funny you should mention the tarot cards, Micki. I’m a science geek type, so star signs, palm readings, and tarot are just another fun way to look at human nature and possible character traits for me. But there was a really lovely lady doing tarot readings at the conference and I said, ‘What the hell!’. And this is where the coincidence gets really interesting. I got THREE change cards: movement, change, and transformation. And the reading was on Tuesday night, hours before the election was called.

      The next day I joked with the woman that she could have warned me how hard the change would be, and she reminded me of the other thing she’d told me: you can’t control ALL THE CHANGES. Learn to change and control what you can, learn to adapt to the rest. Which is definitely a life lesson I seem to need to learn over and over again. Whether she is a really good reader of people or it was coincidence or there really is something beyond science behind it, I’m taking this whole ‘be the change you want to see’ thing to heart.

      • Whaaa???? Readers, I don’t believe in astrology either, but Nancy and I share a lot of the same star signs, so . . . . LOL, there are a million things that are not the same between us, I’m sure, but it is so interesting to see you are getting weird tarot cards, too, Nancy.

        Change is hard. But change is often a lot of fun. And, change being inevitable, it’s a good bet if you get changing cards (like the Tower or Death), change will happen. It’d be weird if change stopped, and as far as I remember, there’s no “stop and stagnate” card. (I could be wrong, though.)

        You know what else is strange? This is the second time this week I’ve gotten a “take a bath” card. Last time, I went to the hot springs and did feel a lot better. Maybe I’ll go after work today. (The Star that I got today also represents fresh starts. So, there’s that. Funny that I immediately go for the bath reading, though (-:.)

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    • Excellent! Thanks for sharing the link. I’ll save it as a treat for later today, after I’ve gotten through the scenes I’m revising. (Also, tonight I start Krav Maga! So I might actually read this piece tomorrow if I am working up to the last minute and rushing out the door to get to class.)

      • It’s pretty short, but it’s part of a project, I think, which may be a whole new rabbit hole. (-: Let me know what you think, here or elsewhere. As political writing, it’s pretty good. You can tell there’s a lot of anger, but it offers solutions for fighting oppression: such as allying with unlikely allies. The image at the climax is terrifying, yet a little funny, and diversity-laden and just excellent, IMO. I’ve been meaning to pick up some of Ahmed’s stories, but have been afraid it would be sausage-dominated SF. I can see here that he’s got respect for women, so I will have to take more active steps to get my hands on his writing. (Plus, he writes about middle-eastern-inspired mythologies, which I’ve loved since a kid. Really, I don’t know what I was waiting for, but here it is.)

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