How to Create in a Time of Resistance

via Unsplash

Pretty much everyone I know is having a hard time functioning right now, never mind writing or otherwise creating. Whether you’re upset by current national or international events, or things going on in your personal life, it might feel selfish or meaningless to continue making art. I’ve had a really hard time focusing on writing lately, and every 500 words has been a battle, but there are several things that have been helping me. I thought I’d share them with you so that you can keep creating, too.

Remember, simply existing is resisting. Continuing to make your mark on the world is a protest in and of itself.

Write morning pages every day.

I’ve talked about The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron in previous blog incarnations, and how working through the book helped unblock me during a long and stubborn episode of anxiety and depression. In the book, Cameron introduces the morning pages—three daily pages of stream of consciousness writing in a journal. You do it the old fashioned way, with pen and paper, and just write whatever comes to mind.

I’m terrible at doing these every day, but I almost always come back to them when I’m stressed. (Imagine how productive I’d be if I did them every day anyway!) I’ve started doing them again, and they’ve been extremely helpful. I almost always write about current news in the U.S., but by writing about it, I’m dumping the things that are blocking me. After closing my journal, I’m much more able to focus on my To Do list—and my work in progress.

Practice self-care.

Even when I’m not anxious, I often get sucked into whatever novel I’m currently writing, forgetting to do things like eat meals and shower. During times of crisis, a normal routine is more important than ever. If you’re feeling thrown, sticking to your routine will keep you grounded. Plus, just like flight attendants always tell passengers, you can’t help anyone else if you don’t put your oxygen mask on first.

You have to come first. It’s not selfish, it’s pragmatic; you can’t fight for anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. There are five things you should be doing every day for your own sake.

  • Eat three meals. Whether you’re hungry or not, feed yourself breakfast, lunch, and dinner—even if you can only manage small meals. Keeping your body fueled will not only give you more energy and focus, but it’ll also help stave anxiety; when your blood sugar levels drop, anxiety is often aggravated.
  • Take all medications. You might think this is a simple thing to remember, but if I’m thrown off anywhere else in my life, I can easily forget to take my meds. Get yourself a pillbox and organize your medications by day and dose time, then set reminders on your phone or with your friendly virtual assistant Siri or Alexa.
  • Get your R&R on. “How am I supposed to relax,” you ask, “when the world is burning?” It’s easier said than done, but during times of crisis it’s more important than ever to take time out. Watch something lighthearted on Netflix. Treat yourself to a hot bath or a face mask. Snuggle with your cat, dog, or other furbaby. Make sure you’re carving out some kind of “me” time every single day, allowing yourself the room to decompress and just chill.
  • Use coping methods. This goes hand in hand with relaxation. Hopefully, you already have a toolbox of coping methods you can go to when your anxiety is high. Some of my favorites include journaling, aromatherapy, meditation, hot baths, writing, reading, coloring, yoga, and music. A coping method can be anything that puts you at ease and isn’t harmful.
  • Get moving. Sometimes, the best way to dispel anxious energy is to get your body moving. Even if you have limited mobility or can’t go out for a walk, you can do things like chair dancing. Whirling through my house and cleaning like a tornado almost always calms me. On days when I’m too sore or stiff to scrub anything, though, I still walk a bit through my apartment or do some simple yoga poses, like standing forward bend.

Do your civic duty tasks before you create.

Remember what I said about creating a routine? Build your work as an activist into your day, making your tasks part of your regular schedule. That way, when you sit down to write or paint or create, you’re not thinking about what you “should” be doing to save the world, because you’ve already done it.

Pick a couple issues that are important to you and stick with them. Right now, so many things are happening so quickly, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with them all. The truth is, though, that you can’t fight every battle. You can try, but you’ll just burn yourself out. By assigning yourself a daily task to fight for one or two causes, you’ll be organizing yourself for action.

Remember, this fight is a four-year marathon, not a sprint.

For example, my daily tasks are:

  • share information that is sourced and fact-checked
  • support my fellow activists with kind words and self-care reminders
  • cheer on my state senators and representatives, and bring issues to their awareness as needed

Yours might be something like “call my senator and ask them to please fight the Muslim ban” or “make my sign for tonight’s women’s rights gathering.”

Then get your tasks done. Set a timer if you need to keep yourself from losing track of the day passing. You can also do them in batches—whatever works best for your lifestyle and schedule.

Put your ass in the chair and create.

Your art is important. Even if it has nothing to do with current events, people need what you’re making. If you’re writing a romance, you’re giving people an escape. If you’re painting a protest piece, you’re encouraging other rebels. If you’re knitting caps and mittens, you’re keeping people warm.

The world needs your art.

The world needs you.

  • Unplug. Log out of Twitter and Facebook. Close your news tab or app. Shut off the ringer on your phone and get away from distractions. Turn off the TV and radio. It’ll all still be there when you’ve finished your work for the day.
  • Put on some music to help you focus or relax. I like the Deep Focus playlist on Spotify. Soundtracks and ambient spa music work well, too. Or maybe you need some thrash metal to get your fingers moving over the keys. Plug those earbuds in and block out the world.
  • Set a daily goal. Whether you’re writing a novel or painting on canvas, setting a daily goal for yourself keeps you on task. Be realistic and gentle with yourself; when you’re already stressed, setting high or unachievable goals may put more pressure on you. You may want to set goals that are possible but challenging, or goals that you know you can easily reach.
  • Hold yourself accountable. Sprint with a friend. Find someone in your industry to buddy up with. My work wife J.C. Hannigan and I did two 30-minute sprints yesterday. Share your progress on social media as you meet milestones. I like to tweet out my total word count at the end of every day. Sharing your momentum keeps you motivated, and more likely to reach the end because other people know how far you’ve come.

Using these tips every single day will get you back into productivity in no time—especially if you’re gentle with yourself and allow yourself to do what works best for you. Give these things a try and experiment to see what has the best effect.

Did these tips help? Please leave me a comment and let me know, or share any other suggestions!

Resist Trump: Where to Donate

via Unsplash

I thought I’d put together a list of organizations who are fighting for our civil rights here in the States, for those of us who are able to donate.

If you can’t donate, it’s okay! There are other ways to help, like continuing to be the kind person you are. Simply existing is resisting—especially if you’re from one of the marginalized groups who stand to lose a lot. You can keep creating art, volunteer in your community, attend town meetings to have your voice heard, educate people, and speak up when you see or hear something that is wrong.

This list is ever-growing, and is in alphabetical order; each are equally important to me. If you’d like to suggest an organization, please leave a comment and tell us who they are!

Even a $5 donation here and there is helpful; if every one of us did that, we could support these organizations in their fights for us. Please donate now.

  • ACLU is a non-partisan group of lawyers who uphold the Constitution and Americans’ civil and human rights.
  • Black Lives Matter works with local police and communities to improve the lives of all black people, addressing social issues and needs within the black community.
  • Lakota Law Project was originally created to stop state departments from wrongly taking Lakota children out of their homes and placing them into foster care. They’re also dedicated to fighting the Dakota Pipeline.
  • Planned Parenthood provides affordable healthcare for women, men, and teens—including but not limited to cancer screening and treatment, birth control, and family planning.
  • RAINN assists survivors of sexual assault with counseling, emergency care, and crisis support. They also provide education, work to improve sexual assault justice, and fight rape culture.
  • Trans Lifeline and The Trevor Project provide suicide prevention services for LGBTQIA youth and adults.

Looking for other ways to help? Resistance Manual is a fantastic resource put together by DeRay McKesson and others with information on the Trump administration’s and GOP’s proposed policies and agendas, and how to fight them.

You can also donate to organizations right in your own community. To find them, Google search things like “sexual assault nonprofit Connecticut.”

These organizations need your help now more than ever, as their tireless work is putting a huge strain on their resources (and the Trump administration has already begun federally-defunding some of them).

Please comment with any organizations who need our help, and share this list wide.

The Last in Line

The biggest fuck you I can think of is for us to survive, create, and thrive—despite and in spite.

Ever since I was a small girl, I most loved stories that were epic battles of good versus evil. I think that’s why I fell so hard for Dio and his music; every single song of his is about an epic battle between good and evil. Tonight, “The Last in Line” is so very hauntingly fitting.

Right now it looks as if we in the U.S.—and even abroad—are heading into some very hard times. If you have a pulse and have at all been paying attention, you already know what I’m talking about. If you’re living in some kind of denial, well, I feel sorry for you. The past two months have felt like the calm before the storm—if you can call any of this calm.

At the very least, I’ll be losing my healthcare. Myself and my loved ones with chronic illnesses—including cancer—who rely on the Affordable Care Act are soon to be left hanging off a cliff. Millions of Americans depend on the ACA, yet Trump, his cabinet, and the GOP have been hard at work dismantling it. There’s no backup plan proposal, and even Congress re-allocated the portion of the budget that previously covered the ACA for miscellaneous expenses.

This is only the start.

Whenever I start to feel afraid, though, I dry my tears and turn that fear into anger. Anger is what’s going to get me through these next four years, because if I’ve learned nothing else in the past 28 years, it’s that I’m a survivor.

Throughout the past two months, I’ve been doing a lot of digging. I’ve always been very self-aware, but now more than ever it’s become extremely important for me to know who I am. I need to remember, because if things get very hard and very dark, that fire is what will carry me through.

Tonight I feel like I’m at a wake. Never in my nearly three centuries of life have I ever been afraid of a U.S. president. I may have disagreed with some of their policies, but I’ve never questioned whether they would do their job and serve the people of their country. We’ve had some tough times in my country, but we’ve continued making progress.

During these last eight or weeks, I’ve examined my values and morals hard. I’ve made note of things I would never do, should the shit really hit the fan. I’ve tried to prepare myself as much as possible by focusing on the things that I can control.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I can make a difference—just little me, a queer disabled woman who recently got her voice back. I’ve been thinking about my writing, how I can make a difference with my stories. How I can change the world.

Not with some grand undertaking, but by telling stories that normalize the things that are important to me.

While they’re normalizing hate—racism, sexism, ableism, rape, homophobia, transphobia, bigotry, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, xenophobia, the list goes on for way too long (my, how much they hate!)—I’ll be normalizing a world where differences are celebrated. Where those of us who don’t fit the cis-het-white-ablebodied-male mold don’t have to be afraid.

Because it’s normal for us to exist.

The biggest fuck you I can think of is for us to survive, create, and thrive—despite and in spite.

And maybe that’s idealistic and naive of me. Trust me, I don’t think my words are the deus ex machina that is going to allow me to keep receiving healthcare and allow my dear gay friend to walk the streets of America without harassment.

But words are and have always been my only weapon.

First, words were the cloak with which I shielded myself from school bullies and evil men. My stories gave me something to believe in when I couldn’t believe in the world around me.

I don’t know what’s going to happen after tomorrow. I do know, though, the things I’ll never do.

I’ll never hurt an innocent person.

I’ll never remain silent when I see something wrong.

And I’ll never stop writing.

Halfway through writing this post, while I was washing dishes, I turned on the latest episode of the Self-Publishing Podcast. It just so happened that the topic of that episode is one that’s been heavy on my mind: changing the world with your stories.

Artists have always helped shape the world, whether through loud protest or more subtle nudging. I firmly believe that just existing is resisting, and continuing to create in the face of such oppression is our birthright as artists.

Those of us wielding pens and paintbrushes are some of history’s most prominent rebels.

Turns out that the guys of SPP and Laura have put together a FREE masterclass, Storytelling for Social Profit—meaning, how to infuse your stories with current social issues in order to create change. I just signed up, because if nothing else, I now know it’s not just me who’s been thinking about this. If you’re interested, sign up here, but make sure you do it now because apparently the materials are only going to be available for a limited time.

We’ll know for the first time
If we’re evil or divine
We’re the last in line

These words keep echoing in my head. In this past year, it’s become more and more clear which people are good, and which are complete garbage fires. I think, in these coming months, we’re going to find ourselves tested even further.

I’m going to continue to do what I’ve been doing for the past five years: writing stories that feature strong women who took a different path. Stories focusing on social issues. Stories normalizing those of us who are labeled as “other” and therefore “wrong.”

My words are my weapon, and I’m going to war.

It’s Okay If You Can’t March

This morning my Instagram feed was full of pics about the upcoming Women’s March on Washington. Well, okay, books too, but the closer we get to the 21st, the more people are getting involved. This makes me incredibly proud, but also a little sad.

These days I’m lucky I can stand long enough to do dishes, never mind march for civil rights.

It doesn’t help that some of the slogans that people are using seem to reach out and pinch those of us who can’t march. I know they aren’t actually for us—they’re for those sitting by in apathy, doing nothing—but it still sucks that I can’t be there.

Still, I realized something.

These marches have historically been people more powerful joining hands with people less powerful to achieve the same goal. Every movement has been about someone stronger lifting up someone less strong—whether in voice, privilege, or ability.

It’s hard for me to let others do for me, when I’d rather do it myself. It’s difficult for me to just sit and watch, rather than participate.

I never thought I’d be sitting on this side of history; when reading about The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—AKA the civil rights march—as a kid, I always felt this burning passion inside of me. I knew, had I been born decades earlier, I would’ve marched right alongside those women and men. In reality, my body is the opposite of willing and able.

And that’s okay.

It’s also okay if you’re not marching, too.

You don’t have to explain why to anyone.

It’s okay.

In your heart, you know what you stand for. You know what you believe and who you support. And you can resist in other ways.

Keep breathing.

Keep making art.

Keep raising children who love.

Keep posting selfies.

Keep making posters for your town.

Keep denouncing hate.

Keep spreading love, even if in “small” ways.

Keep.

Just keep.

Because when someone hates you—for how you look, who you love, what illnesses you live with—the loudest torch you can carry is to keep living, in spite.

Let your fire blaze bright.


However, if it’s the cost of travel that’s holding you back from marching, there  are many sister marches happening all around the world. I had no idea until I saw a few overseas ones this morning on IG. There are even several in Connecticut, so I might actually be able to go to one, depending on how I feel. Click here to search by your state or country.

Then rise, baby, rise.

Under Water But We Still Don’t Understand

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

Every morning when I open my eyes, I hope for exactly two seconds that it’s all been a dream. Then as I wake up, it all sinks in again. How my country elected a man who has ties to known white nationalists. How my country continues to support a man whose rhetoric has been rooted in hate. People around me continue to rationalize his words and actions: “He was just saying those things for attention,” and “It’s not a big deal,” and “There’s nothing to worry about.” Then why is it that myself and other marginalized people are worried? We can’t all be paranoid and suffering delusions.

Existing in this country has never been easy, but until last week I thought I had a good understanding of what black women and other minorities go through. I’m laughing at that past version of myself. I had no fucking clue. Even now, as I’m only beginning to grasp the situation, I still have no idea.

As Rebecca Woolf of Girl’s Gone Child wrote:

This election has caused me to reevaluate my place in this country and it has caused me to redefine who I am as an American as well as a content creator. I know I have work to do and I hope you will join me in normalizing dissent, standing strong, and fighting the good fight for the good of our country and each other.

I feel blown apart. Even civil conversations with people who disagree leave me exhausted. Very rarely do I feel as though I’m being heard. Mostly I feel like I’m shouting “Fire!” in the middle of the room and I’m the only one who can see it. But I will keep having these conversations.

My manifesto was already to write diverse stories, especially focusing on strong female characters, and to lift up other marginalized voices. In the last week, I’ve realized I need to do more. Talking about and writing diverse books isn’t enough. Helping maintain marginalized people’s safe spaces online isn’t enough. Emailing and calling electors and local government officials isn’t enough. It’s easy to do these things in the safety and comfort of my own home, to sit under my electric blanket after my latest dose of pain medicine and get to work. But it’s not enough. I need to get together with people in my community.

Because things are moving too fast, so fast that I can barely keep up: the appointment of Stephen Bannon, a known white nationalist, to Trump’s Cabinet; the violence against minorities and other marginalized people; Trump’s announcement of requiring his employees to sign NDAs; VP-elect’s ironic moves to keep his emails private; the questionable, conflict-of-interest appointment of team members who previously were engaged with Trump in lawsuits… The list goes on and on. It’s all happening at light speed.

I often feel like I’m living in a completely different country than the one I grew up in.

Yet friends and family continue to justify these moves. They say “He’s not really racist.” No? So please explain why he continues to affiliate with known white supremacists. “Well, what are these people threatening to do?” Nothing, yet, but their appointment speaks volumes. It sets the tone for a very different country. It paves the way for more hate, for the growing white nationalist movement to continue. (By the way, did you know that the white nationalism movement has been growing faster among young white males than ISIS is growing overseas? Chew on that.) And putting racists in positions of power is dangerous; it allows them to make decisions for our country and change the progress we’ve made.

I really don’t know how people can be so oblivious about these things.

I decided to organize my own protest in my hometown; the demographic there is over 50% people of color. But my own husband won’t protest with me, because he “doesn’t do protests.” Even after a long conversation where he asked questions and I explained who Stephen Bannon, David Duke, and others are. Then he continued to try to placate me, insisting that there’s nothing to worry about. So far it looks like I’ll be standing alone. Or sitting, since I’m bringing my camping chair and cane.

I’m frustrated and dismayed.

Best case scenario, it’s like some have speculated, that Trump didn’t really mean any of the things he’s said and done. He’s just insecure and needed someone’s support, and the only people willing to give it to him were the KKK and other white nationalists. So he’s just been saying whatever to keep them happy.

Still, that’s just as outrageous. In my America, the KKK and other white supremacists are supposed to keep their bigoted beliefs to themselves. There’s no law stopping them from convening, but there are checks and balances keeping them in place.

There’s some speculation that Priebus was appointed just to keep Republicans appeased, that since he and Bannon are equal partners, it’s really Bannon running the show, but Priebus is there to also placate people’s concerns about Bannon.

All I know is, this is serious, we need to treat it as exactly what it appears to be, and change the things we cannot accept.

Worst case scenario, Trump has meant every single thing he’s said, and we’re facing a major shift in our country and thus globally. I’m not trying to be a doom and gloom apocalypse crier, but the direction we’re pointing in is horrifying. We’re talking more white nationalists in positions of power over our country, in a time when our presidency is at its most potency in our history. In no way is that a good thing or anything that should be acceptable, even if you’re white. Every single American who claims not to be racist should be outraged right now, or at least heavily questioning the chain of events in the past week (as well as Trump’s entire campaign).

To my readers: I’ve never been much into politics. I’ve purposely refrained from talking about my country’s government issues because politics tend to alienate people. In years past, elections have been the same old, same old: Democrats and Republicans smearing each other, each with arguably good points, but business as usual. Nothing that would hurt Americans on a mass level, because usually there’s too much arguing for anything to really get done. There’s eventual compromise, with both parties sated and things that most Americans can (arguably) live with. Change has always been for the better, in a progressive manner. I’ve never paid a whole lot of attention or commentated on politics, because I’m not affiliated with either party and I’d rather write about badass belles kicking ass. But I can’t say that writing diverse books and including marginalized people in the lit community is my brand if I won’t loudly fight for their rights. Our rights. And this entire election has been completely the opposite of normal. I keep seeing the word “unprecedented” thrown around, and while it’s getting tiring, it’s apt. Just not quite strong enough.

So I’m going to be talking a lot about my country and current events in the coming months and years, until things improve. Until disabled people aren’t worried about healthcare and benefits. Until my queer and POC friends feel safe. Until my Muslim and Jewish friends tell me they aren’t scared. I’m going to loudly and publicly denounce the open hate that has infiltrated my country. Of course it was already there in the shadows. But now it’s become normalized to share negative views of women and trans people and people of color, to openly hate anyone who fits into the non- straight white cis able-bodied male category. And if you disagree, you’re a crybaby social justice warrior at best and at worst the target of physical harm.

In the same vein as what Rebecca Woolf said in her latest blog post, I’m going to step up my game of supporting marginalized creators. I’m going to do giveaways and interviews in support of them—especially women. I’m going to continue intercepting when I see others being bulled online and in the physical world. I’m going to keep talking to electors and local government officials and putting pressure on them to Make America Safe Again and #StopBannon. And I’m going to continue writing books that shine more light into the world, normalizing diversity in fiction.

None of this is going to be easy. It’s already been really fucking hard. I have to take frequent breaks. I honestly don’t know how POC deal, because this country feels alien to me and so many of them are telling me, “It was always this way for us.”

Even as the water continues to rise and we gasp for air, we still barely grasp the situation. With my last breath, I’ll keep talking, keep trying to get people to understand and fight with me. I hope that you, my lovely readers, will fight with me too.

If you can’t, I hope you can still find safety and solitude in my fiction. Supporting my writing and even donating to me helps me—a lower class, queer, disabled woman—continue to survive and therefore continue to write and stand up for others. I’m already struggling financially because of my health. Now more than ever I need your support in whatever form you can give: kind words, sharing my books with other readers, purchases, and donations.

The revolution has begun and, as much as I never saw myself doing anything like this, I don’t feel as though there’s any other choice.

Elizabeth Barone