How to Create in a Time of Resistance

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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!

Six Days Into a Crumbling U.S.

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It’s only been six days since Trump was sworn in as President. I knew things would start happening, and that it’d be fast, but I couldn’t have imagined how quickly.

Before Inauguration Day, Congress voted on their annual budget, which is normal. However, they re-allocated the ACA budget to miscellaneous. In Trump’s six days of office, he’s signed executive orders to:

  • give power to agency and executive department heads to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the [Affordable Care Act]” while he works on repealing it
  • pull federal funding from women’s affordable healthcare organizations that provide abortions, ignoring the fact that these same organizations also provide cancer treatment and other healthcare to low-income women, men, and teens
  • resume and speed up the Dakota and Keystone Oil pipeline projects, continuing to route them through Standing Rock despite environmental concerns, land treaties, and President Obama’s executive order to halt the DAPL and look for alternative routes
  • pull the U.S. out of the United Nations
  • withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • ban refugees from entering the U.S., begin deportations, give police officers power to act as immigration officers, and block federal funding from sanctuary cities
  • allow torture of political prisoners, which breaks the Geneva Convention
  • begin building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, which Mexico has refused to pay for; I suspect the ACA’s re-allocated funds will be paying for its materials, and political prisoners will be used for slave labor to build it
  • impose a federal hiring freeze
  • put a gag order on federal employees from disclosing information to the public or press (Environmental Protection Agency; departments of Commerce, Health, and Human Services; the Interior; and the Department of Agriculture, which was later lifted after public outcry)
  • initiate an investigation into illegal votes, which can be used as a reason to affect voting in future elections

(Note: I will edit later and link to each EO; I’ve already spent too long at the computer and my joints are extremely sore.)

A President can sign as many executive orders as he wants, bypassing Congress. Congress can pass legislation to override EOs, but the President can veto them.

Trump said in a 2014 Fox interview that he wanted to wreak havoc.

You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.

So did Trump’s Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor, Steve Bannon, in a 2013 interview.

“I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Trump has been leveraging our social, political, and working class issues, instigating the blame of our problems on disabled people, black people, Latinxs, and Muslims. He insists that the ACA is being taken advantage of by lazy people who don’t work. People who rely on the ACA and Medicaid for healthcare are veterans, single parents, people with disabilities, cancer patients, retired people, and low-income families. No statistical evidence suggests that any large percentage of people covered through the ACA are “lazy people.”

Trump blames crime on black and Latinx people, saying that killings in Chicago—largely populated by black and Latinx people—have increased, when they have in fact decreased. Chicago has long been a site for regular Trump protests. Yesterday, Trump threatened to send military into Chicago under the guise of preventing any more murders.

He’s destroying our relationships with other countries’ leaders, which may be irreparable.

Though Trump’s authoritarian regime and collapse of the U.S. has begun, there’s still a lot we can do.

Kendzior also says, via several tweets:

There’s a lot to do. I advise working locally. Know your community. Pick an issue or two you care about and commit for the long haul. And understand that as horrifying as this all is, millions stand with you. Find common ground, stand up for others—and know the enemy.

Senator Markey and Representative Lieu have introduced legislation to prevent Trump from launching a nuclear first strike without a Congressional declaration of war.

Shit is real here in the U.S., my home. Most of the people I know are either completely oblivious, in denial. They don’t see how dire things are. I’ve been following all of this and urging family and friends to pay attention. They won’t. I think, honestly, most of them just can’t believe anything like this can happen. They believe that our Constitution and government will protect us. The Constitution can only protect us if our government upholds it. Right now, our government is fighting amongst themselves. There’s little opposition from the Democrats against the Republicans and Trump’s Cabinet.

This is really happening.

We’re really living this.

It’s not exaggeration or alarmist to say that we’re living in an authoritarian crackdown. It appears that Trump is compromised, by both the Nationalists he’s put into his Cabinet and Putin.

This is really happening.

Alexandra Erin says that even Trump might not understand what he’s doing; he’s being told what to do (click the tweet to read thread).

It’s possible that we mere peons cannot even begin to understand what’s happening to us. We just know that we don’t want it and we don’t deserve it.

I’m at a loss here myself. I read each executive order with growing cynicism and horror. To be honest, I didn’t want to believe Kendzior’s and others’ apocalyptic predictions before and around Election Day. I thought that by urging electors to vote against Trump would be enough, but now it seems that we were fighting the wrong battle. We should’ve been urging our senators and representatives to pass legislation to block all of the things that Trump promised during his campaign, protecting all of the people that Trump is trying to harm.

It might be too late.

I’m not giving up. I’m terrified, to be perfectly honest. With every executive order that I read, I find it harder and harder to focus on anything; writing and working as normal seems pointless in the face of what’s happening. When this has happened in other countries, millions of people died. It seems like a cleansing has begun: women, disabled people, non-white people, queer people, Muslims.

I am three of those groups.

I said that the best resistance is existence, to keep creating art and living in spite of what’s happening. I urged people to donate to the organizations that fight for us. I pulled out an old YA novel that I wrote in 2011 about two lovestruck seventeen-year-olds fighting Nazis and told myself that I should put all of my angry, anxious energy into revising it.

I still believe in fighting for our freedom. I come from a family of veterans and I will never dishonor their sacrifice and memory by giving up those freedoms. I will keep writing. I will send letters to the White House. I will put aside my phone anxiety and call my state Senator and Representative, and ask them to fight. I will start attending town meetings and make my concerns heard.

I will be brave by keeping on, even when I’m scared and overwhelmed. Even when people around me diminish my concerns. Especially then. Too much is at stake.

Resist Trump: Where to Donate

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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.