the writer as an agent of consolation and change

For quite a while now, but especially after the American election, I've come across many articles, webposts, and facebook comments reminding writers of their importance in society. Ours is the privilege and the power to influence hearts. What we write matters.

It has stopped me from writing.

This is not the fault of the bloggers or commenters. It is all within me. Like most authors, I want to create something meaningful. And like many people of my generation, I want to help strengthen and heal this broken world which is increasingly burning away. But each time I sit to compose a poem or story that addresses the important issues of our time ... that has meaning, or even a quality of beauty or song which might inspire readers to find meaning elsewhere in their lives ... the weight of it all clogs my heart and leaves me silent.

I try to remind myself that a story has its own business with readers, and I'm just the intermediary. I never really know what will touch people. (If I did, I'd be writing popular webposts all the time!) The way I've always worked is highly organic. I sit down, open my heart, and let story flow through it. Sometimes I'll start with a piece of art, sometimes a sentence out of nowhere, sometimes an image of a scene that I am curious about, sometimes just a feeling. This process becomes immediately blocked when I introduce the idea that I must write something important, meaningful, inspiring, helpful.

I personally can not be an agent of anything other than story.

It hurts. I long to be the sort of author who writes profound tales. Tales people think are worth talking about on instagram because they want to be part of the message. I am always so grateful when my writing is shared - not because I want fame, but because it means my words are helpful. But the truth is, I was given a quiet voice. A small life. The stories that come to me are small and quiet too, intimate, and absolutely not special. More often than not they're fantasy - and not a rich, mythic kind of fantasy, but just tales about kings with blood-stained crowns, sorcerers too frightened to do the real magic of the heart, and dragons awoken to pain. I like them. I sometimes find them hard to let go. If they were children, they would not be the dux of their school, or prodigious young poets; they would be ordinary children, beloved by their mother but otherwise just part of the crowd.

That should be enough. And for a long while, it has been. For a long while, I wrote from love and my own pleasure in writing. But now there is a deepening sense of obligation. It's not just that I should use my voice for the consolation of society or to promote change. It's simpler than that - I should write because that is what I am called to do, and since everywhere rightness is being destroyed, I should do what is right in my life.

All of this is true, good, and wise. But all of it is noise that clogs my essential creative silence and disturbs my private, intimate romance with Story. And so nothing flows.


  1. You have a deep wisdom, Sarah, that blesses me each time I visit here.♥

  2. i think i understand, because i have always hesitated to put my words or my artwork "out there". it isn't, well, grand enough.

    i have found myself unable to read much of anything lately, wlthough i'm usually reading multiple books at any time. i hadn't, until late last night, written anything either. i'm far from certain that what i did write was any good at all. doesn't matter. i write because words come to me. images come to me. but when i am overwhelmed with emotion, there is a space of quiet in which i grieve or rejoice, whichever is merited, where no creations arise.

    silence is often the most appropriate response.

    and we need all kinds of stories and words. including the kind you might describe as small and quiet. sometimes those are exactly what we need. i do not love the stars less because they are not as bright as the sun.

    by living your life in the way that is true to yourself and nurturing for those dear to you, you ARE doing what is right. we need tenderness, we need fantasy, we need "ordinary" beauty. your life and your art are equally important: both inspire, comfort, nourish others.

    words will come when it is time for them to come. they will be the right words. your words.

  3. Thank you both.

    Nofixedstars, I appreciate your words so much. I think what I was wondering upon here, beneath my own angst, is if a writer should write because the world needs what they write. Or if they should write just from the joy/challenge/wonderment/compulsion of being with story. That is how I love best to write. But I feel that my latest belief, that we should write with a concern for social issues, is actually taking me away from that intimate private deep relationship with story. Writing no longer is about me and it, but about how I should use story to better the world. It isn't working for me. Story doesnt want to be used. Story just wants to romance me. (In the old sense of the word - draw me into mystery, entice me, excite my imagination.)

  4. Just be you Sarah - you have a unique way with words.

  5. I feel the same, Sarah. I would so love my writing to say something meaningful, to have messages that are needed and useful, but it is very hard to write with that intention in mind. I prefer to just let what comes come. Yet, I think it is the imagination that we need most sorely today, for so much of modern life lacks imagination (romance, magic, intensity), and so if you write a story from the deep well of imagination and share it with the world, while your story might not be 'profound', as you would like it to be, it still has precisely what is needed: imagination, magic, wonder, beauty, romance … And that is profound in its own way.


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