I don’t believe in writing magic. The idea that I must have the right conditions, the right tools–that I must wait for a visit from The Muse–all of that strikes me as silly and self indulgent. Writing is simply work: creative work, but work nonetheless. Writing gets done by sitting down and writing, not by magic.
But I’m beginning to question my belief in disbelief. Maybe certain conditions actually do need to be met in order to write, or at least to write the kinds of things I enjoy writing.
For a month now I haven’t been able to get anything going no matter how many words I string together. All short story work has sputtered to a quiet halt. Essay ideas no longer present themselves. I’m sitting down and writing, but no work is happening.
Have I been abandoned by The Muse? Yes. No. The problem isn’t one of magic, but the symptoms match that tired cliche. The truth is simply this: Donald Trump has set up camp in my tiny little brain.
Every day–usually several times per day–it’s something new with that guy and his toadies. Today’s newspaper featured stories about Trump’s new EPA-hating head of the EPA, the notion of engaging the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants, and the President of the United States declaring the free press “the enemy of the American people.”
We also had articles headlined “Will Trump ‘resistance’ be futile,” “Hospitals fear Trump may limit foreign doctors,” “Why GOP leaders are confronting Trump,” and “Immigration protests are hitting close to home.”
Not even the comics page is safe. Today Non Sequitur featured two dinosaurs watching a falling meteor. “Oh, let’s not jump to conclusions,” one says. “We should give it a chance to work things out.” Pearls Before Swine’s narcissistic Rat is president now, assuring the plebes that he will “take on all the big issues facing this country” during his first 100 days–that he won’t be “too distracted by petty concerns”–before declaring pineapple on pizza a felony.
When I finished the newspaper I opened this month’s issue of the Atlantic. From its cover story, “How To Build An Autocracy,” to its essay on Megyn Kelly, the entire issue is at least thematically Trump. Enough of that, I think. I’ll go play on social media. No luck–that’s all Trump, too. I’m mentally exhausted, and it’s not even noon. This is a typical day in Trump’s America.
Donald Trump is the tenth president of my lifetime, and the first to so thoroughly saturate my mental space. This administration is like a toddler constantly pulling on my pant leg, repeating “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad” until I acknowledge them. Just let me eat my sandwich, kid. Yes, you have big muscles. Please, just let Daddy eat his sandwich.
Specific to time elapsed thinking about the nation’s leader, this is how I’ve always imagined life in a totalitarian regime. Since I was a boy I’ve been fascinated by photographs from those countries, where towering pictures of Fearless Leader stare upon city squares and citizens greet each other with some variation of “praise our Fearless Leader.” I’ve always wondered what those citizens do when their doors are closed and their shades are pulled. Do they knit? Read? Play checkers? Make love? Do they continue reflecting on their adoration for Fearless Leader, or do they secretly curse the sumbitch for setting up camp in their heads?
Unlike those unfortunate souls, I have a choice. I can drop my magazine and newspaper subscriptions, turn off the television, and log out of social media. I will not be fined or imprisoned for evicting Trump from my personal space, but I don’t really have a choice. Withdrawing from society to get a little peace of mind is both unrealistic and impractical. It’s my responsibility as a human being to maintain some idea of what’s going on in the world. The cost of blocking Trump from my daily life is too high. Besides, I doubt I can build a bubble impermeable enough to quiet the Trump onslaught.
Then again, I have to do something. This administration is sucking all of the creative oxygen out of the room in order to fuel their chaotic fire. Their constant demands on my attention leave no space for the ideas to come. They are suffocating the muse that I don’t even believe exists.
I don’t believe in writing magic, but I know that one’s mind must be free to roam in order to create. Story ideas present themselves through exposure to new ideas, scenarios, and people. When one’s mind must be all Trump all of the time, there’s no room for anything else.
So what am I going to do? I have no idea. Right now I need to rest up. The evening will be here soon, and with it a whole new rash of panicky headlines that will demand my attention. Yes, Donald, you are a smart, handsome boy and you have big muscles. Now can Daddy please eat his sandwich in peace?