I was disappointed in the election result. More than disappointed, heartbroken, angry, scared. Like many, I felt blindsided by what happened.
I cast my vote early in the state of Nevada, but I still felt the excitement all day of having a woman president. Thoughts of future conversations with my daughter were on my mind, and every time I read about or saw pictures of a woman born before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment casting her ballot, I would start crying for joy.
Wednesday, then, was a hard day. Thankfully, it was a teaching day and so I was able to acknowledge to my students that the election results were in and that they likely felt very differently about those results, but then I was able to throw myself into the business of planning classes, lecturing, and talking with students.
It’s been harder to do writing this week. Having the discipline to sustain thought on the page without going over to social media or a news site has been incredibly difficult. The thoughts wander. The hard revision project stays neatly tucked into its folder.
But I’ve been able to do a little work, and I must admit that it’s a comfort. Yesterday, I found myself thinking about two things: a very sad conversation with a student and a tremendously optimistic description of what it means to write.
I start with the sad (and I’m speaking in generalities here, because it’s not fully my story to tell). On Wednesday, a student saddened and frightened by the election came by to talk. He was seeking advice about how to continue on in what appear to him to be very dark days to come and in a nation that appeared to have rejected him and the one that he loves.
To this student I offered the advice that has sometimes sounded frivolous but seems increasingly important. “You’ve heard of radical self-care?,” I asked. “You must take care of yourself and the one that you love. You must go forward and continue to be. You’re being here and doing work is political.”
While there are ways to challenge energies that are overtly political, and I think these are important, there’s also value to staying the course and staying voices in the public realm (here is my own account of being shamed for writing earlier this year: http://www.katherinefusco.com/yoga-and-academe/so-ive-been-publicly-shamed-on-writing-and-resilience ), especially at the very moment we feel our voices (or our persons) being pushed out. What I hope for this student and his loved ones is that he/they carry on in writing, in sounding voices, in making themselves heard.
And this is where I turn to the optimistic side of a writing life. If, on the one hand, writing matters because it is a way of insisting, “here I am, I exist,” it also matters because it posits a reader.
There’s a moment in Stephen King’s On Writing in which he describes writing as a magic trick. The writer imagines something in his mind (I believe it’s a tiger with a number on its back), and then through these squiggles on a page, BAM, seconds later, that same something appears in the reader’s mind. Magic!
To me, this is writing as utopian project. It is future looking and it suggests a connection, a coming together. It suggests a continuance not just of the author’s voice but also of an author and a reader going along together into a future time.
Sometimes the companionship we seek is that of our compatriots, but sometimes it must also be that of the people we feel ourselves fighting. Yesterday, I wrote a brief note to a relative who voted differently than I had. I wanted to meet her in that magic space of potential. I wanted to say, I am trying to understand what has happened and what you think and I am trying to ask you to understand the way I am feeling about what has happened. I don’t know that the exchange was perfect, but it was an attempt to explore this time and to see how we will meet in the future.
At the same time that writing is a way to be strong and hold ground, to say, “I’m still here, whether anyone likes it or not,” it’s also a meeting ground. It is vastly flexible and remains worth doing.
Get a Life, PhD
The Professor is In
The Thesis Whisperer
Tenure, She Wrote