On Writing In Stressful Times

My commute to my day job was effortless this morning. The roads were nearly clear and traffic was almost nonexistent. As someone who generally drives a minimum of two hours a day, this would normally be a cause of celebration. But these open roads are the result in numerous Silicon Valley folks working from home in the face of the corona virus — a reality that left me melancholy.

Turns out, nearly empty roads are a strange, haunting sight.

This month, I started a challenge to write 30 poem drafts in 30 days (a challenge I normally do in April during National Poetry Month, but I got confused and started it early, so here we are). I found a nice rhythm to the work at the start of the month, but have since fallen behind and am having to play catchup.

As more and more news flows in about all the messed up goings on in the world, the writing of poetry or fiction feels like a frivolous thing. How could putting words on a page possibly help anyone or anything?

And yet, I keep writing.

Writing is a way to help me process how I feel — about myself, the people around me, and the world. Words are a way of processing or compartmentalizing what’s happening. Not to mention that I feel more whole as a human when I remain connected to words.

In the end, I hope it goes beyond serving myself, as well. I hope that the words I write will also reach others, that they might mean something to some one else, that they might help them process their own emotions or serve them in some way. I can’t know — during the act of writing — whether the words will every be read by anyone else, let alone move them.

All I know is that here and now, the words help me. Sometimes the act of writing itself is enough.


A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a delightful conversation with Franny Choi about her new book Soft Science (Alice James Books 2019). As she notes in this interview, “this book is a study of softness,” exploring feeling, vulnerability, and desire. How can you be tender and still survive in a hard and violent world? What does it mean to have desire when you yourself are made into an object of desire? What does it mean to have a body that bears the weight of history? You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.

I also have a new video up, in which I talk about my love of reading and writing and my plans for making future videos.

Book of the Month

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado — a phenomenal collection of short stories that explore the place of women in the world, with each story having its own intimate horrors. Many of these stories also explore female desire and sexuality, diving into that longing for pleasure in a world that would traditionally deny them that. All of the stories in this collection are complex and powerful in their own unique ways.

For my full review of Her Body and Other Parties, check out my Culture Consumption for February, where you’ll also find other books I read for Women in Horror Month, as well as the movies, TV, games, and podcasts that I’ve enjoyed.

More Good Stuff

Chuck Wendig provides some sage advice on running a con, conference or festival in the age of a burgeoning pandemic.

“I want to feel what I feel. What’s mine. Even if it’s not happiness, whatever that means.” — Toni Morrison in a thoughtful, moving conversation with Emma Brockes (before her death).

For Fantasy Author N. K. Jemisin, World-Building Is a Lesson in Oppression (Wired):

“I’m most interested in character. However, character is informed by culture, and culture is informed by environment. In a lot of cases, to understand the character I need to understand literally everything about their world.”

10 female mathematicians who changed the world (Telegraph)

Why Do So Many Medieval Manuscripts Depict Violent Rabbits?