You are allowed four days of despair.
I tell myself this when I get a rejection letter or an editor says “you need to overhaul this,” or, well, when an incompetent and despotic man becomes the leader of the free world.
Let’s face it—our writing has felt jumbled and our life’s purpose as writers is called into question. Why bother? Will anything ever change? Do words even matter when a man with the slimmest vocabulary in the English-speaking world is ….
Snap out of it. For someone, somewhere, the words you are too depressed to write right now are a lifeline they need tomorrow. Somebody’s memoir brought me back from my darkest hour. Someone’s essay screamed the shrillest scream for me when I was reduced to a whimper. A brave writer somewhere had to write a novel whose satire made me laugh hard at injustice and dream of justice.
My words are still muddled but the tap-tap-tap of my keyboard has begun to sound like the footsteps of soldiers marching toward a deeper purpose. I am writing about the boy who saw that the emperor had no clothes. I am teaching a class soon on The Political Essay so others can speak truth to power. Our four days are past and every passing hour now asks if you have something to say.
Now more than ever, we must write. Novels, stories, essays, and poems show us our humanity, deepen our empathy, and enrich our lives. Lately, we’ve seen our community of writers and readers grow beleaguered, angry, confused, and paralyzed. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing advice and words of encouragement from Hugo House writers and instructors on what keeps them returning to their work. We hope these words inspire you, too, to keep writing.
Sonora Jha is a writer-in-residence at Hugo House and the author of the novel Foreign, published in 2013 by Random House India. She is a professor of journalism and media studies at Seattle University. Formerly a journalist in India and Singapore, her recent political essays and op-eds have been published in The New York Times, The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and the Globalist. Apart from her academic and journalistic writing, she is currently finishing work on a memoir.