Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense—the creative act.
Writers, I know I’ve said recently that if you’re not writing, if you’re too overwhelmed, it’s OK. That the words will come back to you when you’re ready.
In his classic essay “Notes of a Native Son,” James Baldwin remembers the day in August 1943 when his family buried his father, the morning after Night 1 of a historic two-night riot in Baldwin’s home neighborhood of Harlem. The destruction was epic—“a wilderness of smashed plate glass.” And so was Baldwin’s grief.
A thing writing teachers (including me) love to say is “Write from the scar, not the wound.”
It’s good advice – for more on why, listen to Joselin Linder talk about it on Gotham’s Inside Writing) – but as we move into month 111 of living through three global crises, I’ve been thinking about the value of writing from the wound.
Consider the work of James Baldwin. In essays and fiction, Baldwin chronicled the pain of racial injustice, the turmoil of desegregation, and the voices, violence, and victories of the Civil Rights movement. Sometimes he wrote about crisis as it was still unfolding; sometimes, he wrote about it a decade or more later, with hindsight.