Even before the United States presidential election of 2016, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post realized that Donald Trump was causing him to experience writer’s block. I felt his pain. But unlike Mr. Capehart, who continues to earn his livelihood in spite of needing to find an infinite variety of ways to express outrage, my own writer’s block after the election only grew thicker and more impenetrable. I began to suspect the futility of even my most innocuous non-political writing. Previously, I had loved to share facts, but in a new world where facts were blithely dismissed, evidence could be ignored and “truth” could be established through relentless repetition, why bother with non-fiction at all?
This is a novel experience for me. I am not a professional writer any more than I am a professional reader. Since no one pays me to write or assigns a grade to my finished products, I usually write automatically and without a lot of fear or frustration. It is how I organize mind and life. In the past, I appreciated this skill in the same way that I appreciate my Google Calendar app, my filing system, and my label maker.
But over the past year, and especially since Inauguration Day, this formerly serviceable tool has been failing me. Almost every time I’ve begun to write something, I have ended up watching as bitterness, sarcasm, pleading and rage have threaded their way into the text like the vining tendrils of some noxious invasive weed, obliterating my intended message so effectively that it’s no longer recognizable even to me.
I don’t know how to combat this, any more than I know how to effectively appeal to those voters who can watch American values and Christ’s teachings being twisted, undermined and casually discarded, and still convince themselves that they are the true defenders of those principles. I do not want to write about Mr. Trump, but no matter what the topic of my writing may appear to be, beneath the surface it is always, always about this man and the societal impulses that have brought him. I don’t want to sap my own strength by attacking, mocking, or begging my audience. What I want is to get my own thinking straight.
If joining me in that process is helpful to you, welcome.