I don’t even know where to start talking about where I am these days.
The other day, my sister and I talked on the phone and she asked what I was up to. That’s kind of a weird question for me. Basically, I told her, I am a person who spends a lot of time in a room by myself, writing.
That all I’m doing, but it feels bigger than that. I’m writing a romance novel set during the fall of ancient Rome. Learning to map the boundaries between imagination and history; wrestling with acceptance that I am not a historian and I will get everything wrong. Trying to get the important parts right: the emotional truth of an event so remote from me that nothing in my life resembles it. “Write what you know,” an English teacher told me once. Great advice. I both live it and ignore it every day.
I’m also mapping my own interior. My life has gone through several seismic shifts in the past few years—things having to do with my relationships and my work—and the dust hasn’t quite settled. Much of the work of settling the dust involves writing poetry. Something that I’m hoping will become my next chapbook.
I’m keeping the lights on, too. I’m writing copy for clients—as well and as often as I can—and I’m happy and grateful that my business continues to thrive and support me. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked extremely hard.
And I’m angry. I am so, so angry at the direction our country is turning in.
Since November, I’ve been walking around in an enraged haze. At the millions of people who voted for Donald Trump. The millions who shrugged off blatant sexual assault, racial profiling, and horrific bigotry on every level to elect this man president. People who don’t want to own that bigotry; don’t want to be called racists or sexists. I’ve written about this already and if you’ve read that, you know how I feel.
My rights are directly in jeopardy, and so are those of many people I care about. There’s a part of me screaming that if I’m writing, it should be to call out the new administration and demand it be held accountable for the human cost of its policies. If I’m not writing, I should be marching. I should be calling my senators and joining the resistance in a real, concrete way that puts me back in the world.
And that’s the problem.
I’ve never been so focused and committed to a book I’ve been writing before. I’ve written four books, but this one is different. It’s better. I’m better. But that comes at a cost—it requires absolute dedication and focus, and a certain turning away from the world so I can really be in this story. It’s hard for me to engage on social media right now, for instance, or think about promotion for my other work. It’s not so much that I can’t find the time; it’s more a question of focusing inward rather than outward. It feels like I can do one or the other well, but not both.
It’s easy to say I have the privilege of being able to consider this as a choice—whether to throw myself into resistance or into my book. I’m white and able-bodied and cis-gender and an American citizen, putting me far ahead of many people directly targeted by this administration. But the truth is, I’m in the crosshairs too. I’ve never felt so threatened about my rights over my own bodily autonomy. I just got healthcare last year after more than a decade of being uncovered, and that’s likely to go as well. And we all live on this planet, which Donald Trump seems hell-bent on setting on fire.
I could just decide to turn off social media, not engage for six months or so, and give myself the mental time and space to finish this book the way I want. But I’m legitimately afraid the country won’t be here in six months—not in a form I recognize.
Like a lot of people, I have strong opinions but not a strong history of activism. I want that to change. I don’t want that to change. I don’t feel like there’s a choice. I’m hoping that in the next four years I can figure out what my activism looks like, and I can write this book and then the next one and the next, well and quickly and the way I want, and that these two drives won’t compete with each other. I have a lot of hopes. Maybe that’s a good enough place to start.