Writing in the Age of Anxiety

I spend a lot of my time in 2004.

The novel I’m writing is fiction, but its setting is real: the action happens from March to December 2004, in and around Guelph, Ontario. I am making up lots of details, but I’m also using an actual calendar and doing my best to evoke the specifics of that time and place.

It’s a bit like time travel; a mental commute. Everyday, I sit down at my desk and project myself back through the years and the miles, and I don’t come back to the present until I’ve finished my 1000 words.

These days, though, it’s more and more difficult to tear myself away from the awful realities of 2017. The news is (almost) all bad. Atomic scientists have moved the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight, as Donald Trump threatens to bring our world closer to an actual man-made apocalypse.

How can any sane person stay balanced and positive in the face of so many terrible, terrifying headlines? How can I clear my head and escape into my creative bubble when the world seems to be falling apart? How do we justify art when the world needs action?

I don’t have answers. I know lots of people feel the same way I do, and that crippling anxiety is epidemic in our society.

What can I do? I marched in the Women’s March on Washington this Saturday, along with millions of other people around the globe, and that was a powerful gesture of hope and solidarity. I do my best to stay grounded, to take care of myself and my family. Like everyone else, I try to keep calm and carry on.