Writing fiction in the age of doomscrolling

I admit it, this shit is hard.

Here I am, a published author with my fourth and fifth novels both scheduled for release in 2021, and yet motivation can be difficult to dredge up. I feel selfish trying to hawk my books while other people are worried about having their healthcare coverage being taken away or their civil rights erased by politicians who just don’t want to see them.

I’ve talked with a number of authors who feel the same way.

I find it difficult to tweet about what I’m writing when my feed is full of scandal and doomsaying. And concentration? Let’s just say I’m as anxious about the future as anyone else in the Un-united States of America. I always can be counted on for a certain amount of pessimism when it comes to political matters, but I can honestly say even I never thought things would get quite as bleak as they seem now.

However, I have publishers who give me deadlines, and I do enjoy writing, so … I do it. I do it in shorter bursts now; no more lengthy late-night sessions at the keyboard with ideas coming out of nowhere and words flowing like a river. But I do it, and, thank God, it’s somewhat therapeutic.

Once I manage to stop scrolling through Twitter to see what new horrors have emerged since the last time I looked, and instead open up my work in progress and dive in, things get better for a little while. I can’t speak for all writers, of course, but for me the process is rather immersive. My own thoughts submerge as my characters and the problems I’ve put them through take over. For a little while, at least, I can focus on Spider John as he tries to navigate his way through a dangerous world of cutlasses and flintlocks, or on how Ed Runyon (the protagonist of my upcoming detective series) will figure out what’s going on.

I run out of gas and ideas a bit faster than usual, but I still get the work done.

It’s a respite, to be honest. While I’m at the keyboard, the world I actually live in vanishes, at least for a little while. It is not quite as therapeutic as time with my wife and kid, mind you, but it’s pretty good. And I’ve managed to put in enough keyboard time that I’ve got a solid first draft for my next Runyon novel. So … I won’t complain.

I’d love to hear from other writers, though. I know of a few who have fallen behind their deadline schedule, and others who have stayed away from the keyboard altogether. I also know of some who manage to get the writing done no matter what. If you’re in either camp, I invite you to share the experience here. Maybe we can all help one another out. — Steve

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