In honor of Halloween, I’ve been spending some time contemplating Americans’ love affair with horror. Nowhere does that seem more evident to me than with this year’s presidential election. And even though this is not a political blog, I’ve noticed there are some similarities between presidential election politics and living the writing life.
Similarity #1: Both are scary! With writing, you never know what is going to happen next, whether it is plotting a story, submitting to an agent, or seeking publication. You must put yourself out and make yourself vulnerable. Unfortunately, our presidential candidates seem to think that less is more and so every week it’s one more instance of never knowing what’s going to happen next. That’s why we keep getting “leaked” information, whether it be videotapes, emails, or something else that makes us all go “Doh!” with a face palm.
Similarity #2: Both are fraught with risk! My vote is going to Jill Stein and the Green Party. I know this is risky because I vehemently oppose one candidate and I would not, under any circumstances, want this person as president. So, I debated about voting for the other candidate just to ensure that the other one is not elected. Does this strike anyone else as wrong?
I believe it is and so I am willing to risk my country, my freedom, and my Affordable Care Act health insurance, simply because I cannot be a party to a broken system any longer. When I embraced the writing lifestyle, I knew there were inherent risks with it. No longer would I have a steady paycheck, tenure, benefits, an employer-matched retirement program and so on. But I was nevertheless willing to give it up all to live my dream.
In doing so, I have found joy, fulfillment, and freedom. I do not want to lose it, yet at the same time I need to remain true to myself. Neither major party candidate has remained true to themselves, so they will not get my vote.
Similarity #3 – Both involve making stuff up! For writers, this is a wonderful perk of our profession. We get to build new worlds, create characters, and live inside their heads. Our stories allow us to experience different cultures, lifestyles, and relationships, and we can learn about ourselves while at the same time weaving universal themes and life lessons throughout our writing.
In politics, pretending to be something you’re not appears to be par for the course, but unlike writing I wouldn’t consider it a good thing. We have websites devoted to “fact-checking” our candidates and sometimes they are branded as having “their pants on fire,” in terms of how different what they state is from reality.
Of course, people are entitled to change their minds and our presidential candidates are no exception. Before I decided to give up consuming violence in media (which essentially meant not watching the presidential debates as verbal violence is violence nevertheless), I LOVED the television series 24. Based on my experiences watching that show, I believed there were some instances were torture should be allowed, especially considering national security.
It took one of my good friends in graduate school to sit me down and explain just why torture is a human rights violation for me to realize that torture is, well, torture, and although Hollywood may be good at sensationalizing it, there is always real and true human life being minimized.
But it unfortunately does not appear to be the case that our politicians are “changing their minds” and showing growth in morals, values, or any other important qualities I subscribe to in a president. No, it appears that they are simply catering to their party simply for the sake of getting elected. Over ONE BILLION DOLLARS will have been spent by the time this election is over. People do crazy things for money and having your pants on fire appears to be just one of them.
Similarity #4 – Both are wrought with rejection! Barring any unusual circumstances, we will have one big winner and one big loser come the evening of November 8th. Thankfully, I have never yet had to experience being rejected by millions upon millions of people. So far, it’s only been publishers, agents, literary journals, and websites. Oh, and I suppose friends, schools, employers, significant others, pets (I’m talking to you aloof cats who pretend they’re not interested), and bears (see previous posts). So, really, now that I think about it my whole life has been about rejection. But, again, it’s never been on the scale of millions and millions of people!
Maybe someday though. Wouldn’t that be amazing to be such a successful writer that my work could be commented on, loved, hated, debated, and so on by millions?! Or I suppose I could just run for president? Millions then would also love, hate, and debate my choices.
Of course, not being even remotely qualified for president, that would be a scary choice for the U.S. population. Thus, for my final thoughts I will leave you with an original Halloween poem that I think sums up this post succinctly:
With lots and lots of treats
But only a few tricks
‘Cuz we’re all scared enough
Thanks to U.S. politics!