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Michelle's Musings

Tickle Your Fantasy

We are living in rough times, to put it mildly. I can't recall when I've ever known such chaos on so many fronts. We're seeing internal and external interference in our democratic election process in the midst of a divisive presidential election season; an unrelenting deadly coronavirus pandemic with its attendant record unemployment; and ongoing civic protest against longstanding racial injustices. How much more can we take?

 

As writers, we may wonder what we can do to help assuage the negative impact of these dire forces. Turning off the television might help, but we are surrounded by media on which we tend to rely not only for current events but also for information about our industry. So I have another timely idea that syncs with the upcoming National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in which writers are challenged to produce 50,000 words of a brand-new novel during November.

 

For an escape from the madness, I suggest a writing prompt that goes something like this: Create and write about your ideal fantasyland to which you can get away whenever you need a respite. Your destination can be as fanciful and colorful as one of your more vivid fantastical dreams set in a foreign land, or as serene and meditative as hiding out in an austere hut at a faraway beach in the most tropical of locations where the sun reliably shines and the breeze always calms.

 

Good fiction contains a relatable protagonist—you; a strong plot line; conflict (maybe not so much for this exercise!); powerful dialogue (internal monologue will do well here), and a wonderfully detailed setting. All of these aspects of storytelling needn't be present for this short exercise, but try including those you've previously found troublesome. This exercise can also apply to nonfiction writers who want to spruce up their works with a touch of creativity.

 

The point is to write a short story about a destination to which you can periodically venture and nurture your mental health. Only you can create the ideal escape, because only you know what best tickles your fantasy. No one will criticize your work—except you, of course!

 

So go ahead, and dream big. Though we still have to deal with reality, maybe this exercise will help us reemerge from this nightmare with our sanities intact.

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Melanin Blues

As I considered my next blog topic, I found it difficult to think about anything other than our current political, cultural, and public health crises. More than 115,000 Americans are confirmed to have lost their lives to the Covid-19 pandemic. We witnessed, in broad daylight, life slowly drain from an unarmed, handcuffed African American man who was murdered beneath the knee of a White police officer while begging for his life and deceased mother. Our government saw fit to send armed active duty military forces to intimidate Americans peacefully exercising their First Amendment right. How can we not be affected?

 

The families of George P. Floyd and many others have suffered immeasurable grief at the killing of their loved ones by those entrusted to protect and serve the American people. In the wake of this latest tragedy, widespread peaceful protests against police brutality have taken place against a backdrop of mourning and civil unrest as portrayed day after day on social media and across our TV screens. Amid the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of a coherent national strategy to address this health crisis, the perfect storm was brewing.

 

As a woman of color who navigates day in, day out the landscape of institutionalized racism, I know firsthand what it feels like to get up in the morning and step out of my home, sporting a coat of melanin beneath my clothes. Whether I'm escorted out of a Cal Berkeley fraternity house by two White males who advised that Blacks weren't allowed (to the surprise of my fellow White freshwomen) or attempting to board a plane with other first class passengers and being questioned by an airline employee about the validity of my presence in that section (unlike the White woman ahead of me), I don't exhale until I step back inside my home.

 

Around the second day of protests, however, I noticed something strikingly different from other protests against racism and police brutality: the presence of multiracial crowds pushing for the same cause. A week ago, I saw a White woman standing on a busy street corner of a predominantly White neighborhood, waving a large sign that read, "#BLM Black Lives Matter." The horns of several passing cars blared in support. Email notices from businesses and corporations that usually tout merchandise discounts or privacy policy updates have focused, instead, on what can be done to improve the lives of African Americans who've suffered institutionalized racism for as long as we've had institutions. Additionally, some of my writers organizations have asked members to document their sentiments in light of massive and unrelenting protests against injustice, whether for posterity, venting, or both.

 

It's unfortunate that it took another brutal killing to catalyze a movement yearning for enduring resolutions to injustices that stem from centuries of deep-rooted overt, covert, and systemic racism perpetuated by the silence of those who tolerate it. I am hopeful that change is coming and that Mr. Floyd's death and the deaths of countless other victims of police brutality did not happen in vain.

 

We are weary.

 

We are humans.

 

We are Americans.

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