Sarah O'Connor

Writer – Playwright – Cannot Save You From The Robot Apocalypse

Could it be? Two weeks with a personal post? Could I truly be committing to a regular blogging schedule?

Let’s not jinx anything.

I’ve been having trouble finding topics that I want to right about. It used to come easier, was usually fueled by something that angered or upset me, something that made me feel like I had to get the words out. And it isn’t that there isn’t anything that makes me feel like I want to write about, if anything it’s that there are too many topics to write about. This should be a blessing, to have to much to write about. And maybe it would be, if the topics weren’t so heavy, if they didn’t seem to keep getting heavier.

The world has gotten overwhelmingly bleak. I’m using that term purposely, ironically, and truthfully I guess if it’s possible to use it in three different ways. I was looking to submit to a literary magazine when the submission guidelines advised that they would not publish anything “overwhelmingly bleak” because the pandemic was depressing enough. They would only be accepting light, happy stories so as not to “traumatize” their readers.

I understand it in some way, I mean, aren’t I avoiding writing anything overwhelmingly bleak? Aren’t I avoiding it by sticking to book reviews? But I’m not a person who writes many happy stories. Blame it on the trauma, blame it on me having so much trouble holding onto happiness or whatever other reasons a shrink may be able to explain away but a lot of my stories are sad or they’re about hurt, about feeling hurt and processing those feelings. I understand the magazine wanting to protect it’s reader’s, but wouldn’t a content or trigger warning be able to help with that? Is it such a good idea to censor their magazine from anything negative, to focus only on the positive?

It makes me think of the toxic positivity often seen in self-help, spiritual, and religious groups. Like putting blinders on or wearing rose-coloured glasses, one can believe that the world is fine by refusing to acknowledge the bad, the difficult, the pain of it all. I understand the want to hideaway from big feelings, I do it myself, but I use writing as a way to explore that which I have trouble doing on my own, and reading stories that are sad or deal with hurt often makes me feel like I am less alone.

Sometimes you need to know that you’re not the only one who’s hurting.

But I understand the want to avoid it. As the pandemic powers onward and as we slowly (or not so slowly) try to navigate life as restrictions are lifted, it’s impossible to ignore it. Books are being written about the pandemic, television shows like This Is UsGrey’s Anatomy and You and countless others have started referencing it, it’s a part of history and therefore unavoidable if you want to tell stories in the modern times. And that can be difficult, because many of us use these forms of media for escapism, to leave the overwhelming bleakness of the world momentarily behind and focus on something mindless, something happy, something overwhelmingly hopeful.

It’s a difficult line to balance on, and I don’t know whose responsible for it, the creators or the consumers. Either way, it’s inevitable that audiences will be consuming things that deal with difficult topics, that artists will choose to create things that deal with the bleakness of the world we are living in. That on all sides we’ll have to find a way to adapt, and prepare for it, to find the words to talk about it.

And I’m still searching for mine.

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