Regardless of one’s political beliefs, the results from Tuesday’s Presidential election were not what most of us expected. In addition to the feelings we’ve read about–or seen expressed on TV–a fair number of websites have carried personal essays by authors about what happened, what it means to them, and what it might mean for the country.
I am not going to duplicate any of those essays here or say how I feel about the result. What I’m suggesting here is, more or less, an invitation (or possibly a writing prompt) for you to write down how you feel. The importance of writing this isn’t to summarize of repeat the platforms or beliefs of one or both candidates or to quote what authors and analysts have said about the result so far. The importance is understanding yourself in relation to the outcome of the election.
That kind of understanding seems crucial to me–no mater who you voted for–in order to constructively participate in the challenges of moving forward in a nation where the voting split between two diverse candidates was very close to 50-50. Even if Clinton had won the electoral vote and Trump had won the popular vote by the same narrow margin, coming to grips with the continued political and cultural polarization requires, I think, understanding ourselves first so we can speak authentically rather than simply repeating the one-sided, preaching-to-the-choir jousts from either side of the “political aisle” on Facebook and Twitter.
If you write fiction/nonfiction that mirrors your inner truths or if you keep a journal, then you probably already have a system for getting your most honest and deeply held feelings down on paper. If you don’t have a system for doing that, here’s a method that works for me.
- Sit in a room where there are no distractions from other people, pets, cell phones, computers, music, TV, radio, or anything else.
- You can type these feelings on a computer or typewriter or write them on paper with a pen or pencil.
- You can write for as long as you want, but I think you’ll get a truer result if you write for only four or five minutes.
- Write as fast as you can. Don’t stop to think about what you’re going to say next. Don’t stop to fix incorrect grammar or misspelled words or to change the direction of the material.
- Choose an animal and place that animal in a little fable of sorts in which that animal is thinking about and reacting to the election. Write in the third person, referring to the animal as, say, “the bunny” and/or by a name the animal might turn out to have in this little story.
- Some people set timers when they do this to keep them from having to constantly check a clock to see how long they’ve been writing. Looking at the clock takes you out of the story. On the other hand, timers–whether they make a ticking noise or not–can be distracting, giving some people a sense of having to rush the work to beat a deadline. Decide how you want to know when you’ve written for four or five minutes or so.
- When you’re done, read and save your resulting fable. There’s no need to post it anywhere or tell anyone about it, though it’s certainly okay to share it with friends and family as you wish. If writing this fable ends up being helpful to you, others might want to try the same thing before they read your fable.
A lot of people are saying they are either stunned by the result, stunned by the 50-50 polarization of the country’s voters, or both. Many of them say: “I don’t know what to think.” When I’m in a limbo-I-don’t-know-what-to-think state of mind, I find that a speed-writing fable helps me move forward with my life. Maybe it will help you as well.