Many people have been asking where I’ve been for the past few years.
Not on Facebook.
No new magazine articles.
Not at any literary events.
No big book announcements.
So where have I been? That’s a question I keep asking myself. What’s going on with the writing, Megan?
I’m in a slump. A HUUUUUUGE writing slump. Originally, I thought it had to do with my second heart surgery in 2015. For those of you who are followers of my blog and/or writing, you may know that I had open heart surgery in 2006. A MAJOR surgery. Like, so major, they had to stop my heart and quiet all brain activity and put me on a heart/lung bypass machine for 96 minutes.
The surgery I had in 2015 wasn’t as bad. I mean, it was still heart surgery. But there were no bone saws involved and no cracking of my sternum.
The surgery was to fix part of my descending aortic arch. I was getting little to no blood flow to my legs, which made them feel like they weighed two hundred pounds when I tried to walk. Not fun. After lots and lots of tests, they discovered that the radiation that created my radiation accelerated atherosclerosis of my carotid arteries (say that fast three times) had reduced the size of my descending aortic arch to the size of a two year old. And I’m slightly larger than your average two-year-old.
So in the summer of 2015, I had a surgery to fix it. I first had to find a whole new team of doctors because the docs who fixed me the first time around weren’t available anymore. One member of my open heart surgery team had died. Tragically. He was shot and killed while at work (in the very same place I had been going to every few months - the cardiac unit at Brigham and Women’s). He was shot and killed by the son of one of his patients who had passed away under his care. The man blamed Dr. Michael Davidson for the death of his mother and so he shot and killed him, robbing the world of a brilliant cardiac surgeon who would most likely go on to save thousands of lives with his surgeries and his top-notch medical research.
Dr. Davidson’s colleague (and one of his best friends) was the doctor who followed me on a half-yearly basis. Dr. Eisenhauer left the Brigham to head up a surgical department in a Maine hospital. I’m sure he was suffering PTSD after the shooting. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t feel that way. Yet, I still had to have a surgery, so I needed to find a new cardiac team, which led me to Mass General and an amazing team of doctors.
Around this same time, I had a new agent and a new book on submission and I was readying myself for entry back into the YA world. Until the passes started coming in. One by one by one. All writers get rejected. It’s part of the process. But after two YA novels and a huge anthology with brilliant YA authors I had put together, I didn’t think that it would be so hard to break through again. What I hadn’t realized was how competitive the Young Adult book world had become. Instead of wallowing in my rejections, I started to brainstorm with my agent about new book ideas.
But, as I started writing, I realized that the passion was no longer there. Something was different. The literary landscape was changing. Bookstores were closing left and right. And the world seemed to be changing right before our eyes as a ridiculous reality TV host and fake billionaire, Donald Trump, was leading the Republican primary and people were actually taking him serious in his bid to become the next president of the United States. It was absolutely absurd! But, the divisions were already in their early stages. I could feel the changes already taking shape.
I remember being on Facebook — my lifeline as a writer for the past few years — and the anger and vitriol being spread was alarming. People I admired, family members, old acquaintances were at each other’s throats over the idea of Trump becoming president. It was getting ugly. And I couldn’t believe the side where some people were landing. How could anyone support this bigoted, illiterate, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, sexual predatorial buffoon?
It got to the point where I was sick of posting anti-Trump articles on Facebook, fighting with Trump supporters, blocking and unfriending people, total madness! So, I left Facebook. I’m still on there—you can still find old posts of mine—but I stopped visiting it daily, hourly, the way I used to. I needed a clean break.
Which is when I discovered Twitter.
I’ve been on Twitter in my #Resistance mode for a few years. I’m followed by everyone from Rosie O’Donnell to Tom Arnold to Michael Avenatti and even Barack Obama. I’m Twitter-verified (which is probably the only reason those folks would be following me) and that allows me to send my thoughts on Trump far and wide. And the people who troll me can easily be blocked.
The Trump effect has been powerful. Not only does his presence in the news media dwarf everything else that’s happening around the world, but things like books and literary news and artistic ventures are practically off the map. Can you think of a major news story that hasn’t tangentially involved Trump in the past three years? I can’t. And I’ve looked.
When people are scared, they either bury themselves in the news or run away from it completely. I was part of that first group. I am on a Tweet-name basis with several cable news pundits. Everyone from Rachel Maddow to Nicolle Wallace to the Rev. Al Sharpton has tweeted back and forth with me. The #Resistance has brought unusual people together. I truly never thought that I’d be DM-ing or Tweet-talking with Tom Arnold, Rosie O’Donnell and Jon Cryer. Or that we would all be brought together with one common goal — to end the insanity that is the Trump presidency.
In any event, my writing was becoming a distant memory. I couldn’t even remember how to write a short story, let alone an entire novel. Why was this happening? I discovered that I wasn’t reading novels anymore, because I was too busy furiously consuming articles on how our presidential norms were being violated six ways to Sunday. (More like six HUNDRED ways.) I was no longer reading articles on the writing craft, and instead scouring pieces written by Michael Schmidt from the New York Times or Ashley Parker from the Washington Post for the latest travesties committed by our “president.”
I became a walking encyclopedia of political news. In the past, I could never have told you who the members of the President’s cabinet was. Now I can tell you who is there, for how long and when he or she will be replaced. I have never known who the Deputy Attorney General is/was, but now I can tell you a detailed job history of Rod Rosenstein (and it’s pronounced STINE, not STEEN, thank you very much).
I have had stress dreams about presidential pardons and congressional oversight. I have a burning hatred for men like Devin Nunes, Mitch McConnell and the spineless Paul Ryan. I had never sent a mean tweet in my life — I created an entire anthology on anti-bullying for crying out loud — but here I was basically saying “F— You!” to senators, congressmen and the president of the United States on a daily basis. I had become the online bully I had warned people about. And I was bullying some of the most powerful people in our country!
None of this was helpful for my writing process.
I soon realized that my love for the written word was changing. I valued words and language on a level that most regular “non-writer” people would never understand. Trump changed that for me. He took the beauty and the value away from words, essentially making them meaningless. Truth is no longer an absolute in the Trump era. I used to be in awe of how writers would get at the truth with insightful prose and evocative language. There used to be facts, but now we have #alternativefacts and #fakenews.
And so, I started to find my time writing (when it wasn’t angry tweets directed at KellyAnne Conway) useless. What was the point of writing a novel when the entire world was going off a cliff? If I wasn’t using my words to help combat this war on truth, what was the point?
I’m not sure why my writer’s block is so immutable. I could blame it on my heart surgery — that they removed part of my creative genes when they widened the tubes to and from my heart. It could be that I feel it is pointless in the face of so many things going wrong: both personally and globally. Things that are continuously battled: gun control, which would have saved the children in Parkland and, also, my cardiac surgeon. The idea that the bad guys are winning and that justice is meaningless pervades everything. What’s the point of having hopes and dreams of doing good in the world when the bottom line is that people with a lot of money and power will always win against the poor and the powerless. When you have money like Trump, you are untouchable. People fall into line behind him and support him just to get things that they want — they give up their morals, their consciences, their backbones (looking at you, Speaker Ryan) in order to gain a tiny bit of power. It is all so very disappointing and truly disgusting.
So, that’s where I am today. I’m trying to get back into writing, despite the fact that it all seems so pointless with the growing climate crisis, the fact that someone can lie and cheat and steal their way into the highest office in the world, the scary truth that many more people than I ever realized are racist and bigoted and have just been waiting for someone to come along and say that it’s okay to show your true discriminatory feelings and that it will be an acceptable way of living.
How do you write in the face of no hope? What ways do you battle these demons every day? How do you motivate yourself to do something that really isn’t going to make much of a difference in the world, save for providing a little mental escape from the daily injustices we are increasingly faced with? Let’s work through this together and see if we can all get things back on track. I may have had many operations on my heart, but I’m pretty sure it’s still in good working condition. The capacity to love and to care is still there. It’ll just take a little more time to get it up and running again.
Til next time…
P.S. You can follow my rants and ravings on Twitter here.