When Writing for Joy Doesn’t Cut It, Rage Is All I Have

For the first time this year, five months into my weekly blogging project, I find I have nothing to say that feels worth saying. Not about writing, anyway. Be warned: it’s about to get dark in here.

It didn’t help that this week slammed me with a migraine that didn’t respond to meds and from which I’m only just recovering. But it’s not just that. It’s *waves hands* everything.

Today’s episode of my fake podcast is about civil rights.

Specifically, my country has become a de facto theocracy in the hands of white supremacist Christofascist corporatists fixated on increasing their (and I quote) domestic supply of infants and their cheap prison-industrial labor pool. From “Don’t Say Gay” to tearing trans kids from caring families and making gender-affirming health care a felony, to paying bounties for citizen reporting of people seeking abortions, to criminalizing miscarriages, they’ve set out to destroy anyone who exists outside their narrow worldview. They’re systematically stripping away the civil rights we’ve only gained in the last half-century and they won’t stop at Roe.

An extremely young Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Ten Things I Hate About You) smiles and says "We're screwed!" as he sits with his friend (David Krumholtz) on high school bleachers.
This is me trying to stay positive.

It’s not even that any of this was unexpected. But somehow, knowing it was coming doesn’t make it any better. The banal predictability of it, the fact that so many of us saw it bearing down on us five years ago or more and couldn’t stop it then, while those who could stop it wouldn’t…it makes it worse.

No, this is not a surprise to me. I never took my right to abortion access, to reproductive self-determination or bodily autonomy for granted. But I guess you can’t get used to the idea of losing rights.

And here I sit trying to write my silly little blog and my silly little books—for what? It feels like shouting into a storm. It feels like playing the last concert on a tilting deck, with the iceberg already behind us in the dark.

The band on the deck of the Titanic plays "Nearer My God to Thee" as people run for their lives behind them.
It’s been an honor, etc.

I’ve been trying to follow my own advice this week and find the joy. The problem I keep running into is that I don’t have any right now. Digging down deep, looking for my creative wellspring, I find only a boiling reservoir of rage.

I haven’t been able to write much since Monday. I dredged up 400-odd words from my brain muck on Tuesday and then promptly descended into a four day haze of migraine. My body noped out of cope, I suppose.

Thanks to rescue meds, I would revive long enough to read about the newest fresh hell, then sink back into uneasy dreams, only to wake again into the kind of pain that lets you do nothing but wait for it to loosen its hold. Rinse, repeat, recover, relapse. Appropriate enough for the times, perhaps, but not conducive to anything like joy.

Liz Lemon says "I like awake wondering what fresh hell tomorrow brings."
It’s a new hell every hour, let alone every day.

I’m feeling better physically as I write this, but exhausted. Angry but worn down, like a blade that’s seen better days. At loose ends, unable to drag myself back to the keyboard to finish a book that doesn’t have the weight or depth to contain what’s inside me.

I’m not sure it even matters anymore. Escapism can only go so far. Joy can only fill us if we have a place to put it. Creativity seems futile if my body’s only value lies in its soon-to-expire ability to incubate a fetal heartbeat.

I hear the answer now that I can’t give up, can’t accept the valuation that’s been put on me, a rebuttal in my own voice from the past. I get it, I do, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still over here wondering what the hell is the point.

A photograph of the Supreme Court building behind an "unscalable barrier."
They’re all about the barriers this week. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

I think what I’m really trying to say is fuck SCOTUS. Fuck them and their five fascist majority, their fancy fallacies, their fences granting them the safety and privacy they deny the rest of them. Fuck them and their farcical oaths to a founding principle they wouldn’t know if it spit in their faces.

Fuck Samuel Alito and his intellectual and moral bankruptcy, cynically citing our Constitution to welcome back an embarrassment of riches in the currency of our nation’s original sins. Fuck this hack of a jurist conflating common law with canon law, fuck him making a mockery of freedom, fuck him hailing back to an execrable 17th century proponent of marital rape who condemned so-called witches to death. Fuck his co-conspirators too, the Dominionist handmaiden, the frat boy, the corporate shill, the sexual harasser, a full basket of deplorables.

Cat knocks things off a tv stand saying fuck this, fuck that, fuck those too, fuck all those, fuck this thing in particular
Mood.

And fuck everyone who let it get to this point, who told me I was overreacting, who told me it wouldn’t get this bad, not in America, not in the 21st century. I have never been less happy to say I told you so. Even so, it’s all I have right now.

It must have been cold comfort to Cassandra. And here I sit, knowing in my belly, in my bones, in my blood that it only gets worse from here. They are just getting started. When people tell you who they are, believe them.

So how do I write my rage? How do I write fight instead of flight? How do I move forward from a moment in which my country has moved fifty years into the worst wrongs of its past?

The Hulk in Mark Ruffalo form, with things on fire behind him, says "That's my secret, Captain. I'm always angry."
It never stops.

I have no answers. I have no authority. I have only inarticulate anger to offer.

I have a scream against a storm. I have a song of defiance in the slow slide into silence. I have furious words to fling into the waves, as if they are enough to serve as lifelines.

And in the end, I guess that’s all I ever had.

The lights on the Titanic go out as the boat sinks into a darkened ocean.
No democracy is unsinkable.

I’ll leave you with a quote from an extremely timely and excellent new release I read this week during periods of migraine ebb.

Rage shivered through her, a rage that seemed like it could topple the halls of heaven, then vanished under the knowledge of her own helplessness. Rage was only useful if you were allowed to do anything with it.

T. Kingfisher, Nettle and Bone

After I got this rage on the page, I will share that I was able, finally, to get back to work on my WIP. As if the anger had clogged my metaphorical throat and needed to be expressed before I could find words on anything else. I wrote a scene of confrontation between an abuser and an empowered survivor.

It still didn’t feel like it mattered. It still didn’t feel good or feel right. But I’m not sure anything will feel that way right now.

So I write on, because what else can I do? And yes, I have thrown money at the problem, along with my votes and my voice. I am not the main character in this fight, because there are people doing the real access work in the places that truly need it, but I am doing what I can. It still doesn’t feel like enough.

I hope next week I will have something useful, constructive, and positive to share here. I know this rant is somewhat “off brand” for me. I usually try to bring some hope even when I’m being brutally honest here.

Maybe I should have taken a break this week, I don’t know. But this post is also twice as many words as I wrote the rest of the week. 🤷🏻‍♀️

“Silence is free,” as I have been known to say. But is it really, though? If I stay silent, what kind of freedom is that?

9 thoughts on “When Writing for Joy Doesn’t Cut It, Rage Is All I Have

  1. Thank you for writing this. I feel EXACTLY the same and I don’t know what to do with myself, with my anger and hopelessness. This line especially stopped me in my tracks: “Joy can only fill us if we have a place to put it.” I mean….oof.

    I’m also feeling inspired to rage write after everything that’s been happening, so I’m hoping I can transmute some of this into SOMETHING semi-useful, even if it’s just getting it off my chest as you did. Anyway, just wanted to express commiseration and thank you for putting this feeling in to words ❤ I also hope your migraines ease soon and you feel better!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ❤️❤️❤️ thank you so much for reading and it helps to know I’m not alone in feeling this way. It did help to get it out too—I wish you good luck with your rage writing ✊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the self-discovery here. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking we need a break. But sometimes we do also learn more about ourselves, and that requires being in the muck in the first place.

    I used to say that I couldn’t write when all is going well in life because negative emotions powered me through my first years of writing. But now I realise that emotions of all kinds do help with our craft. It’s so awesome to see you harnessing other types of energy for your work. I am inspired!

    Liked by 1 person

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