One of my favorite things about being a writer is that ability to lose oneself in one’s creative world. I count on that experience to make the stories I tell real. The world I am describing becomes, in so many ways, the world I inhabit to the exclusion of the real world. My husband used to warn the kids, “Don’t go in there…she’s in the flow state and G-d only knows where she is!” This is less of an issue since the kids grew up and widowhood descended on me. Living alone means no one bugs me when I’m writing. Mostly. A certain child has the habit of calling on Monday nights when I’m on final approach for The Wifely Person Speaks, thereby taking his life in his hands.
And therein lies this week’s issue. The Wifely Person Speaks is a current events blog. Or, as I like to say, my blog, my rules. Which is WP speak for I write about whatever I feel like writing about: no rules, almost no filter, no set topic. Lots of Constitutional stuff, Jewish stuff, opinions, whatever. Of late, however, Ukraine has dominated the news and my thoughts.
My maternal family originally comes from what was then called the Ukraine or the Pale Settlement, and they suffered the extremes of persecution from the Cossacks and the Russians. Times have indeed changed…the president of Ukraine, that mensch, Volodymyr Zelensky is unashamedly Jewish. His family stayed in that world when mine fled. I see Odessa’s pogroms, he sees Odessa as a marvelous port city and great tourist attraction. As well he should.
But in my new novel, I’m creating a family history that happens to have happened in that area. And there is a pogrom. And people die. And I am having trouble maintaining my normal disgust at Cossacks because I am rooting for them right now. Big Time. And there’s a Jew leading them. This is a dichotomy I never expected to experience.
It’s hard to write about terror and fear created by people whose cause you are supporting. I think of my grandmother, the most kind and gentle of women, who used to say the only good Cossack is a dead Cossack. That was not an unjustified opinion; it came from horrific personal experience. I wonder what she would say now.
Right now, the news is overwhelming. I realize it’s impacting my process. Two thoughts cross my mind: the first is that the world is in this for the long haul and we will be anxiously watching the news; the second is that we will get used to the news from Ukraine and we will begin to tune it out as we did with COVID. Both are unsatisfactory answers while neither option is better than the other.
I don’t know about any of you other writers out there, but I am struggling with this. It’s lose/lose. I don’t want the news from Ukraine to become mundane and unimportant. Like everyone else, I am hoping against hope that Putin will be reined in. Last thing before I turn in, I check the news. First thing I do when I wake up is check the news. It’s never good. I lie in bed at a loss for what to do to keep myself sane as I worry about nukes pointed at Europe, the possibility of a global hot war, and my grandkids.
The answer is to keep writing. Read it, pay attention, expect continuity issues because I’m focused on something else. But writing is breathing and I have to keep breathing.