Ways To Stay Motivated In This Shit-Shellacked Era Of Epic Stupid

Everything is dumb right now.

From nose to tail, we have become the dumbest, saddest pig at the county fair. Historians will not refer to this period as THE DARK AGES, but rather, THE DUMB AGES. The greatest question I get, right now, is how to simply persist creating art and staying motivated and creative in this epoch of syphilitic dipshittery, so I thought I’d bop in here and try my hand at answering that.

1. Stop staring at the news and at social media. This is hard, because presently the news is a series of constantly crashing cars right outside your window. One after the next, bang, smash, crash. The symphony of shrieking metal is very, very hard to turn away from. In many eras, the news is only marginally relevant to you on a day to day basis but, to me it seems that ratio is going up, up, up. The healthcare debacle alone affects me, um, rather significantly. If I don’t have access to healthcare via health insurance, then this thing that I do gets a whole lot harder. Just the same, I gotta know to turn away from it. The news is a vampire. It’ll bleed you dry and leave you a desiccated husk on the carpet. You can look at it, but pick your times. Write or make art first, then go and stare into the unswerving gaze of Sauron himself.

2. Writing is an act of resistance. Art is an act of resistance. Shit, just living your life in the maelstrom is resistance. Here’s how you know when something is a act of resistance: would the Shitty People, the Petty Men with Axes, want you to do it? No? Then do it. They want you showing your belly. They want you to stop contributing your ideas. They want you to shut the fuck up. So, don’t. Don’t get sad. Get mad. Get fucking pissed. And then —

3. Put that piss and vinegar into the work. Pour it right in. Glug, glug, splish-splash.

4. Do some real resistance, too. Make your calls. Join a protest. Contribute some cash to an organization who will carry the fight in ways you cannot. Key point: do this after you’re done doing the thing you need to do. You know how the airlines tell you to put on your own mask first? Put on your own mask first. Make the words. Art the art. Eat that cheese. Pluck that banjo. Then when you are done for the day, get down to the acts of resistance major and minor.

5. Hey, also, just take care of yourself. These are dumb times and dumb times often call for tireless marathons of beer and donuts and naps — and definitely do those things from time to time! — but also, like, eat some fucking vegetables, get some exercise, get some rest. Trust me, I get it, pretty much every day I hit a period where I’m like, “The best thing I can do right now would be to drink whiskey until I stop recognizing the world,” but I don’t, because I have to stay sharp. I have to stay sharp to make stuff and to be ready for whatever this era of epic stupid is going to throw at me. Take care of your shit.

6. Don’t dismiss what you do. If you’re making the words dance or you’re snapping photos or drawing pictures, and you worry that what you’re doing is somehow shallow or insignificant, fuck that right in the banana-pipe. Even at the barebones level, entertainment has value. In times far worse than these, people needed to be entertained — not in a bread and circuses way, but in a way where, if you wanna regain some sanity and light in the middle of deep fuckery, then you need something fun. If you’re writing to entertain, I salute you. No shame in that. You’re awesome. Keep doing it.

7. But also don’t be afraid to go bigger. If your mode is to use the work to carry a greater message or elevate your ideas or to even just contextualize the bees and murder that are currently living in your heart, hey, do that. Do whatever you gotta. Just make stuff. It feels good. And we need you to do it.

8. Art has meaning. Obama talked about the books that made him who he was. Most world leaders are readers. There are reasons that a book like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is so popular right now — art leaves its mark, indelible and essential, and it helps us both understand what has come before, what will come again, and what’s happening right now. It gives context and inspiration. It challenges and us and can unfuck our heads — even as it sometimes fucks with our heads in equal measure.

9. Talk to others like you. Sometimes you just have to be with your people. Either to commiserate about current global shenanigans or, better yet, just to talk shop. Talking shop energizes me. The news enervates me. Find your people. And together, you find your way.

10. Remain cautiously, grimly optimistic. Optimism is hard. So fucking hard. Optimism is in itself an act of resistance. But optimism, as long as it’s not blind and naive, has value — and can inspires others to be the same. I’m not saying to simply assume that everything will be magically fine. But optimism paired with a bit of realism and a lot of effort can actually do a world of good. The world has gone wonky in the last year, but we still live in a far better time than most other times throughout history. We still have dogs and otters. We still have shitloads of ice cream. We still have options and a way out of the storm. We have art, too — ours, and others. Train your brain to look for good stuff. And even better, train your brain to look for ways to make things better — in small ways, in big ways. And then, most importantly, train your brain to make art. Think about words. Think in images. Distract yourself with your work. Be hopeful, if not about the world, then about what you can contribute to it. Make cool shit. The end.

How do you stay motivated in this cauldron of shit-soup we call a world?

(Also, thanks to everyone who came by and commented yesterday. Rest assured, the blog ain’t going anywhere, and shall remain at normal operations, probably until I die of beer and donuts.)

* * *

Also, hey, here, have this: I’ll put my Mega-Ultra-Book-Bundle on sale, 50% off with coupon code MAKECOOLSTUFF. It’s got eight writing books and two novels, so ten books for ten bucks. Go grabby grabby if you so choose.

215 responses to “Ways To Stay Motivated In This Shit-Shellacked Era Of Epic Stupid”

  1. You’ve been keeping me on target since the heinous fuckery started spraying badness everywhere. I’m convinced creativity has got rocks in it. I thought it was it was calm and a bit greeny-yallery but it has GOT ROCKS IN IT.

  2. Thanks for the slap on the back of the head, Chuck. You always dig me out of the morass…more ass, actually…of discouragement.

    Now back to editing something light and paranormal.


  3. After the big bad day of oh-my-gawd-what-the-heck just happened, I fell into a helpless depression. I didn’t know where to start, and all I could get myself to do was crochet because I was so distraught. I vowed to crochet 200 pink baby blankets for shelters. I’ve finished nine so far. Then after Carrie Fisher died, unable to quiet my thoughts and sleep, I stayed up 36 hours and painted three large canvases. The first art of my own that I’ve ever displayed in our home. It’s a set and everyday it reminds me that how I defne myself in this world determines whether I get stuck like a rusty cog or rise like a bubble in the ocean. Like Carrie Fisher advised, I took my broken heart and made art. It helped. I’m still sad about everything but it helped.

  4. How do I stay motivated through this? Sheer pig-headed determination. I can’t ring senators or any of that (not a US citizen), so I work in other ways. I help my fellow authors in every way I can, I shower Twitter in goddamn adorable because we need to smile. I talk about happy things, fantastic music, awesome books, and try to shift people’s focus away from the world burning around us, even only for a moment. I can’t fight them directly, but by the fucking gods I can help keep the troops’ morale up.

  5. Reading articles and blog posts from people like you, Dan Rather, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes. Seeing what the New York Times and Washington Post have found out. Escaping into reading fiction. Writing stories that eventually have a “happily ever after.” Praying President Cheeto, his cabinet, and the congress doesn’t kill us all.

  6. I had a suspicion the feeling in my heart was murder-bees. Thank you for confirmation. I will use them positively. Mostly.

  7. First, let me say that your blog (3 years of hardcore lurking) is the reason I mustered up the guts to start a blog two months ago. So thank you, Chuck. Thank you so much. I was writing a book but got stuck because it is supposed to be fun and lighthearted and I hit a wall there, because, reality. Meanwhile I need to write so I started a poetry blog and shocked myself with how much I am writing. Holy shit! So if you feel stuck, maybe try a parallel outlet for a while but definitely “Finish Your Shit!” eventually. Also for me the best was to quit Facebook. Boy howdy, do I get things done now.

  8. Thanks Chuck. This is from Britain, but I’ve been keeping an eye on the dumbfuckery over in the US–and things are a bit messed up here, also. And Atwood–forever–The Handmaid’s Tale–they’re doing a very good TV adaptation of it that is on Channel 4 over here at 9.00, pm, on Sunday nights.

  9. A principal at RHS use to tell us teachers that an “F” never motivated anybody. Showing students non-models is not as effective as showing them models. So in a world of literary non-models, I present a model of how the world could be. I write about goodness, compassion, and social justice; it’s my way of resisting, even though it makes me unpopular. (And besides, it makes me feel good.)

  10. Some days I feel like I’m just crawling over piles of dead bodies and trying to breathe. Some days I write a short poem or small thing but leave them untended to die in the light. I need this, we need this, keep it coming please! I can’t keep drinking like I have been, I’m getting too damn old and I need to keep my job for the fucking insurance. And you know, to live.

  11. This is exactly what I need to hear. Imma go print this out and tape it to my inspiration wall. I’ll put it up right next to my original print of Deadpool riding Twilight Sparkle…

  12. I keep a pack of liner/sketch pens and an art journal on my desk here at work. Most days it sits there and I might scribble a circle or something equally shitty. You have made me determined to actually make an art today.

  13. I’m trying to a, cut back severely on social media – it reminds me of when I was having really bad anxiety and just obsessing over shit. Not at all helpful. B, I do what I can – make calls, donate money, etc. C, I try and be the best version of me at work, and I try to remind myself that it matters. It all adds up to something.

    Thanks for writing this.

  14. I got to number six and started crying. Because seriously, with all the crap coming down, with democracy crumbling before our very eyes, who wants to read silly shifter romances? I don’t know about anyone else, but the constant fear for our/my future is like a rat in the belly trying to gnaw its way out. Most days what I do doesn’t qualify so much as art as it does chewing gum for the brain.

    *deep breath*

    Okay, so maybe in the next story the newly elected President is anti-shifter… and he’s talking about registration and internment camps. And maybe the next heroine will be a Forest Ranger and posts about the resistance in her tweets. Oooh! And perhaps, even though it’s the last thing she imagines herself doing, she begins running a secret camp for shifters of all kinds seeking asylum. Enter Sexy Hero on the run…Yeah. I can work with this.

    Thank you, Chuck. You made me realize we can all be heroes in our own way.

    • See…that’s the thing…your “silly shifter romance” might be the exact thing someone needs to cope with the dumbness going on around us. Or it might inspire someone to write her own book which turns into the next The Handmaid’s Tale or turns someone into the next Chuck Wendig or Terry Pratchett.

      • SAME. SO MUCH SAME. It feels so dumb and irrelevant. And it’s so hard to keep going while also trudging through this shit-swamp.

        • I hear you, Jeffery. The hardest part for me is coming home at the end of the day, utterly wiped out and trying to muster the energy to be creative. And it’s *tough* when you have twenty pounds of shit-swamp muck clinging to your boots. But I keep telling myself if it’s a story I want to tell, maybe it’s a story someone else wants to hear. The creative pace is still practically glacial, though. :/

      • Thank you–that is very kind of you to say. Hey, if I can help someone else get through a crappy day with a belly full of fear, then I’ve done my bit as a writer, right? 🙂

    • I wanna read silly shifter romance!! 😀
      I am a new paranormal romance author, and paranormal romances (especially werewolf ones) are my escape from all this bullshit. I can never get enough of reading them, no matter how groan-worthy they are. We need to all keep writing our silly shifter she-porn no matter how BS it may seem to ourselves. They’re fun, they’re hot, they’re a great distraction from all of this. And hell, they’re inspiring to others 😉

    • I was in romance for 20 years (I’ve slid over to sci-fi with sizzle now, because I can’t follow directions when it comes to romance). One of the most profound things that ever happened to me about writing and “silly romances” was when our chapter held a drive to donate our romance novels to a local women’s shelter. The organizer came back and thanked us so much because, and she put it somewhat like this, though it’s been years so it’s not a direct quote by any means:

      “We get women at the darkest times in their lives, when they’ve lost everything except the clothes on their backs. They’re alone and scared and tomorrow might be worse than today. But for a few hours, they can open these books and believe in love and happy endings again, and that is a lifeline.”

      So don’t knock your silly shifter romances. They might just be someone’s lifeline.

      • Athena, your kind words here made me tear up all over again. For the longest time, I’ve said if I made someone’s horrible day a little bit more bearable through one of my stories then I’ve done my job. You’ve just confirmed that for me. Thank you. (And sci-fi with sizzle sounds *awesome*, BTW!)

  15. In this cauldron of shit-soup, when I’m feeling like finding a hack-saw and soldering iron to cauterize all of the wretched neural networks firing off retaliations to so much bullshit, I reach for a different outlet: we’re making YouTube videos, in the hopes of spreading a little joy in this shit-stew world. Thanks for sharing your outlet. It’s a great read.

  16. Thank you for the suggestions in this post – I needed them.
    I have to admit it is getting harder by the day.
    The sense of futility and of hopelessness is overwhelming – and this is particularly hard for someone like me, that was always an optimist.
    hard to see a way out, hard to find a reason to keep going.
    I do not have a recipe for resistance – it’s a day by day improvisation.
    I have friends and family, and that helps – and then, by STILL being an optimist, my black moods pass fast.
    But it’s getting harder by the day, and there’s no denying it.

  17. Ugh, the UK saw what’s going on over there and went, “Hold my cup of tea.” I mean, we’ve a minority government propped up by an actual terrorist organisation, FFS. And what appears to be a cover-up underway of the God-awful tradegy that is Grenfell.

    Sod it, I’m off to make string pretty.

  18. That was outstanding! It always helps to get a dose of motivation like this. What do I do? I avoid news that comes from my television. I can control it better by sifting through print and online sources. I limit time spent on that severely. I spend time reading, revising my WIP for the millionth time, and editing travel photos. A bit of gardening, cooking/baking — it all sustains me.

  19. Thanks for this… been a shitty day, this was perfect to remind me to grit my teeth and remember there can still be optimism… off to art harder (and watch Doctor Who)!

  20. I’m a Brit expat. I can’t believe the level of stupidity in those who voted for Trumpfuckness. Is it an education problem? Or that Americans are rabidly insulated? How could this have happened at all? Sure we have our share of loonies in the UK, but not large numbers quite as daft as Trumpfuckers.

  21. I’m staying motivated with little bites: Contact my asshole GOP rep. Write a bit of the stuff that the Petty Men hate (gay romance!). Help my older kid get ready to go away to college. Do some of my academic work, which the Petty Men also hate (I study extremism). Contact my good Demo Senator. Watch a little news. Take an Angry Walk. Vent to friends and family. Write some more.

    Little bites–but piranhas take little bites too, and they get the job done.

    And I travel. Just drove 4400 miles through 10 states, many of which are deep, deep red. But every mile reminded me of the beauty of this country and the potential we still have.

    A dash of sublimation helps too. When the aforementioned GOP rep sent a stupid form letter, I marked it up in red ink as if it were a student’s paper–pointed out all his grammar errors and factual errors–and mailed it back to him. That was fun.

    • “Little bites–but piranhas take little bites too, and they get the job done.” – -beautiful.

      And yes to going outside and having a good look at nature and landscapes bigger than all this bickering. And if they coal-mine it and frack it and open it up to irresponsible lumbering? We still have the starry sky…

  22. This was so epically timely!! Thank you so very much for the suggestions and the reminder that I’m not the only one standing in the shower each morning swearing at all the asshattish fuckery that is todays ‘news worthy’ events.

  23. Dude. You got the attention of Charles de Lint, who posted/shared this on Facebook.

    you must be doing something right.

    Also, thank you for this. It’s good to read, although it makes absolutely nothing any easier in my life.

    Keep on keepin’ on!

  24. #6 (Don’t dismiss what you do) actually made me teary, so apparently I–as a writer of light, fantastical middle-grade books, at the moment–was feeling some of that. I greatly appreciate the words of encouragement.

  25. I’ve become a little kid again, lost in my own imaginery world.

    I used to host the most excellent political debates with my fb posts, with friends all over the spectrum. But it’s no fun anymore; no one follows my lead and enjoys learning new sides to the story anymore. I need more writers as fb friends to soften the climate.

    And Twitter, where I follow predominantly writers, has become a bit of a minefield with folks emoting their shock and confusion at 2017, too.

    I’ve found solace in the medievalists on Twitter, though. They also tend to live in a timeless world.

    I want to be one of those happy, clueless, enthusiastic Renaissance Festival people. That’s the ticket.

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