I’ve been worried about things like climate change, clean air and water, nuclear war, women’s and immigrants’ rights, corporate greed, racism, and affordable health care. So many causes, so little time. I try to be a good citizen by doing things like writing my congressmen and volunteering as an ESL tutor for refugees. But as a novelist rather than a political activist, it’s not my forte. As such, I’m more or less okay with spending countless hours researching 17th century England and working on my third novel, The Last of the Magicians. This doesn’t mean I’m burying my head in the sand. Midnight Oil’s song comes to mind.
How can we dance when our earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning
The world is on fire. The problems we face are grave and time critical, and how we respond matters enormously. We can respond by voting, protesting, running for office, canvassing. And if we’re writers, painters, musicians, and actors, the very process of creating art is an exercise in freedom of expression and an act of defiance against the status quo. The artist is the ultimate free spirit who flies in the face of complacency and never pauses to ask, “what’s the use?”
Artists have always been revolutionaries, have always been creating profound impact. Confronted with numerous obstacles and a distracted world that often forgets their value, artists will go on celebrating the beautiful, exposing truth, defying conformity, and decrying injustice till the end of time.
So no, making art and writing novels is not escapism. It is an act of patriotism, a symbol of the enduring human spirit. While the earth is burning, I will be right here at my desk, much of the time, writing a novel.