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    Words: Toxicity Kills Creativity

    By Michele Karlsberg

    Michele Karlsberg: For this issue of the San Francisco Bay Times, I present a guest article written by Isabella, who is a trailblazing publisher and author of lesbian fiction.

    Sometimes it’s hard enough to write when the muse is on your shoulder, but when things get toxic, it’s damn near impossible to coax her out. The world is a cauldron of toxicity right now. For me, it’s tough to write when my world is scrambled. Some people have a schedule, sit down at the same time, pound on the keys and push 2,000 words daily. They ignore the world around them. It works for them.

    For me, though, something like a conflict with my wife can wipe away my creativity with one swipe. Therefore, what’s happening in the world today is killing my creativity in a huge way. If my world is off-kilter, I’m screwed.

    It is hard not be affected by what’s happening in the world right now. A president … well, that’s a completely different blog. Hell, just turn on the TV and you can’t escape it. Boot-up your computer and it’s splashed across the internet. Log onto Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and you can’t avoid the toxicity that snuffs out your creativity. With technology has come instant everything. Instant feedback, instant opinions, instant art, instant hate, but not instant forgiveness, nor instant compromise, or instant dialogue.

    People are yelling at each other, and no one is dialoging. If they are, it’s an echo chamber of the same opinions, because to have a difference of opinion is an egregious mistake today. So, holding in your thoughts, your opinions and ideas leads to toxic build-up, and guess what? Yep, it kills creativity.

    My other problem is I have a “fixer” type personality. I’m a union president, I work with LGBT students and I work with people who are fighting the system. I advocate for people, and right now, with the world the way it is, I want to fix it and I can’t. Feeling like my hands are tied also kills my muse. I find myself analyzing everything, wondering what to do next, “just in case.” Another energy zapper.

    So, how do I keep my muse playing nice with me?


    Yep, it’s harder than it looks. I’ve finally realized that if I want to keep writing, I have to disengage. I learned the skill when my sons were little. Those times when you could turn them “off” and still hear them. Well, I pulled that old skill out of the back of the closet where it had sat for a decade and I dusted it off.

    Why? First, I realized I went two years without releasing a book. I couldn’t believe how long it had been. I was so caught up in other people’s drama—my wife’s health scare, building a publishing company and working with authors—I lost track of time. It happens.

    Then, I had to walk away, in some part from technology, at least for parts of my day. I put my phone away, I turned off the TV and I went to my cabin where I don’t have easy access to news or the outside world, and I worked. Did I mention I’m a news junkie? Yep, another muse killer.

    I also went back to what works for me: writing at night. I reestablished my nighttime routine of turning everything off, everything. I don’t surf the internet. I don’t have my phone. I instead establish “business hours” for myself. I’m treating my writing like my third job.

    By doing that, I was able to write three books this year and am finishing a fourth. I also breeze through social media. It is hard to do, but must be done, especially with all of the toxic stuff happening. As an author, it’s hard to do, because we make friends on social media. We want to talk to people about books and writing, and we want to engage

    I also found that some groups on Facebook were too much for me, too toxic. It feels almost like high school where you want everyone to like you, and when they don’t, well … I’m over high school. I have to pull back, or I take that energy and internalize it and carry it inside, for days.

    So, what works for me is to disengage when I’m writing. This is especially true when the muse is out in left field and completely gone. I also read. I love to be inspired by a well-written book. That too is another editorial.

    Award-winning author Isabella lives on the central coast of California with her wife and sons. She works as a union advocate by day, when she’s not teaching college, and writes lesbian fiction at night.

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBT community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates twenty-nine years of successful book campaigns.