I want to amp the signal on this. John Scalzi wrote, a couple days ago, about how this year has been affecting his creative output
Complicated is not inherently difficult to write. It just takes attention to detail, which normally I’m able to do just fine. When I write on it — when I have those stretches of being able to write — it all works. The plot flows well, the characters are doing their thing, and everything chugs along. What I’m writing is good. There’s just so much less of it than usually happens for me.
I’m not trying to be mysterious about what it is about 2017 that is different. The answer is obvious: Trump is president, and he’s a peevish bigoted incompetent surrounded by the same, and he’s wreaking havoc on large stretches of the American experience, both in his own person and by the chaos he invites. But to say “well, Trump,” is not really to give an answer with regard to what’s different. We’ve had terrible presidents before — George W. Bush springs to mind — and yet my ability to create work was not notably impacted. When Dubya was in office I wrote five novels. The Dubya era was a crappy time for America (recall the wars and the Great Recession) but from the point of view of productivity, it was just fine for me.
The thing is, the Trump era is a different kind of awful. It is, bluntly, unremitting awfulness.
I recommend reading the whole thing, for anybody who has found their productivity impacted. Lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of writers, professional and hobbyist, have come forward to say, "me too".
Me too, me too. My word counts are public, and they speak – well, it's more of a whimper – for themselves. Much of my stress and distraction is personal, familial. But it's also true that the world being on fire is impacting me.
It’s hard to focus when the world is on fire, and with novelists in particular, I suspect that sometimes it’s hard to focus when you’ve got the suspicion that your fiction is almost frivolous in the context of what’s going on right now. Well, and maybe it is. But, speaking as someone who spent an hour retweeting pet pictures today to break up the horror of mass shooting news in people’s tweetstreams, sometimes frivolity helps.
To which I would reply with a passage, from a novel, I have quoted before
"Hazel, we'll have to stop here," said Bigwig, coming up between the panting, crouching bodies of the others. "I know it's not a good place, but Fiver and this other half-sized fellow you've got here–they're pretty well all in. They won't be able to go on if we don't rest."
Pipkin sat trembling under a fern, his ears drooping on either side of his head. He held one paw forward in an awkward, unnatural way and kept licking it miserably. Fiver was little better off. He still looked cheerful, but very weary. Hazel realized that until they rested they would all be safer where they were than stumbling along in the open with no strength left to run from an enemy. But if they lay brooding, unable to feed or go underground, all their troubles would come crowding into their hearts, their fears would mount and they might very likely scatter, or even try to return to the warren. He had an idea.
"Yes, all right, we'll rest here," he said. "Let's go in among this fern. Come on, Dandelion, tell us a story. I know you're handy that way. Pipkin here can't wait to hear it."
Dandelion looked at Pipkin and realized what it was that Hazel was asking him to do. Choking back his own fear of the desolate, grassless woodland, the before-dawn-returning owls that they could hear some way off, and the extraordinary, rank animal smell that seemed to come from somewhere rather nearer, he began.
And further, from later on:
[Holly] sat up with difficulty and looked around at them. Watership Down
"You're Hazel, aren't you?" he asked. "And that's– oh, I should know, but I'm in very poor shape, I'm afraid."
"It's Dandelion," said Hazel. "Listen– I can see that you're exhausted, but we can't stay here. We're in danger. Can you come with us to our holes?"
"Captain [Holly]," said Bluebell, "do you know what the first blade of grass said to the second blade of grass?"
Hazel looked at him sharply, but Holly replied, "Well?"
"It said, 'Look, there's a rabbit! We're in danger!'"
"This is no time–" began Hazel.
"Don't silence him," said Holly. "We wouldn't bee here at all without his blue tit's chatter." [...] It took a long time to climb the hill.
"Hazel," [Dandelion] said, "I thought I ought to come and tell you about Holly. He's much better this evening, but he had a very bad night and so did we. Every time he seemed to be going to sleep, he kept starting up and crying. I thought he was going out of his mind. Pipkin kept talking to him – he was first-rate – and he seems to set a lot of store by Bluebell. Bluebell kept on making jokes. He was worn out before the morning and so were the lot of us – we've been sleeping all day. Holly's been more or less himself since he woke up this afternoon, and he's been up to silflay. [...]"
"Is he fit to talk to us, then?" asked Bigwig.
"I think so. [...]"
They found Holly with Bluebell and Pipkin, on the turf by the anthill where Dandelion had first looked ovr the down. Holly was sniffing a purple orchis. The head of mauve blooms rocked gently on its stem as he pushed his nose against it.
"Don't frighten it, master," said Bluebell. "It might fly away. After all, it's got a lot of spots to choose from. Look at them all over the leaves."
"Oh, get along with you, Bluebell," answered Holly, good-humoredly.
Bigwig came up, "I know it's not owl time yet," he said, "but everyone's so eager to hear you, Holly, that they want to go underground at once. Will that suit you?"
"Underground?" replied Holly. "But how can you all hear me underground? I was expecting to talk here."
"Come and see," said Bigwig.
Holly and Bluebell were impressed by the Honeycomb.
"This is something quite new," said Holly. "What keeps the roof up?"
"It doens't need to be kept up," said Bluebell. "It's right up the hill already."
"An idea we found on the way," said Bigwig.
"Lying in a field," said Bluebell. "It's all right, master, I'll be quiet while you're speaking."
"Yes, you must," said Holly. "Soon no one will want jokes."
"[...] Men never hurry, do they? Then one of them got a spade and began filling in the mouths of all the holes he could find. Every hole he came to, he cut out the turf above and pushed it into the hole. That puzzled me, because with ferrets they want to drive the rabbits out. But I was expecting that they'd leave a few holes open and net them: although that would have been a foolish way to ferret, because a rabbit that went up a blocked run would be killed underground and then the man wouldn't get his ferret back very easily, you know."
"Don't make it to grim, Holly," said Hazel, for Pipkin was shuddering at the thought of the blocked run and the pursuing ferret.
"Too grim?" replied Holly bitterly. "I've hardly started yet. Would anyone like to go away?" No one moved and after a few moments he continued.
"After that we had the worst time of all. If it hadn't had been for Bluebell's jokes and chatter we'd have stopped running[**] for certain."
"Hraka one end, jokes the other," said Bluebell. "I used to roll a joke along the ground and we both followed it. That was how we kept going."
, Richard Adams, from the chapters "A Honeycomb and a Mouse" and "For El-Ahrairah to Cry".* Elided: the famous part about what happened to Sandleford Warren, which, when people say seeing the movie as children traumatized them, is the part they're talking about.
** A euphemism previously established.