No one likes the news. Okay, that’s a general statement to make. Plenty of people loathe the news. Whether you scroll through stories on your phone, flip to a favored channel, or stick to the old print standby, odds are you find yourself grimacing, clenching your teeth, or making a face over SOMETHING you read or hear. Even if we toss our feelings on media bias out the window, the boiled-down stories tend to leave us feeling gut-checked and nauseous. Who wants to take a chunk out of their day to feel miserable, am I right? This is why I don’t pay attention to the news.
(Well, that, and I’ve broken two remotes in the past)
There are downsides to avoiding bold headlines and scrolling news feeds, though. Number one on the list being that you have no idea what’s going on in the world. That translates to popping over to Facebook and getting confronted with a deluge of insanity that you lack the context for. (True story) Then you have to either turn the TV on and attempt to track down the inciting event, or you swallow your pride and find your husband who DOES pay attention to the news and ask him what happened. (I’m guessing anyway) Your blood pressure stays on a more even keel – always a good thing – but you remain about ten steps behind everyone else. And, much as I hate to admit it, you also miss out on the potential for writing inspiration.
I’m not talking about average freelance writing, either. Now, obviously, current events supply freelancers with plenty of material. You need to know what’s going on as it happens to pitch timely ideas. So keeping a finger on at least SOME news pulses makes sense. (Much to the chagrin of certain individuals who shall remain nameless) If you don’t pay attention to what’s happening, you end up submitting a pitch that’s five years out of date. Then you’re rejected and wonder why. (Or, worse, you send something that miraculously ends up current, but the magazine or newspaper published a similar piece last month)
No, I’m talking about the inspiration FICTION writers miss out on when they tune the news out. Because when you stop taking the real world seriously, your imagination can start running WILD. And it makes sitting through the average news report easier to stomach. Especially if you’re anything like me and find your emotions ramping higher and higher with each story the reporters trot out.
Breathe, disengage, and let your writing brain take over.
It sounds crazy, but it works. Set the report in another world and devise a solution. Shift the time period forward or backward. Change the species. Flip the sides and examine things from a different angle. Give your brain permission to run WILD. In no time, you’ll find yourself with fresh ideas for stories and novels. And you’ll look forward to sitting down to the news each day.
Now, before anyone decides to go on a rant about my disassociation from humanity, settle down. I’m not trying to discount any actual human suffering or emotion in this process. But introverts – and most writers belong to that group – can only process so much. We’re empaths. Seeing nothing but negativity all the time? It gets into our brains, weighs down our shoulders, and breaks us down. We can’t stomach that kind of misery for long periods without suffering. The exercise of applying our imaginations provides an outlet that keeps us SANE. (And prevents remote breakage)
I have a brother in the Army. Sitting through reports on Iraq and Afghanistan were AGONY. Military families scour news reels, hoping and NOT hoping to glimpse a face they know. It’s a sickness, and it eats you alive. Learning to turn my back to the screen and let the words wash over me granted a form of peace. I took in what information I needed, but I also gave my brain (and the rest of my systems) a break. Out of the process, I came up with one of my sci-fi YA series. Other times, I’m muted and watched images, letting my writing brain fill in the concept. Short stories have popped up from that exercise.
It’s a way to approach the news and get new material for your writing. And – depending on where you live – you start finding some pretty whacky news reports out there. (Florida, I’m looking at you) Any genre can use this trick. It’s just a matter of giving your brain the permission to play. And the details of the actual reports will filter in – if you want them. If not, they’ll slip in one ear and out the other. No harm done.
MUCH better than torturing yourself with a bunch of crud you DON’T want in your life.