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Write-Minded: Emotional Investment is Not Mere Politics

One of a writer’s greatest tools might just be cognitive awareness of what’s happening in the world around them, to themselves and to others. This awareness, or being woke, to use a much-maligned attribute, isn’t mere politics.

If you don’t ponder the plight of anyone else, how can you expect readers to give a damn about what happens to those in your imaginary world? Plus, you run the risk of cardboard cutouts for characters no one is going to want to emotionally invest in.

While writing that next great novel, what’s happening to your fictional characters is not to be taken lightly because it isn’t happening to you personally. I would argue that a good writer cares, and knows how to evoke emotional investment from their readers, so that they care, too.

Yes, writers often use their craft cathartically, as a temporary mode of escapism from the ills of society. This shouldn’t mean they become emotionally and intellectually separated from reality, or life’s truths.

Because, ultimately, every novel ever written in any given genre is about human relations, the human condition. Even books involving aliens. And it does a disservice to society—and potential readers—if a writer or anyone else claims that atrocities committed by and among humans are mere politics.

Some might eschew what they call politics to avoid reality or responsibility for their role in it. But that’s precisely why the rest of us are living in such a chaotic and cruel world. Because willful ignorance is dangerous and detrimental to society. Not to mention inordinately selfish and lacking in self-awareness.

Others might blithely—or worse, smugly—proclaim, “I don’t do politics.” As if they are above it all and can’t be bothered to invest time or emotional energy in making the world a better place. As if, because it isn’t happening to them in their privileged alternate universe, it is of no consequence.

But racism and other forms of hate and bigotry perpetrated on fellow human beings are not mere politics. Violent crimes are not mere politics simply because one’s fragile or scoffing psyche chooses not to acknowledge their existence.

This COVID pandemic is not political, yet thousands of deaths occurred because political figures turned it into a heartless spectacle. The Holocaust and all atrocities of war are not mere politics, though they may be waged by a maniacal madman’s political end. Same goes for race wars, and those who murder others because of their skin color. And if putting kids in cages at our southern border was shrugged off as mere politics by some, that might make them as evil as a monster straight out of a psychotically crafted horror story.

Everyone needs an emotional breather from what’s going on in the world. Sometimes personal tragedy or other trials and tribulations demands primary focus while the external insanity gets shoved to the back burner. But reality will continue to simmer, rapidly boiling over into our lives whether we wish it so or not—and whether we deign to dismiss it as mere politics.

It’s neither healthy, wise nor emotionally superior for writers to claim they don’t pay attention to what they deem mere politics in order to conveniently avoid being present in this world, this reality. Especially when it comes to caring about the plight of others. Because if you don’t care and can’t be bothered, why should the rest of us care about what you think or write?