Business Musings: Comfort

Business Musings free nonfiction On Writing

I’ve been rage donating all weekend. Yeah, it’s a thing. And this time, the jukebox in my head has been playing Bananarama’s 1984 hit “Cruel Summer” on an endless loop in my head. You don’t need me to regurgitate the events of the last few weeks, or maybe you do, because some of you will read this about 10 days after I write it, and in 2020, 10 days is the equivalent of 652.57 years.

We are just beginning to be able to see the damage to and near my old hometown because of the wildfires (which I blogged about here). Other friends in Oregon finally had their evacuation orders lifted, but a lot of friends and acquaintances all over the state lost everything. I haven’t heard from all of my California friends who have been near their wildfires, the ones sending literal plumes of smoke into Las Vegas.

I have been remiss on checking with my Florida friends. I know most made it through Hurricane Laura with only (only! Jeez) a massive power outage, but I don’t know how they made it through Hurricane Sally, and I need to check in.

I heard from other friends who’ve suffered strokes, the loss of a child, car accidents, and heart attacks, not to mention the friends who’ve been down with COVID. And that doesn’t even count what has happened in the national news in the past month.

Yes, I’m emotionally tired, but I hit a last straw over the weekend of 9/19, and I found my inner rage, which is actually a much more comfortable place for me. I can do anger. I suck at acceptance.

Hence the rage donating. I’ve been feeling helpless, as I know many of you have as well, and I realized that the one thing I do have at the moment (unlike so many other people) is extra money. Money I’m not spending on leisure activities.

So I decided to give to political causes (I’ll spare you the details) and to my old hometown and to some fire-related charities.

I really wanted to give specifically to individual locations, which isn’t possible with some of the big national charities. So I dug into local newspapers and websites, searching for the right places to donate. A friend heads one of the major charity organizations in my old hometown, and when I asked her where to give, she listed a place that doesn’t even have a donation button on its website.

The digging made me see a lot of things I would have normally missed—who is moving where, who lost what, who no longer has a job—not to mention what the devastation looks like.

When I let my friend know that there was no monetary donation site for my old hometown, she promised to let me know as soon “as one got organized.” Because people are truly dealing with survival right now.

And not just people who have lost everything.

There are a lot of good-hearted folks who are working food banks and donation centers, making certain that people have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. Making sure their animals are found and taken care of. Making sure they have masks and can manage to social distance somehow, in the midst of all of this.

There are the workers who are doing everything from delivering food and groceries to cleaning buildings. The healthcare workers who are literally putting their own health on the line to make sure people survive the dread disease (or other dread diseases). The first responders who never quit know what kind of situation they’re going to get into.

The firefighters who have flown in from parts far away to help contain fires, and stop those fires from destroying more than they already have. The people with boats who’ve been rescuing people in the Gulf during the hurricanes, getting them out of flooded homes.

And on, and on, and on.

Meanwhile, people nearby, people in those communities, people who evacuated or who lost power or who find that they can’t breathe because of the smoke-filled air, those people are managing their grief and fear as best they can.

All of them—every single one—needs comfort. They also need an escape.

Because 2020 has been a hell of a wretched year, many of our escapes are not available. Live music, gathering for a good meal, hugging friends—not options.

But if you actually look at how people are taking comfort—they’re reaching out to each other with fictional memes and reminders, to help us all buck-up.

My friends in the Northwest all adopted a system developed by the National Weather Service in Spokane for describing air quality—using Middle Earth. (Apparently, Western Oregon was full-on Mordor for more than a week.)

A little boy shared his favorite toy, a Baby Yoda, with firefighters, to keep them company during the hard times.

I’ve heard more than one person say that they’ve been using the post-apocalyptic novels they’ve read to help them negotiate 2020. Whether those novels helped them remember to be a bit more pro-active, a little bit heroic, or whether those novels taught them that the human race is pretty damn resilient, doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they’re using books to keep themselves going.

Stories are how we learn. They’re also how we relax. They’re how we rest.

And yes, they’re how we find comfort.

I was going to write a long post about the business side of this, about going wide and about making sure that your books are everywhere.

But honestly, as I wrote this, I finally found the donation site I’ve been looking for, so I’m going to do some more rage donating, figuring I can stem some of the tide of 2020 misery with a few carefully placed dollars.

I hope you’re making it through this god-awful year with a minimum of trauma. If so, please keep writing. It’s fiction that sustains us, gives us touchstones, and yes, keeps us sane

So write more. Read some. Rest.

We will get through this—someday.

“Business Musings: Comfort,” copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / andrewgenn.

6 thoughts on “Business Musings: Comfort

  1. I’m always very quick to tell people NOT to donate to the Red Cross for hurricane relief here. Louisiana has had more bad experiences with them than good in this particular situation. Instead, I provide links for local United Way chapters and this time I included food banks in the Lake Charles area in nearly everything I shared. The double whammy of Katrina and Rita aftermath soured me completely on the Red Cross as an organization. I’ve never been treated so badly by volunteers in all my life.

    If you’re still looking for places to rage donate, every United Way chapter in Louisiana has an option for Laura relief. The one in Lake Charles is United Way of Southwest Louisiana. Most of the area has electricity back now, but there are still pockets where it could be mid November before everything is back up because the substations are completely gone.

    Replacing refrigerators and freezers is the next major challenge. With the manufacturing and shipping delays, it’s taking months to get them under normal circumstances. Never mind having to replace thousands at one time. It’s not something you think about if you haven’t lived through a hurricane, but when you come back from evacuation to no roof or multiple trees in your house, cleaning out the fridge is the last thing on your mind. There comes a point where no amount of scrubbing can make it safe to use again, and that happened to probably hundreds of thousands of fridges and deep freezers.

    The Cajun Navy is still on the ground, focused on helping the elderly. They’re doing wellness checks, bringing them ice, tracking down ice chests, making sure they have food brought to them. I’ve donated several times already. Their goal is to stay until the elderly they’re caring for don’t need them every day just to survive.

    Also can’t forget the area was a COVID hotspot before the hurricane. They haven’t reported numbers in a month now, so nobody knows what’s going on.

  2. Question about politics and fiction writers. You and Dean have long maintained that fiction writers should keep politics out of their public online presences. I’ve noticed, though, that recently you’ve been giving political opinions on your Twitter feed, etc.

    Does the “no politics” advice still generally hold, for most writers? Note: It’s fine for you to say that you have a large enough audience that you don’t mind if you lose a few followers/readers. You are more established than most of us.

    I’m wondering, however, if political posts on social media etc, are a waste of time for most writers, as it tends to immediately polarize audiences. Also, it is a huge rabbit hole that can easily suck up a lot of time and bandwidth.

    I’m not referring here to one’s obligations to vote and be a politically engaged citizen, but how a fiction writer should handle the current turmoil, whichever side he/she is on. I’ve found myself making political posts and tweets, and later deleting them. I’m torn here and would appreciate your advice. Thanks.

    1. You have to choose for yourself, Patrick. Right now, I believe that the situation in the U.S has risen to emergency proportions. If I don’t speak out, I’m complicit in the bigotry and hatred that is going on. I don’t care if I lose readers. Even if I only had five, I would still be speaking out right now.

      I don’t argue, though. That does suck up bandwidth and time. Besides, if the past 4 years haven’t bothered someone, then my paltry arguments aren’t going to change their minds either.

      So, again. It’s up to you. But do remember that at a certain point, silence is harmful. I always think of this quote: first they came for the Jews, but I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew…” I vowed long ago that I would never be that person. So I am speaking out.

      If you’re not familiar with that quote, then look at this link:

    2. Patrick, I had the same rule, and had to think deeply on this in the last couple years. What I finally came up with is: there is a difference between politics and morals.

      Politics includes: should we build another school? Should we raise taxes to fix the roads? Bigger or smaller government?

      Morals includes: Are X people? Do Y deserve to live in peace? Should our police kill people?

      When politics violate morals, I speak out.

      You need to draw your own lines. YMMV.

    3. I’m silent on political issues as well. That was a decision I had to make for myself before I was a published author. But like Michael, when it crosses moral lines, I say something. Like Kris, I never argue anymore. Anyone who gets argumentative and can’t take the hint gets their comments deleted.

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