Writing in a Time of Uncertainty by Bronwen Griffiths
We are always writing in a time of uncertainty because the truth is we can never be certain of what the next day will bring; if it will bring good news or bad, rain or sunshine, a mood of optimism or one of gloom. But today, perhaps more than ever in our lifetimes, we are living with the full knowledge that life is always uncertain. Few of us, if any, could have predicted how radically our lives would change this year.
However, the very act of creation, is to work with uncertainty.
“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t–and in face, you’re not supposed to–know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.” (Anne Lamott).
We can’t wholly control this virus. We can take steps – as we are all doing – to try and protect ourselves and others – but there is much we can’t do and much we don’t yet know. The data is incomplete. We do not entirely understand why some apparently healthy people get sicker than others. We fear getting sick ourselves; we fear for our loved ones; we fear for everyone.
There is proof that the less information people have, the more irrational and erratic their decisions become. You might think the opposite would be true—the less information we have, the more careful and rational we would be in evaluating the validity of that information. This isn’t how the human brain works. When we are uncertain, we can feel anxious and fearful.
Perhaps the most valuable way we can attempt to deal with uncertainty is to live in the moment. That's where writing or other creative activities can help because, when we are immersed, we are not worrying about the virus, or the fact that we may not have a job tomorrow. Creative activities in themselves cannot solve these problems. If you can't pay the bills you must seek a practical solution. Writing won't solve that - unless you are very lucky. But writing, journaling and other creative activities can be therapeutic, though don't put too much pressure on yourself to create the perfect piece of writing, or whatever - be playful. Don’t worry about the finished product. Scribble away your frustrations, anger and fear and learn to be attentive to what is around you. That birdsong. Your heart-beat. Even the siren of the ambulance coming up the road. Because in the end this is all you – all we have – this moment. Only this moment.
of first unfurling
the leaf small as a distant star
a magnolia blossom
releases its petals into sky-blue
a blue reflecting hyacinths
that giddy the air with sweet scent
the moment a bee
finds its way into the heart of the damson blossom
and the wind
sculpts the cloud into a feather
white in the grass
this is the moment
c. Bronwen Griffiths 2020
Bronwen is the author of two novels and two collections of flash fiction. Her flash fictions have been widely published. You can find more of her work at:
The photographs are my own.