A Writer’s Work

The morning after the election, dazed and confused along with so many others, I found myself searching quotation databases for words of wisdom to soothe my soul.

Using key phrases like “moving through shock” and “coming back from defeat” and “when bad things happen,” I found encouraging words from Martin Luther King, Rabbi Harold Kushner and former President Bill Clinton (see below.)

Those post-election days are a blur to me now, but I’ll never forget how comforting it felt to find the right words.

I have been thinking about that moment as I watch my family and friends respond to and recover from the election of the man who turned the world upside down.

Some ranted, went mute, fishing, or to bed.

Some cried, cooked, collapsed.

But as bearings returned, so did action.

My rabbi invited local legislators and the community for a town hall-style meeting at our synagogue.

The Christian-Muslim-Jewish women’s interfaith group in which I have been a longtime member met for a heartfelt dinner and discussion at a local Turkish restaurant.

My daughter organized a fundraiser with other millennials for a women’s homeless shelter.

Journalists and news organizations debated the principles of real news.

Businesspeople innovated.

Women marched.

And it was good. This was action. We were facing this.

More accurately, people I knew were finding their place. I just hadn’t found mine yet. I couldn’t figure out how to plug in. What could I do to make an actual, concrete contribution?

I considered what had given me solace in the days and weeks post-election.

Laughter from Alec Baldwin’s Trump and Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway on Saturday Night Live.

Empathy from Sara Bareilles and Leslie Odom, Jr’s song, “Seriously.”

Community from Chicago storytellers expressing how they were feeling at live lit events.

Beauty through my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds in words, photographs, poster slogans, political cartoons, films, paintings and sculpture.

 It’s ridiculous that it took me so long to see it. But I finally got it.

Comedy. Music. Storytelling. Words. Photographs. Film. Painting. Clay.

 All artistic expressions.

Art moves me to feel. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. But feeling strongly moves me to get up and do something. Maybe that something is making art. But it can also be about inspiring others.

And this is where I can be helpful.

I’ve seen what can happen when people write stories from their lives. They lighten. They rise up a little.

But being inspired could also stir someone to change a vote, run for office, or create a ruckus.

I’m not the person who will turn a vote around or set up a foundation.

I will, however, show up. Offer my signature. Write a small check.

But I hope that I can generate a bigger impact – a larger noise – through making, and inspiring others to make, art or express themselves.

One piece of this is my commitment to infusing this blog space with inspiration on writing, creativity and craft. If you aren’t already a subscriber, I hope you’ll be one. It’s easy. And free. Subscribe here.

But I have another idea that is still marinating:

To curate a live lit storytelling event featuring personal narratives about the givens in our life – the color of our skin, the place we grew up and/or live and the religion in which we were raised (or not). I’m thinking of calling it “Race, Place and Divine Grace.” Stories about the parts of our lives that we can’t change in an effort to look at how we might, in fact, change. To hear one another – the full range of perspectives – a little better.

If you live near Chicago and have any thoughts about how we might co-mingle, let’s talk.

So this year, I’ve decided to go for more feeling, less reeling.

Will you join me?

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.


“Is there an answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people?…The response would be…to forgive the world for not being perfect, to forgive God for not making a better world, to reach out to the people around us, and to go on living despite it all…no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.”
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner


“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America.”
Former President William J. Clinton


Photograph by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2017.

12 thoughts on “A Writer’s Work

    1. An occupational hazard – this constancy of thoughts – but it appears to be in the wiring. Thanks so much for writing to say so, Barbara.

  1. I appreciate your thoughtful and hopeful words!
    I signed a petition to encourage the current administration to continue to fund NEA and NEH. [“We The People” Petitions.whitehouse.gov]
    It is inspiring that more WOMEN, MEN, AND CHILDREN showed up to march PEACEFULLY about having their feelings and thoughts HEARD than any other demonstration. And it is inspiring that it didn’t end there. The TEN actions in 100 days helps to keep people focused in a positive way to continue to be heard. [HEAR OUR VOICE: womensmarch.com]
    Ellen, we’ve never met but your dear husband stood by my side [an angel!] during a very challenging time in my life. Thanks to both of you!! Karen

    1. How I appreciate you writing to say so, Karen. Yes yes and yes to ten actions in 100 days! I love that.
      I’m so sorry to hear about your difficult period, but I’m glad that David could provide you with some support.Thanks so much for reaching out!

  2. This is a lovely, inspiring post. I actually told my mom, who has been depressed since my dad died last Sept, to start writing. She’s actually doing it! It makes her cry but it’s so good for her to release her feelings. I believe in what you’re doing

    1. How great that your mom is giving this a go! Yes to crying. Yes to release. Let’s not fear these. Thank you for your support and for supporting your mother, Sharyn. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Thank you, Ellen. It is so lovely to read this. We are the answer that we seek. Good luck with the show idea. I wish I could be there to see you all soar!

    1. Thank you for writing to say so, Marta! Perhaps you will be here when this idea finds manifestation!
      I’ll keep you posted…

  4. “More feeling, less reeling.” I can see this on a T-shirt! And that’s already led you to an inspiring idea – a live lit storytelling event. I live in Washington state but have family in Chicago, so I’ll be watching for updates about your effort for people to hear one another. In the meantime, I’m uplifted by your journey and acknowledgment of the importance of creativity in these – and any – times. I always look forward to your posts.

    1. Oh Iris. A T-shirt indeed! Your note cheered me so. Yes – stay tuned to plans, which are already
      starting to bubble, for a live lit event with a theme suited for these days. Delighted that you are a blog
      reader and appreciator. Thank you for reaching out.

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