Waiheke, Aotearoa New Zealand

September 6, 2020

Fiction.

A few weeks ago, as I wrestled with trying to find a mental health balance and still keep up with everything that's happening in the world, I fell into something rather unexpected:

Fiction.

It started one night. I was uncharacteristically still on my laptop, and wandered into the labyrinthine corridors of wikipedia, too many tabs open. I learned about Doctor Who, that the BBC put out a version of Merlin, read scripts and snippets and summaries for geeky shows I'd never followed.

Something in me woke up. The next night I doubled back, found old webcomics I hadn't read for years, binged through them. The next night, too - and after immersing myself in those sources for a week straight, letting story after story crowd out the news, I came to a realization.

As a person, as a human being, I need stories. Yes, true ones about what's happening in the world. But also tall tales, inventions, stories around the campfire spun out of someone's imagination.

Too often - especially this year - I've focused just on what's happening in the world. Leisure reading replaced by armchair epidemiology and rigorous analyses of cultural frameworks, bias, systemic racism and cross-cultural communication.

All of these things are important. But they are not stories. They don't help me feel, give me a safe space to process the emotion of all those facts. To experiment with ideas, slip on someone else's shoes. Imagine. Dream.

I fell into a trap that - as a writer - you'd think I know better than.

I said that things were too urgent, too important, too critical to be spending my time on stories.

Even though I know that's just when we need them most.

So in the weeks since, I've tried to be intentional about what I'm consuming. A one-for-one. Every minute of facts and news, balanced with at least a minute of fiction and things that let me just feel, free from the world. And lordy, it has ever helped.

I wonder - as you've navigated this crazy year, how have you found balance? Have you ever noticed something like this?

Have a fantastical week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week brought me back to Thailand, and warmed my heart. It's about an offshore oil rig worker who found a dog - at sea.

Enjoy this letter? Share it!