I’ve been angry lately.
At the attack on women’s reproductive freedoms using the courts for vigilantism. At the stubborn, toxic individualism that refuses COVID health measures, making my life harder and less safe. At the lies people believe due to misinformation, affecting public policies that affect my world. At the gaslighting and hatred in politics, some of it targeted at people like me or my loved ones. At watching the consequences of that hatred play out in my personal life.
I’m not ashamed to admit I’m angry. A wise person once told me that anger is the response to injustice. It’s an emotion, like happiness, or sadness, or fear, or joy. Anger only becomes harmful if not channeled correctly or productively.
That’s where writing comes in.
Identifying True Anger
Some anger is petty, like the annoyance you feel when your spouse forgets to run the dishwasher. Or maybe your order at the restaurant comes out wrong.
That’s not the anger I’m talking about.
The anger to which I’m referring drills deep into your bones, invades your thoughts during the work day, bursts through your mind at night and disrupts your dreams. If you feel this sort of anger, then you’re probably reacting to something oppressive or unjust in your life.
You can stew in that anger. You can let it strip away your peace, until it dissolves every loving relationship and beautiful blessing.
Or you can put it into action and help instigate change.
Anger as Fuel for Great Storytelling
I believe that a great story can change the world. People connect through stories of the human condition, and sometimes, that connection turns into empathy, which turns into changed hearts.
Even though they wrote inspiring pieces, you cannot convince me that great authors like James Baldwin and Maya Angelou were not angry (a book titled, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?). Every oppressed person feels anger; they just may not show it to you.
After reading Khaled Hosseini’s books The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, I felt his anger toward the Taliban sandwiched between those poetic words of beauty.
Stephen King has often talked about his abusive childhood and how writing is his way to deal with his demons. If you read his book, It, or watch the movie, you’ll quickly realize that “It” is a metaphor for trauma.
If we can be inspired to create great art and literature from sadness, loss, love, and beauty, why not anger too? After all, humans are emotional beings before rational ones, which is why propaganda is still effective on us, even in 2021.
Turning Anger into Prose
So … how do you turn that anger into a story or a poem, without causing harm to someone else?
First, you need to identify the cause (or causes) of your anger. Has racism affected your life? What about misogyny or Anti-Semitism or cultural violence? Have you survived a rape, or been the victim of spiritual abuse? Maybe you were bullied as a kid, by your peers or your parents.
Whatever it is, name it. Because after you name it, you can write about it.
Once you reach this point, the story will almost write itself. I promise. My next book that I’m currently writing is called, “All the Lonely Bastards.”
Can you guess where the inspiration came from?