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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Taking Your Mind off of Politics
My Resolutions Toward Independence


When times get rough or stressful, we tend to hear that massages or bubble bath are the best cures. Anxiety be gone the easy way!

I have a remedy that may be better or at least longer-lasting. Read.

"Reading" may be better because depending on our own reading choices, that depressing recording in our minds may go away for a long period of time. Even better, we may learn something that makes us realize that whatever is bothering us may not be so bad after all. It may change our minds about a position we thought we were entrenched in. In my mind, the latter is the best outcome of all. At its best reading should do more than divert us—it should improve our analytical skills.

I am writing about this because since out national and international politics have become more divisive, I have become more attached to my own opinions. Suddenly it is so bad that I am disappointed in myself.

I have always prided myself on my independence. So, I am going to:

  • Choose something different to read than my favorites. A different author. A different genre. A newspaper with a different point of view. A different publisher (or no publisher at all!) Not across the board. Maybe one a week.
  • I am going to watch a new channel other than my favorite.
  • Every time I get disturbed, I am literally going to ask myself what I would have said about that same issue a year ago or what I would think about that issue if I lived in a different circumstance than the privileged one I live in. You know, a new cactus flower to smell in the morning before breakfast and a comfy bed to sleep in.
  • When something I disagree with that is in the news (or in something I just read), I am going to ask myself what part of it I might agree with if I were a congress woman or a corporation head or had any power to make things different.
  • And when I can reach one of those powerful people—when it is possible through twitter or mail—I am going to write a letter. I am a writer. But everyone is a writer. And everyone deserves to have their voices heard.

I think it boils down to listening. I keep hearing that we need to “have a conversation” about this or that. I’m tired of that because few seem to be listening or, for that matter, doing anything but talking down to someone else. Listening yes. But also compassion. And to do that . . . well, I just need to be a little less stressed.

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

Gift for Writers:

Everyone is a writer these days. The ones that aren’t may find my advice to write about what is bothering them helpful for their stress level. Maybe my multi award-winning The Frugal Editor will help give them the confidence to actually send what they write to the power brokers of the world! Especially when they find that a whole lot of the rules that stifle our creativity aren’t rules at all, that we get to make style choices. Emphasis on the word choices. In fact, maybe this book should be on a list of ten books or articles that will reduce anxiety that I plan to write. If you have a suggestion, let me know at Bubble baths are good, but fewer rules to worry about (and more good books to read!) may be even better.

Gift for Readers:

My newest book is a full book of poetry. Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Wisconsin Bookwatch says, “[Carolyn Howard-Johnson is] an exceptionally skilled wordsmith, her poetry will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Poetry collections . . .” Find Imperfect Echoes at Find Imperfect Echoes at Amazon & B&N. And, yes, I’ll admit that it may have poems in it that you don’t agree with it. And maybe it will have some you do!

Cover art by Richard Conway Jackson who is serving twenty-five years to life in a California State prison for receiving stolen property.


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