In a conversation with a friend, about the way our crazy moment in time is shaping our creative decisions, I kept coming back to a phrase I've said to myself before: "Let's not try to understand all this too quickly."
I mentioned before, a while back, about how I saw someone pound out a dystopian novel in the early days of Trump's presidency (border walls, etc.). The impulse wasn't a bad one, but I kept feeling like the end result of that impulse wasn't going to be much more than simple propaganda. Sometimes propaganda is what you want in a dire moment, but it has two drawbacks: 1) it can undermine your cause as readily it can support it, and 2) outside of its value as propaganda, it doesn't have value as art, and sometimes not even as entertainment.
It's hard to make good art about bad times. The bad times smother a lot of the art-making impulses out of people to begin with. The art that gets made during bad times tends to be a reaction to that moment, since it's often hard to extrapolate what the larger lesson of the moment is until it's over. Most of the really great art made in bad times is hard to know about until after the fact, like Hans Fallada's work during WWII (or Diary Of A Man In Despair).
The impulse to do the thing should still be paramount, though, whatever the tone of the result. If you write what amounts to propaganda now, you can always rewrite it later to make it more artful. What's key is not letting one's impulse to do something be smothered.
I can speak for myself. Entire weeks have gone by in the last few years when I looked at what I was doing and wondered, why bother, what's it all coming to. I could come up with any number of reasons not to do it, all variants of some sunk-cost or opportunity-cost fallacy or other. But then I remember why I do this, beyond any objective assessment of time well or badly spent. I do it because I want to do it, because the doing of it is a pleasure unlike anything else, and because I'd rather take that and turn it outwards than not.
I know that the stuff I've been writing has been influenced by the moment, but I don't want it to be only that. I want to put things into the world that are not just this moment, so people can look at them and be reminded of how much bigger we all really are. To not understand all this too quickly, but instead to let understanding come as it must.