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Why we can’t finish


The Universe is expanding and there is nothing I can do.  And now I can’t finish my project.

How do you respond to clickbait?  I routinely ignore it, often not having the time to even read the poorly researched, yet oddly compelling short article.  But I have friends who not only respond, they read.  They not only read, they believe.

That is why this morning, the universe was completely out of control. So much so many people in the kitchen were too upset to wash the breakfast pots and pans.

They were so upset that before they could even think of writing, they compulsively logged into Facebook to post about this catastrophe, and quickly find the expanding universe tribe.    

Many sensitive people are as upset as we are!  Who is responsible for the universe anyway?   We must organize over the expanding universe, stop the move!  Don’t Look Up.  We are worried, look at these beautiful photos of the universe last year, and now it’s changed, see how terrible this is?  What can we do?  I have a petition to keep the universe stable like it was in 1960 when life was good.  Expanding universes are clearly precursors to economic collapse, climate change, and war.  They should be doing something about it this universal problem. They should work harder to keep the universe stable so we can all be happy.  I will write a letter to NASA.  I vow to post photos of the universe on an hourly basis.  I will download the app that will help me schedule my outraged posts. Did the Hubble cause the expansion?  We shouldn’t interfere with God’s universe.  Is he punishing us for even thinking about the universe?

Like a black hole (we can’t do much about black holes either) the universe sucked up the morning and early afternoon.  Sunday morning dawned over Saturday’s unwashed breakfast pans.   Three out of the four writers in the house, retired early Saturday evening, exhausted by the sheer effort it takes to save the universe.

We should have big existential thoughts; we should pause long enough to read about the expanding universe.  However. Like the expanding universe, our free-floating anxiety about things we can’t control can easily grow into Godzilla proportions.  Unstoppable – a black hole of attention and emotions.  

What does this level of free-floating anxiety mean for a writer? 
The clickbait is working, but you aren’t. 

Unchecked emotional responses like the above are not only exhausting but a complete waste of creative energy.  All that emotion spent on someone else’s clickbait leaves little time for your own creative work. 

Social media and, increasingly, “trusted” media is like a child perched on the diving board.  Look at me, look at me, are you looking at me?  

And no matter how often the parent raises their eyes and waves. once in the water, the child just climbs back up onto the diving board to do it again.

Look at me.

How do you cope with all these tantalizing and immediate distractions and problems?

As artists, we can either react to a strong headline or deconstruct the headline and apply what we learn to our own writing.   What is the writer here trying to make me believe? Why did I pause on THIS headline but not that one?  How did this clickbait so quickly grab my emotions?   What words are being employed like weapons?  What triggers are inserted into the article?  Can you do the same in your fiction? (please, not your non-fiction, don’t contribute to the problem).

Many artists find that meditation (as opposed to medication) is one of the most effective ways to turn off the surrounding noise and calm your anxiety enough so you can concentrate on your own creative work. 

Instead of Doom Scrolling, walk around the block and notice small beautiful things.  Dance for two minutes.

Once we stop reacting to clickbait (You won’t believe!  See what she looks like now!  Solution in a Minute!) we can learn from it.  Maybe we don’t learn that when it comes to the expanding universe, there are little humans can do about it   (I was the only person in the kitchen who thought so) but what we can learn are techniques, ideas, and how to give yourself permission to ignore all the headlines in favor of reading a good book. Or writing your own.


Catharine Bramkamp is a successful writing coach and author. She has published over 300 newspaper and magazine articles in publications like Modern Maturity (AARP), SF Chronicle and Santa Rosa Magazine. She was a contributor to two Chicken Soup Books and has published anthologies of her work, non-fiction works and novels. Her work has also appeared in a number of poetry and fiction anthologies. She has experimented with the self-publishing world since 2001. She has published and self-published seven books through companies like Author House, author assist companies like 3L Publishing and through traditional publishers like Write Life. Her poetry collection, Ammonia Sunrise, will be released in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press and her mystery novel, In Good Faith will be released by Write Life in 2011. Catharine holds a BA in English from UCSB and a MA in English from Sonoma State University. She is a 25 year member of California Writer’s Club. She is an adjunct professor for the University of Phoenix. She works with authors of both fiction and non-fiction to make their dream of producing a book come true. For more information on that, visit her at Catharine has lived in Sonoma County for 25 years and considers wine a food group. She is married to an adorable and very patient man who complains he’s never featured in any of her books. Her grown children who are featured in a few of her books have fled the county.

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