Writing About What’s Going on is the Hardest Thing

The zeitgeist escapes everyone

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Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

Feeling left behind may well be the defining emotion of 2020. Somewhere between February and now, we lost the plot. Just as we’re getting a handle on things we lose it again and again. Things begin shifting faster than we’re used to, we lose our bearings, our way of life, our reality. In the process, we also find out more about ourselves and each other.

The human spirit is more brittle than indomitable.

Still, we cobble back together whatever self we can and carry on. The goal is universal: To rebuild something resembling a life with human warmth at the heart of it. Without it, we now know life isn’t worth living. Lockdown forced us to see what we had always averted our eyes from, hypnotized by screens lulling us into a variable sense of connection.

When screens tether us to loved ones, we feel supported, we belong.

When screens connect us to strangers, we feel alone, together.

When your livelihood is words, folks expect you to have a crystal ball.

So you try and tease out meaning, on the off-chance you might make sense.

Still, you cobble together whatever words you can and you carry on but the spark that guided you isn’t quite there anymore. Writing is a cage match between vocation and necessity. Desperation is stubborn by default, not by design. Imposter syndrome is the soundtrack you can’t switch off, fear of lack is lead fingers typing for rent, food, hope.

Your brain rebels, thinking takes longer than ever.

Swapping vanity metrics for self-worth has made us reliant on formulas and business models the pandemic upended. And now we’re lost, bereft, and crushed. As media outlets continue to lay off more people, furloughing others, or closing up shop, now’s a strange time to be making a living with words. The world is full of accidental freelancers.

The urgency with which you write might have changed, too. Going from a life of constrained creativity on the editorial assembly line to one when no one wants to read what you have to offer anymore is a strong indication it’s time to pivot and reconsider your approach to writing and what it means to you. If it’s not a radical act of communication then what is it?

Noisy egos keep drowning out signal from a society struggling to survive.

Still, you will yourself to keep up pace with a zeitgeist that blends satire and reality so seamlessly you don’t know what’s what anymore. Cognitive dissonance is everyone’s new normal, American exceptionalism was just another marketing con, Alex Jones is honest, and Trump is never not doing a ‘great job’.

Instead of writing about you and about them, why not write about us?

Moving thinking forward is a group project: democracy.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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