Maybe it’s a coincidence but I haven’t written and published anything in long form since the summer of 2016. We all know what happened in the fall of 2016: Hilary Rodham Clinton did not get elected President of the United States and one of the Seven Deadly Sins did (the reader can entertain themselves by deciding which Sin got to pout, slouch and scream from the Oval Office for the next four years). It’s probably a coincidence but the timing is interesting considering that President Bluto’s shambling, egotistical reign segued into the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore it’s not been a very inspiring 5+ years. I’m not one to vent a lot and that probably drained a lot of my will to write.
But, to continue: like most people, I’ve been spending a lot of time home during the past couple of years. Hey, introvert’s paradise! Plenty of reasons to not associate with other people: after all, you could die, right? Or you could spread the coronavirus to other people and kill them! And you probably wouldn’t want to do that!
It’s still sobering how much things have changed for those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home and cut most of our physical contacts while still earning a living. It’s still uncertain when we’ll get out of this. Every time it seems like things are stabilizing and we can come out and play again, a new “wave” rises.
At this point I’ve lost track of the number of COVID-19 “waves” that have buffeted the world but I feel that it’s been at least 723. And so life continues on its wary way, with a lot of people trying their best to follow public health guidelines to stay safe while others… don’t. Staying at home and turning inward seems like a good choice. Sometimes, though, you’re at a loss of how to productively use the spare time that you have.
I’ve blogged, written articles and essays, even some fiction, for years. My keyboard hasn’t been completely silent for the past few years: you’ve probably found this post via Twitter and I’ve been kind of verbose there for most of the past 14 years. However… there’s a difference between stringing 280 character strands together to say something and writing long form prose like this. There’s skill required for both mediums. Twitter often forces you to condense your thoughts as concisely as possible so that you don’t exceed maximum character lengths as well as the reader’s attention span as the day’s Tweets flow before them on the time line of memes and some pretty strong emotions. Writing longer form removes the character restrictions but demands something else: mainly prose crafted in a way that doesn’t make you want to switch back to another more stimulating thing.
I like to think that social media sites like Twitter still play useful roles in society, mainly in allowing people to find like-minded spirits no matter how far away they might be and they can be great for providing timely useful information. But Tweets are like soap bubbles: they float away easily and can collapse under too much pressure. Sometimes you need more room to let your thoughts fill the eyes and the mind.
Twitter has been the medium of a lot of garbage, too. President Deadly Sin milked it for his own selfish purposes for years before finally being booted from the site and he was just one of many. A lot of pseudoscience, propaganda, misinformation and negativity runs through Twitter daily. People post, trying to be the most… whatever: edgy, smart, bombastic, principled, pious, vicious, you name it. It’s a real river Ganges at times, fit to choke upon and likely to poison your soul.
And yet… there’s still a ton of good people here: I follow a lot of them. People trying to share good, helpful information, pointing out resources and good news when it comes. I see people supporting each other, asking about each other’s day, celebrating their triumphs, sharing the joys, soothing each other’s sorrows. Twitter is as good as the people who contribute to it and there’s good people there. But, it’s not enough to just catch the droplets, sometimes you need a whole pond.
There’s still a need for reasoned, detailed thought that you can’t get in a short string of letters and numbers. There’s still a need to be able to reflect upon what happens in each hour and try to describe the largest context that it fits into. There still a need to piece together breadcrumbs to lead to answers. Twitter has a role and you can do these kind of analysis and documentation by stitching together Tweets. But sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes you just need more room.
I used to think of myself as a blogger and I haven’t done that in a long time. But really I’m just a guy who writes and who wants to express some ideas in the hope of keeping myself balanced and hopefully reaching out to other people. So while I once felt blogging was a place where I belonged, I’m just content to use it as a means of expression, another type of notebook for scribbling ideas.
Mainly I just feel like the world’s been bloody insane for too long and I’d like to have some space to let my mind stretch out as I try to make sense of it all. I think there’s still a lot of good stuff and good people worth thinking about and talking about. And I want to do some of that talking.
So this is me “getting back” to some writing, as sporadic as it may be. Hopefully you’ll find some worthwhile thoughts here too.