Midnight Pub

Looking out or in?


I really do miss writing. For whatever reason I've been in a major dry spell for the last several months, and it's hard to understand. Self-doubt is likely contributing, but that's always been there, and it doesn't seem like it's any worse these days than at any other point.

There's certainly a degree of "what" involved (as in, what I want to write about). On the one hand, I was bolstered recently by a quote from Alan Moore (he of many great comic books), that a writer's job isn't to tell people what to think, but rather to make them think. At the least, I'm encouraged by the idea that I don't necessarily have to figure out a problem to talk about it, especially since so many solutions (that I can come up with, at least) boil down to "be less terrible."

Still, I find myself more and more often simply saying "I don't actually care" whenever something comes across my radar. These days, whenever I scroll (logged out) the front page of reddit, I just move past everything but the odd meme on /r/grimdank or /r/programmerhumor. Watching crypto crash and burn has been kinda funny, especially in terms of a bunch of libertarians stumbling across the reasons for regulation that the rest of society figured out 200 years ago.

To be clear, I have come across the odd bit of entertainment online. For example, there's a case currently active in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York where one of the lawyers submitted a pleading that was written by ChatGPT. The ensuing kerfluffle has been entertaining to watch, especially when he doubled-down and submitted portions of the "cases" that were cited (many of which do not actually exist).¹ While this kind of thing is funny, it's not exactly fodder for saying much. I really don't know how people who write consistently manage it, or at least those who avoid cranking out nothing but stupid hot takes.²

I'd like to get better at writing more long-form things, which in my case is mostly (or at least initially) about coming back to something after a first session. This is much harder than I'd like, mainly because of how many other now-more-interesting things there are at any given time. I also find that whatever self-doubts or doubts about the subject matter come back much harder with each return.

Then sometimes I just feel completely hopeless, like no amount of "making people think" or (God help me) "changing people's minds" will actually have a meaningful effect on the world.

Your mileage may vary.

¹Docket on CourtListener
²Keeping the Content Machine Whirring (Current Affairs, Feb. 2016).


~zampano, could fiction be an option for your writing? Sometimes there's just nothing left to say about what's going on in the world, but reframing your feelings within the context of a story can offer some comfort — both to you and whoever reads it.



A great question, and one I've thought about myself. I've neither ruled it out nor decided that it's the best approach, but it's something that's stuck around in my head for awhile to varying degrees.

More than anything else, I'm currently exploring what form I might like my fiction to take. Where I tend to struggle right now is in the connections between set pieces (so to speak); I can write vignettes or scenes that I think are pretty good, but then I get stuck knowing where to go from there. I've been devoting most of my time creativity-wise to becoming a better visual artist, as I'm thinking that particular medium may suit how my mind works better. For example, I really like the work of Simon Stålenhag, both in terms of technique/art style and how he does wordless storytelling.

With all that said, I don't think I could ever completely give up writing text, so it remains to be seen how this all balances out.



~zampano, you bring up some good points - the pressure of writers on themselves is really not to be underestimated, myself included. Always thinking, I need to write something clever or world-changing or well-written or something about current affairs etc. etc. is really unfounded, but the habit is not easy to overcome indeed.



I also feel like ive been writing less and more afraid of writing something dumb. I think I have a tendency to be hard on myself and my past work, and I always want to be saying something new or worth it. maybe that doesnt matter, my most popular stuff is stuff I hate now and I am trying to stop focusing on the potential impact of work in favor of the work itself.



This here stupid hot takes peddler definitely misses your longer-form missives.



Haha thanks very much. I've been hoping I could come up with something, and I've had the odd vague idea. But for whatever reason I'm having a tough time getting myself to really dig into any one thing.