I’ve forgotten how to blog

How to write a blog post when the world is disintegrating around you.

How to write a blog post when the world is disintegrating around you.

I’ve been watching with horror these past few months as the world spirals out of control. Genocide is unfolding in front of our eyes. Old wars are continuing and new ones are starting up. Inequality is reaching new heights. Politicians are increasingly obedient to donors and disdainful of voters. Hate is on the rise. Climate change is ramping up. And the people who protest all of this are criminalised.

How do I even begin to write about all this in a way that contributes to progress rather than adding to the divisiveness? It seems to require a level of research and engagement that I just haven’t had the time and energy to complete.

I’m also grappling with the disconnect between the despair I feel at the world and the fact that on a personal level I’ve been enjoying my life lately. Regular readers will remember my post at the tail-end of a massive road trip around Australia last year. After that, we spent months exploring the scattered islands of the Pacific, and then went up through Papua New Guinea into southeast Asia. It was a wonderful trip, full of fascinating encounters with people and cultures I had little to no knowledge of before.

But the pace of the travel and the need to do writing and editing work to pay for it left little time even for my own creative writing, let alone blogging. And how could I write about all the injustice in the world in a spare ten minutes or half an hour in a hotel before falling asleep exhausted from a long day of travel?

In such an overstretched, time-poor, energy-deprived state, I could see the attraction of social media: a quick retweet here, a like there, a glib sentence to signal my outrage. Maybe that would have been better than nothing, but I’m increasingly of the belief that the brevity of our communication is a big contributor to the problems our societies are facing. I’ve never seen a tweet that changed my mind about a major issue, but I’ve seen plenty that confirmed and strengthened my existing beliefs. Dividing into camps and shouting slogans at each other in a toxic online marketplace run by a billionaire sociopath doesn’t seem useful at this point.

So I have been in a state of inertia, lacking the time and energy to write the posts I can see half-formed in my mind but not wanting to write a post about carefree travel, a good book I read lately, or the glacial progress of my career as a novelist. So I’ve been silent, which is probably the worst response of all.

This post is my way of breaking out of the inertia. It’s inadequate and self-indulgent—the very things I’ve been trying to avoid all this time—but it’s a marker I’m putting down. I will accept imperfection and just write what I can, when I can. Probably none of it will be an adequate response to the real task of our times, which is to fight for justice in a world lurching into barbarism, but I will put it out there anyway. I will try to write about the big issues, but I will also write about the small things: books, travel, observations on life. There’s a place for all of it.

As I write this, I’m remembering a post I wrote a few years ago about climate change, in which I asked: “What’s the appropriate response to the slow collective suicide of the human race?”

The answer that came out of that for me, thanks to the perceptive comments people left, was that the important thing was to take action, but also to accept that I can’t devote myself to fighting it 24/7. Next to huge, existential problems like the ones I mentioned at the start of my post, nothing seems enough. But we live, we worry and rejoice over small things, and just occasionally we shift the needle a little bit one way or the other on the big issues too.

So I will try to carve out time to record my thoughts on issues both big and small. I’ve been doing it here since 2007, and I’ve always found it helpful. I’ve already found this post helpful, even if nobody else does. I will also make time to read other people’s blogs because the sense of community has always been a big part of the draw of blogging for me. I’ve made some wonderful connections with people around the world, I’ve learned a lot from reading their ideas and book reviews and gardening updates and everything else. I’ve always liked grappling with big ideas, but there’s value in the small details of life too. I think I’d forgotten that for a while.

Image credit: By Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages, CC BY-SA 3.0

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There are 15 comments

  1. It is the capture of politicians, the increasing irrelevance of voters that makes it so hard to know what to do. I disagree about Twitter/X though – every day it contains new information about the situation in Gaza, in Occupied Palestine, that we cannot ignore.

    (I’m an Australian lit.blogger. One of your friends, I forget who now, suggested I follow you when your travels took you through here)

    1. You’re right, that’s the hardest part. The latest polls show that 70% of British people say Israel should stop its military action in Gaza and call a ceasefire, and 56% say the UK should end arms sales to Israel for the duration of the conflict. But the governnment follows a totally different policy and doesn’t pay any attention to what the voters want.

      Fair point on X – I’m always torn between appreciating its many benefits and hating so many things about how it’s run and the negative effects on the discourse. Right now I’m sick of it, and I think I came down too hard on the negative side in this post, so thanks for adding some balance!

    2. That was me 🙂 I think the way you both keep politics in mind steadily, while reading quite a variety of literature, makes for good discussions, but I’m just returning the favour for having benefited from many blog/’writing “introductions” just like this, over the years.

  2. Welcome back, Andrew! It’s always a pleasure to read your insights about what is going on in the world. There are too many fingers pointing at us and making us feel guilty – we are guilty because of our past as a nation, guilty because we are Europeans, guilty because we live in a democracy, guilty because … I’m really tired of all those judgements, when I know I’ve always tried to do my best to make the world a better place. So, not having the energy, or the means, anymore, to fight back, I also concentrate on the small things that make the ones around me feel happier and, that way, I also feel more at peace with humanity.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I’m sorry to hear that you feel tired. I’m aiming for a balance between the big things and the small things, but I do understand that feeling of being done with it and focusing on the small.

      I don’t think guilt is productive. I hope I didn’t add to that finger-pointing in my post – that certainly wasn’t my intention. I do think that those of us with relative privilege should face up to our position in the world, not so that we feel guilty about it but so that we do what you have been doing and try our best to make the world a better place.

  3. decent post, thank you. (I’d stay around and read your newsletter, but after seven captcha attempts & failures, I guess not 🙂 )

    1. Oh, sorry about that! I’ll have a look at my newsletter signup and see if I can fix that problem. If you’re still interested in reading the newsletter, please email me directly at [email protected] and I’ll add you to the list myself. But I’d completely understand if you’ve lost interest at this point. I’m flattered that you tried seven times 🙂

  4. Welcome back!

    This is a grim world, that’s for sure and I truly think our democracies won’t hold against all the dictatures in the world, especially if the American election turns badly in November.

    For the first time, I even fear for my son, he’s not equipped to go to war and I can’t help thinking that Ukrainian mothers didn’t imagine they’d have a son at war 2.5 years ago. Who knows what will happen?

    And there’s climate change. The government asks us to compost our trash while big oil companies keep opening new oil or gaz fields. We’re saving the world with people’s tea spoons. It will never be enough.

    Since there’s nothing better to do that not to engage with stupid people on social media, try to convince younger colleagues that they have to vote on the EU parliament elections and stuff like that, let’s mind our gardens, hike, read and engage with civilized, like-minded book lovers. Let’s show everyone what social media can be when they are used properly.

    Cheers!

    1. It’s amazing – even though your comment was about the grimness of the world and the danger of wars and dictatorship and climate change, I felt so much better after reading it! I think you hit on the reason in your last paragraph: there’s something very powerful and supportive about social media when it’s used properly, and I think the book-blogging world is a wonderful example of that. I think I’ve been feeling quite isolated lately, and it always helps to connect with like-minded people – not that we agree on everything (I wouldn’t want to!) but that we are at least seeing the same basic reality. Even when that reality is grim, there’s pleasure and comfort to be found in that connection.

  5. So happy to see you back Andrew! I do hope you share about your travels, that is one way to spread and share that there are other ways to view the world and people everywhere all want the same things, food, shelter, friends, health, and happiness. I understand how you feel, I’ve had similar feelings myself. Lately I’ve been attending a local Buddhist sangha in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village tradition and I am finding much to think about there and a community to think it with. It is incredibly helpful to not feel alone.

    All that to say, please write, big thoughts and small. None of us can change the world alone and the more voices that are calling for peace and justice and ending fossil fueled insanity, the better.

    1. Thanks Stefanie – it’s good to be back! You know, it was always my intention to write about my travels in just the way you described, but I never seemed to have time or perhaps energy. But now I’m slowing down for a while, so maybe now I’ll look back and do some retrospective articles.

      I think community is so important wherever we can find it, whether online or in families, friends or organised groups. I don’t know about the Plum Village tradition, but I did read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book on The Art of Living a few years ago and got a lot out of it, so if the community is based on some of those ideas, I can see how it would be so helpful.

      Anyway, thanks for the encouragement. I had your blog partly in mind when I wrote the last paragraph of my post – I like how you write about the small details of your garden and end up shedding light on much broader issues at the same time.

      I came across a quote by Herbert Spencer this morning that seemed made for me after writing this post, and maybe you’ll like it too: “What I must realise is how infinitesimal is the importance of anything I do, and how infinitely important it is that I should do it.” I guess these days some of us wish Herbert Spencer hadn’t done some of the things he did, but hey, it’s still a good quote!

  6. I’d say you’ve already remembered how to!
    But it’s really challenging to resume the habit once it’s been eclipsed…I get it.
    It’s such a boon, this community we have here in the ether, but sometimes it is hard to find the energy/focus to continue to contribute to it.
    Especially when that energy/focus can be applied in so many worthy ways.
    I’m looking forward to hearing more about the big and small matters in your everyday, as you resume your regular writing here!

    1. Thanks, Marcie! I often seem to feel better when I’m blogging regularly, both from the habit of putting my thoughts out there and from connecting with other book-lovers around the world. But then, when I’m overwhelmed and short of time, it’s often the first thing to go amid more pressing deadlines. Energy and focus are the key, as you say. I’ll probably keep appearing and disappearing from time to time, but it’s always good to be back! And it’s gratifying to find that people haven’t given up on me in all the months of silence 🙂

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