So what am I doing here? The kids are all tiktocking, instawanking, tweeting each other the bird. They are creating content—or that modern kind of FOMO-incel discontent no one has yet learned to manage. It’s all about the algorithm, the views. It’s the subtle act of throwing oneself onto the hyperfueled bonfire for the sake of a thumbs-up emoji.

Is that me? Maybe. Maybe it is. I am, after all, here.

I’d like to think that it’s not me. That I give no fucks. I am, after all, here, in obscurity, not part of the scrum. But it’s hard to be sure.

Would it help to state my purpose? I always did that in my childhood diaries. I’d write my name at the front in cursive lettering, and I’d put something earnest in there about how I was going to be very honest, and say only true things, and I’d warn any interlopers that this diary was private and they’d better put it right down or else. The best diaries had a clasp and tiny gold key, which would often become lost before the pages were half filled, thereby locking me out of my own safe space.

This is not that, but the impulse remains. I want to know what I’m up to, at least at the start. And if the key gets lost along the way, so be it. The words will have served their purpose.

Okay then, here we go, in pen, in cursive, right up front: I’m here to journal. To get loose. To care a little more in some ways and a little less in others. I’m trying to level the teeter-totter. To overcome a self-destructive impulse. I have thought—usually while under the influence—that if I could journal faithfully for a while, the entries might provide some raw material. I’m thinking of Jenny Offill’s wonderful books, in which a story is conveyed as a collection of incidents, each minute in itself but rich as anything when the mosaic is complete. This is how life goes, right? Dot to dot, tile by tile, and suddenly a picture emerges and you know what you’ve been looking at all along.

Or maybe, you know, I just want to write.

Maybe that’s enough.


Betsy says we should write every day. She doesn’t believe in writer’s block, and thinks it’s simply a manifestation of some other mental ailment. Depression, anxiety, fear, rage… There is resistance in the community to use the term “writer’s block,” as if to name the malady by its symptom is to give it air.

I can understand this. Writing is scary, and each person has to manage the fear in a way that minimizes the problem and makes it feel surmountable. Of course there are prescriptions to employ when you hit The Wall: Write every day, write off-topic, describe the state of your slippers or the magenta-backed leaves of a plant near your desk. Words on page, ass in chair. It sounds so simple. And in that way, it is. Words are available to us always, at the beginning and the end of every form of writerly distress.

But I think in some ways this approach misses the point of writer’s block, which is not the idea that you can’t write at all but that you can’t come up with anything useful. I have written novels and drafts of novels, short stories, flash fiction, poetry. The trouble is not blockage in the words-on-page sense, but a deeper and more frightful dearth of ideas, of confidence, a resistance to finishing work that doesn’t need to exist. It’s this feeling of being smothered by the sheer volume of stuff that’s already out there. The silliness and hubris of adding a twig to the inferno. It’s this disconnect between the human-scale effort to write a pleasing story and the towering rage of a disrespected planet, which seems to be readying itself for a fresh start.

It’s complicated, is what I’m saying. How do we bring ourselves to care? How do we enlarge a small idea—or decide, perhaps, that smallness is a construct not worth considering, that it’s inevitable, that small things can stand in for bigger ones with or without conscious effort. How do you claim your space, small though it may be, and make it matter, even if only to you?


I didn’t stop writing. In case you’re wondering, I did not. Though the years have continued without my particular commentary, they’ve continued just the same, one upon the other, and I have not stopped noticing the slips and eddies of my own life and the lives of those around me. It’s been my habit to write and read what I’ve written to the point of satiation, then destroy it, Ethan Hunt style, five four three two one. I write when no one is watching and get rid of the evidence. I don’t have the desire or the guts to ask anyone to read my writing ever again, yet having arrived at this position it seems that writing has become more like a secret vice than the kind of productive enterprise I used to imagine it could be.

This is the problem: I want to write. Maybe I need to. But writing without being read has begun to make me feel like a mad old lady talking to her cat. It’s the sound of one hand clapping. A felled tree in an empty forest. Insert your own cliche. The point is that we as a species are fucked to the nth and it would probably do me good to air my grievances and shed a ray of light upon my fears. There’s no need for such goddamn secrecy. It’s not like I’ve got anything earthshaking to report. I’m an ordinary person living an ordinary life, so why be precious about it? Why keep it buttoned to the throat? Writing above all else is proof of life, so why erase the graffiti, the stenciled hand on the wall of a cave. Someone, someday, may want to know that I was here.

And it turns out this space still belongs to me. I must have purchased the blog’s domain at some point, using the name I made up when I needed an alter ego. There was never an alter, of course. There was only the ego I was born with, doing what egos do, trying to leave some trace of itself behind. For a while that seemed to matter. Writing was new for me then and I wanted to see what it could be—what I could be, given the chance. I thought, Here is a path and I have legs, let’s just see where it goes.

What I didn’t allow for was this stubborn kink in my personality that feels most at home on the path itself. I don’t want to get there. Wherever it is, I don’t want to go. I crave the long dim hallway, the locked doors and empty spaces, the sly undercover work of noticing and noting and moving on, the balm of aspirational laziness and lowered expectation. I like being nobody. In accepting my smallness, I become bigger. An ant on an apple, circling the equator, is king of an infinite domain.

And so, my friends, I’m both with you and alone. As we all must be. This is not a revelation. I have no fresh insight, no intellect brought to bear. I am only Estragon, repeatedly trying on boots. But let it be known that I have seen you and walked in your light, that your struggles and triumphs, your profound ennui and unapologetic thirst, your grief, joy, and rage, your vacillations, manic exhaustion, fear, lust, gentleness and loss, your flagrant damned existence on this very fucking apple have not gone unnoticed. I see you. I love you, in my imperfect way. I’m here to provide evidence of the only fact that matters:

You are less than perfectly alone.