I have gone through writing blocks before. They come and go and in the past used to be triggered by life either being too exciting or being too predictable. If I scroll through my Twitter feed there will be the occasional moans about not being able to write and not finding inspiration, asking for advice and then realising everybody goes through this and the advice is always the same.
This time it’s different.
I cannot write because it feels there’s nobody to bounce ideas off of.
When I wrote in the past, although I try not to write with the avowed goal of having people read and react to my writing, it’s always proved to be creatively incremental when people had something to say about the subject matter. I built my ideas off of people’s conversations, I mentally sparred with tweets on the same theme, I asked questions and recorded responses, and pieces formed in my head. Occasionally, I did this with whoever was sat next to me at work. Even less frequently, I would ask my boyfriend what he thought about something and he’d give me the non-marketers POV and that would trigger a piece.
None of that is happening for me right now. Of course, there are extraneous factors to prevent all that bubbling conversation from unfolding. We are living through a pandemic. Politicians are stupid and media falls for it and fills our lives with pointless debate and updates. The US continues to be something people discuss fervently (this, BTW, continues to confuse me and, having said as much to my boyfriend, I now avoid touching on the topic with him because I feel we always end up arguing over things that are completely disconnected to our lives, where we live and our immediate future) and my feed is inundated by US election debate and commentary (not just from the US people I follow, but from a few locally). People’s lives seem to be in a never ending turmoil, and not without good reason, and more than before everyone seems to seek validation or comfort from their wider communities (I have had to silence or unfollow a few people whose stream of likes not only revealed what stress they were under but also filled my feed with the misery of thousands of others. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to detach myself from what’s happening out there. What I am trying to do, desperately, is to control how that reality enters my life on a day to day basis. Much like Faris’ media diet, I’ve had to create a “pandemic media diet” which allows me to function).
Primarily though, the sheer burden of what we are collectively going through right now dwarfs any meaningful conversation one could possibly have on a topic other than the pandemic.
I know this may sound unlikely to some, for whom Twitter is a cesspool of trolls and self promoters, but for me, with my carefully curated Twitter feed, the twitterverse was mostly a source of inspiration, occasional in depth debates about topics related to my job, a carefully selected list of readings that I relished saving for the weekend. People used to have long conversations on ideas, and the type of “ad hominem” chatter that seems to be happening these days was less prevalent. There were topics one could debate on long-long threads and come out the end with a better understanding of what was going on.
No more. These days, conversations tend to be short and often turn punny and self-deprecating before reaching a conclusions. I got told off twice for trying to engage in a serious conversation about marketing effectiveness. “Read the room”, people seemed to be saying. It’s not the time to be concerned about these things. It’s the time to poke fun, lighten the mood and be respectful of the collective pain people are going through. Within 3 months of one another, two “gurus’” of the marketing world came out with completely contradictory takes on what marketing in the “new reality” looks like. Nobody flinched. Major reports were released by people still doing research. Not a peep. Live events streamed conversations between people we normally would have paid hundreds to hear talking. Very few people commented.
I get it. It’s very hard. People are losing jobs. The industry is in turmoil.
But I think the only way we survive is if we keep conversations going. This is not the annoying “let’s talk about it”, but an objective willingness to engage in issues that might seem small in the bigger scheme of things, but which nonetheless are formative for the sector we work in. Equal representation is doing alright (?). Ageism had a timid peak. Effectiveness, reinvention of rules is popping up here and there. Experience gets 30 mins on 2-people panels. Workforce of the future. Unionising the industry. The role of strategy. Creativity in digital. Ethics and advertising. The uneasy relationship between platforms as main media in plans and platforms as foes of democracy. Share of search as an indicator of … what? All of these must be things we can talk about. They will not save the planet, they will not find a cure, and they are not part of the “big scheme of things”. But for me, they define who I am as a professional and give meaning to the hours I now spend on my couch working from home.
Can we please continue to talk about it?