We’ve finished another trip around the old ball of plasma at the center of our solar system, which means it’s time to reflect and think about what lies ahead. Nearly all of us have had two pretty horrendous years that often felt like an ongoing process of destruction: to our social lives, our civic institutions, a virus out there trying to ravage our bodies.
Even beneath the most obvious damage, there’s been a fraying of trust, people acting badly in public, and a pronounced erosion of our ability to even imagine a better future.
In these conditions, when we’re so tired, when we’ve been just holding things together for so long, despair lurks around every corner.
And yet the rubble presents both a test and an opportunity. There’s a chance to start fresh with something better.
What will you build?
It’s not on social media
I have spent drastically less time on social media in the last six months, and the more distance I get from it, the stranger the daily drama seems when I dip back into it, particularly those in certain publishing ecosystems (cough YA cough).
Now, particularly as someone who is the beneficiary of many privileges derived from societal systems that need to be changed and/or torn down, I want to be clear that not all destruction is bad, not all outrage is misguided, and social shaming can be an effective tool to change behavior. It’s difficult to imagine modern social justice movements without social media. I genuinely believe it can be a positive tool for change when it’s paired with boots on the ground and real offline work.
But so much of the energy expended on social media is… not that. It feels cannibalistic. It favors petty outrages, incentivizes the people who grandstand and reduce complex issues to black and white, it relentlessly rewards bad faith and attention-seeking.
It feels like there are outrage specialists who are itching to find the latest drama, fan the flames, maybe get something shut down or extract a pound of flesh, then clap their hands in a self-satisfied way like they’ve accomplished something that day.
Here’s the thing about shaming on social media: it’s only an effective tool against people who have the capacity to feel shamed. By definition, it’s wholly ineffective against the worst among us who should be ashamed, but who never will be, and just take the negative attention and run with it.
What if all that energy spent shouting into the void was devoted to building something?
The building mantra
Last year I posted about how I approach setting meaningful goals for the year, and after a very busy holiday season on the road, I haven’t had the chance to do that yet.
But I do know the overall mentality that I want to carry into 2022. I want to build stuff. I want to avoid getting distracted by petty dramas that suck away energy without leaving anything lasting behind.
My mantra, whenever I’m thinking about where I’m devoting my energy: “What is this building?”
In many ways, this blog has been a fifteen year construction project where I’ve gradually cobbled together all the advice someone might need to write and successfully publish a book. I have new ideas for some blog improvement projects that I’m excited to focus on in this new year. I have several ideas for new novels that I want to push forward.
It’s been a tough two years. I know I’ll feel better if I can look back at 2022 and see what I’ve built.
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Art: Tour Eiffel by Neurdein