Writer’s Block,Voting ‘Remain’ and the Grim Media

It’s been over two months since I last posted on here, which seems crazy. There’ve been a few factors behind that, but I haven’t been in a cave wasting the days away – that said, it’s been a strange couple of months.

For one thing I’ve been struggling with writer’s block, or a form of it. As my day job is to write a whole lot of articles about video games that may seem contradictory, but ultimately that’s work with a formula. I’ve been doing it for a number of years and have my own methods, and the crux is that even when writing is a dreadful chore I can do it in that context. I follow the formula and, like so many people, simply get on with my job.

Part of that ‘block’ has been linked to current events in the wider world, and my feelings about them. I’ve been a heavy reader and follower of the media my whole adult life, and I’ve never known times as grim as these. There’s a lot of anger and outright hatred swimming around, and logical voices are often being shouted down or ignored. The media, as is its job, reports on this poisonous atmosphere, but – combining that obligation with the need to drive circulation and clicks – magnifies it and makes that the prevailing topic. I’ve written about this in the past, how ‘negativity sells’. It’s worked well for Donald Trump, with the US media effectively doing his campaigning for him through relentless exposure. It’s a shallow and dangerous version of politics, and one that’s a threat to any democracy’s health.

Of course, we’ve had our own political campaigns driven by hatred, fear and lies here in the UK. The EU referendum has been a dreadful demonstration of all the worst aspects of modern day political campaigning and media coverage. I now actively dodge televised debates and much of the media coverage for that reason alone. I’ve researched the facts for myself, which often bear little resemblance to the coverage by the press.

Personally, I’m voting In as part of the Remain campaign. It’s an odd vote, which is probably at the core of the issues the Remain team has had, as it’s a vote for an economic and political bloc that is flawed and in need of major change. In my view it’s still better than the alternative, though, with social and economic factors at the core of the matter. I for one also don’t ignore the many, many independent experts in various fields that say Remain is the better choice; it’s the willingness of many to ignore experts – often unfairly branded with a negative connotation of ‘elite’ – that has truly upset me during the whole process.

The problem is that it’s easy to highlight the flaws of the EU, and the fact is that the Brexit campaign has tapped into a lot of anger around the country to do so. There’s an interesting gulf between generations, too, with a lot of polling showing a majority of people aged 35 and under backing remain, and a majority of 50+ backing Brexit. That’s democracy, but it’s a troubling concept that if Brexit wins, we could see figures showing that those that will deal with the consequences of Brexit the least will have made it happen.

Of course, the Brexit campaign leaders (and Remain, in its way) will have to look themselves in the mirror when it’s all finished, which I hope they’ll find difficult. In peddling lies, half-truths and inciting racism and xenophobia, Brexit in particular has shown the worst of Britain.

The killing of Jo Cox was a horrible moment, too. While not directly attributable to either campaign, as such, it was a dreadful coda to weeks of negativity, baiting and dog whistle politics. When learning about her life and career it was plainly obvious that she was a woman of powerful principles and a desire to do good and help those in less fortunate positions. She was the antithesis to the lazy stereotype so many give to politicians. She was a good politician and person – it’s possible to be both. I hope that her legacy will be that people don’t revert to cynicism against all of politics, and that politicians themselves will strive to follow her example in their work.

Ultimately, I’m going to try and stay optimistic that Remain will win, that a silent majority will swing a narrow result.

I’ll wrap up this rambling post with an update on what I’m doing when I’m not working. Well, not much last week (during E3 when I had 18-hour days), but I do have some interesting projects in the works. For one thing I’m still mustering the courage to share some creative writing excerpts, and in actual progress I’ve started teaching myself Python (programming code). I’m treating it as a stepping stone to more advanced languages, with the long term goal of taking that knowledge into some small-time game development. If I can combine writing and game making as creative endeavours and make a living, I’ll consider my life goals largely met.

I’m not entirely happy with where I am in life, but I do reflect on the fact I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a job with flexibility and friends as employers, and the means to look to the future. As I sit at a PC, learning coding from a new Kindle e-reader propped up next to the monitor, and reflect on the things I have and the family that’s a key part of my life, I consider the fact that I’m lucky. I’m getting close to the point where I can realistically start to consider buying a house, too, and these are all luxuries that a lot of people don’t have.

So I’ll keep plugging away and hoping for the best, trying to walk the walk – optimism over negativity, kindness over hatred. We can all do that in our own ways.

Until next time,

Tom