• Op-Ed: Everything Sucks

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments Comments Off on Op-Ed: Everything Sucks

    There’s a scene in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road where “the man” finds some slow-flowing water. In this dry and ashy post-apocalyptic landscape, it’s a potentially life-saving discovery. I pictured myself diving headlong into the water, splashing around and taking immoderate, choking gulps and probably screaming and peeing from the excitement and relief. But the man is more measured: “He got a cloth from the cart and a plastic jar and came back and wrapped the cloth over the mouth of the jar and sank it in the water and watched it fill.” Then he holds the water to the sunlight: “It didn’t look too bad.” The man and his son, “filtering the ash from the water,” drink until they’re full.

    Nearly subconsciously I looked around for something to write with, wanting to scribble a note, something like “filter water through a cloth!”

    It struck me then: Though I’d started this book out of obligation (Yak Babies group discussion, episode TK) and hoping for entertainment and escape, by the end I was reading for tips. For prep. You know, for the coming dystopia.

    When The Road came out in 2006, the kind of future the man and his son roam through felt far off, kept away by a long line of horrifying but foundationally stable dominos.

    Here in 2022 that future feels much nearer.


    Women in states across the country have lost their bodily autonomy. If/When Republicans take control, all women will. Many will die. And perhaps more bans coming soon from the Supreme Court: same-sex marriage; same-sex anything; contraception. Interracial marriage. (Theory: This whole thing is Clarence Thomas’s long game to get out of his marriage guilt- and financial obligation-free?) And a ruling that could allow states to overrule the popular vote.

    Let’s pray these things won’t happen before we’re *forced* to pray they will.


    If you think this future isn’t possible, you’re not paying attention. If you think Democrats are willing to fight hard to stop it, you’re not paying attention. With some exceptions, they do not care about you. And the sickest thing is that electing more of them is one of the few realistic paths out of this. And they’d still be unlikely to do anything.

    Meanwhile, here comes another wave of new COVID variants that has the media and politicians looking away from alarmed scientists and doctors. Today I talked to a writer fresh out of the hospital post-COVID. “I wasn’t sure I’d make it,” that writer said. “Anyone who thinks this thing isn’t real can come see me.”

    I had my first bout of COVID in early June. I’ve always tried to be careful, mostly in protection of the people I love, but also in protection of the people loved by the people I love. I figured that if I ever caught it, I’d be fine. I’m young(ish), I’m healthy(ish). But it walloped me. I was out of commission nearly two weeks. At one point I even took myself to urgent care, which I usually won’t do unless one of my eyeballs drops out of my head and into a puddle. I wouldn’t wish the way I felt on (almost) anyone. But half the country was perfectly comfortable doing that very thing.

    And let’s not forget that guns are shredding grade schoolers and food shoppers and — update  — paradegoers, and daily, hundreds of others. Non-civilians beat and pound and spray and shoot the shit out of civilians (and other non-civilians, sometimes to death, just for fun practice). Civilians throw each other off of subway platforms while the non-civilians aggressively target the *real* threat… subway buskers. And store clerks who gently pat former mayors on the back. (Imagine touching Rudy Giuliani. Even over his clothes! You know that lurking under there, somewhere, maybe not even where you’d suspect, are his tighty-whities. Because you know he wears tighty-whities. Backwards.)

    So much bodily assault it’s no wonder we’re feeling an emotional assault.


    I average about ten free consults a week. These days, nine of those ten writers tell me they’re struggling to make progress with their projects. And of those nine, typically at least five of them will mention that part of what’s holding them back is frustration or fear from current events.

    How are you supposed to write right now? When everything feels so hopeless, so insurmountable.

    BTFOOM. I’ve postponed my last three sessions with my own WBN writing coach. (Sorry, Tom Andes. You’re an awesome coach, but I can’t expect you to be a miracle worker.) This is my first blog post in more than three months! Do you even remember this blog? This weekly gathering space? The fun we had here? Now it’s like a Waldenbooks.

    But even when I can’t motivate myself to write, we want to be here for those who can.

    To that end, we’re offering free editorial assistance to anyone writing a piece for publication about your loss (or your coming loss) of reproductive choice. Whether it’s a simple proofread or notes or suggesting a few target publications, we’ll do what we can to help usher your repro rights essay, story, or poem toward publication. Write to me (david[at]writebynight[dot]net) with your project specs and wishes/needs and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. (We can do only as many as we have time for, but we’ll try our damnedest to get to ’em all.)

    I also know a lot of people wish to donate to abortion rights groups but aren’t comfortable doing so, whether it’s because you live in a scary state and don’t want a list with your name on it falling into the offputtingly soft hands of some Ted Cruz-like creature, or because you live in a scary house and want to keep the peace. We’re working out the logistics of a thing where I’ll add to your next invoice whatever amount you request, send that surplus on your (anonymous) behalf to this collective of five organizations, and show you the receipts. I just have to make sure this is legal, or doesn’t f*ck me in some way. For now, just write to me with interest.

    And while we’re (sort of) on the subject, there’s a new organization called We Love Heroes that’s coordinating with companies across the country to donate items or services to health care workers. They’re in about fifteen states so far. Lots of free coffee, bar drinks, food, and more just by showing a hospital badge or similar ID. WBN is offering a free proofread of your resume and/or cover letter to the first 25 health care workers who respond. You can send your materials straight to me: david[at]writebynight[dot]net.


    I’m closing comments on this post. Normally I’m open to hearing other viewpoints here, but right now I’m not.

    But hey, I wrote something. That’s a start.

    I hope you’re writing too.


    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you reach your creative potential. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres. Browse our book coachingmanuscript consultation, and publication assistance services, and sign up for your free writing consultation today.


    WriteByNight writing coach and co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.


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