Contest winner, Roy Schlegel, asked:

Thank you, DJB! I wish we could all get paid for doing what we love. I’d write stories and eat burritos. I’d so so well, I’d get a monthly bonus.

You’re a writer. Is that your passion?

Am I a writer? I don’t think so.

I type. I type out sentences and paragraphs. I push the “send” button and that makes my posts appear on Medium and a couple of other sites. Those posts get read by anywhere from 2 to !2.8K people, mostly much closer to the 2.

But, I don’t think of myself as a writer. A blogger perhaps. Kind of a two issue blogger. Basically, I think of myself as a Psychologist. I went to school to become one. I went for a long time, wrote a thesis, took exams, wrote a dissertation, got a Ph.D. Then I went out and worked doing mental health stuff for forty years. I did some teaching, I did some supervision. I ran a clinic for a few years, way back when the government paid for that kind of community care, you know, socialism.

Now I think of myself as a Psychologist who writes about what’s happening to the psyche, bodies, minds and emotions of the people around me. There is a lot going on these days. The world is going through as many changes as it did during the last big upheaval, the industrial revolution. Since the mid-1990s, when the Internet began to take hold, through 2007, when the iPhone changed everyone’s lives, and now, when people are using their “Echos” and “Homes” to answer questions, play music, and take over their schedules, everything is changing. As I say on the title to my blog: “As we change the world, it changes us.”

I think that the skills people need to survive will be different for the next generation than they were for me, very different. I also think, that due to technology, populations shifts, and scientific advances, especially in the field of genetics, later generations will really be the beginning of s new species. People will be different. People’s brains and bodies will be different because they will be adapting to a very different living situation, in so many ways.

I began to blog about that. I think people need to become much more aware of how the world is changing and they need to make choices about which of the new options offered to them are beneficial, and which could be harmful. I wrote about things such as self-driving cars, virtual reality, the Internet of things, Artificial Intelligence, and all of the Algorithms that are becoming part of our lives. I wrote about drones, and I even wrote a piece about raising children of the next generation.

Those were blog pieces. I wouldn’t call it “writing.” In the beginning I had a thought that if these pieces struck a nerve, then I could refine them, make them a bit more fetching, and turn them into a book. Then I would be a writer.

During that time I went downtown and took some courses and hung around with the local writer’s group. Some of what I learned was that “writers” write like artists, and that means their primary task is not to inform, but to provoke emotion. I agree that real changes comes through emotion, much more so than information.

I was told that much of my writing was good, clever, clear, and could be captivating. But I was also told that it was too complicated, too nuanced and much too negative. When I pointed out, sometimes to agents and publishers, that I was writing about reality, they agreed. But, they explained, people won’t buy that stuff. People enjoy reading about complex, difficult situations, but they want to lead to simple solutions and happy endings.

I get it. But I can’t do that. Why bother.

I also realized that I don’t read things like that. I read things that few other people read, most of them come from academic presses. I read things by Daniel Dennett, Antonio Demassio, Michael Gazzaniga, and Dan Ariely. And Danial Kahneman, I hope you’ve heard of him; he’s a Psychologist who won a Noble Prize in economics.

There are also new books, some of which are about the same things I write about, but almost all of them are from university professor types such as Michael Bess, Sherry Turkle, James Hendler and Brian Christian. Kevin Kelly and Joi Ito are the most popularized of the last twenty books I’ve read.

Novels and Memoirs?

Most of them give me a pain in the ass. Having worked very closely with a few thousand people , and knowing the most intimate details of their lives, I know that truth is more complex and much stranger than any fiction. Also, except for the actual beginning and end, life has few real beginnings and endings. Everything overlaps, and everything continues as part of you, even after it’s not happening at the moment.

I get impatient with most of today’s novels and memoirs. As I’ve said to many of my friends, it’s all made-up stuff. A lot of it depends upon unfathomable, dramatic changes, or unbelievable coincidences But I know, that’s just me, old and jaded.

That’s not to say that really good novels are not great art and cannot capture the flavor of their times, and in many cases change them. I know that Catch 22 and Crime and Punishment both had a strong influence on how I view the world. James Baldwin, Philip Roth, Ralph Ellison were other writers immediately come into my mind as having an impact on me. People like that are “writers.” i’m sure there are some of that caliber writing today. I’m not paying that much attention. There seems to be too many other things going on.

I know I will never come close to fitting into that category. There is not only a necessary talent, but there is a craft that comes from working at it for years. I greatly admire that. I don’t have it, and probably don’t have the time left to even get to the second level.

But then, in the midst of my scribblings and blogging about how the world is changing us, the world changed drastically. Trump won the election.

I saw it coming, like a huge storm cloud crossing the bay, but I hoped it would blow over. It didn’t. Now, I am working hard to overcome the feeling that no matter what I say, or what sixteen thousand professors, and seventy thousand scientists and researchers who have studied human behavior, genetics, economics, political science, climatology, epidemiology, sociology, bio-chemistry, and so many other disciplines tell us about how the world works and what to expect, most people are not listening. More people can name the judges on Dancing with the Stars, but not the Supreme Court. Most people can’t tell the difference if a story came from Fox News, The Wall Street journal, Medium, The New York Times, or a Russian hacker.

But, I may be beginning to get over it. I may be getting ready to find ways to communicate with people who disagree with me, and not be cynical or incredulous. I know that most people want to live good, secure, interesting lives surrounded by the people they care about. I just hope to find ways to expand the circle of the people they care about. We are all in this together, and we are more interconnected than ever.

So, for now, I will keep blogging, among other activities. I just don’t think of it as “writing.”

I have been mumbling almost incoherently in response to life's problems for a long, long time. Contact me at djbermont@gmail.com