Inspired | November-December 2021

Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in November and December: writing without distraction, the future of movies, rethinking staircases, and more. (Links marked with ($) may be behind a paywall.)

“Should I Just Give Up on My Writing?” by Heather Havrilesky: “And if you care too much about success as a marker of worth while losing your connection to the work itself, you wind up jittery and dissatisfied. Because your real job as a writer (and as a person) is to live right here, right now, without measuring your relative importance in the world.”

Twitter Is The Worst Reader by Fonda Lee: “Twitter removes the trust between writer and reader by flattening meaning to the single most offensive understanding and proliferating that version alone.”

Can “Distraction-Free” Devices Change the Way We Write? ($) by Julian Lucas: “But focus mode on an everything device is a meditation room in a casino. What good is it to separate writing from editing, formatting, and cluttered interfaces if you can’t separate it from the Internet?”

The Movies Are Gonna Be All Right by Bilge Ebiri

To be clear, this isn’t about whether we can or should enjoy movies at home. Of course we can! It’s about whether movies should be enjoyed only at home. Because if theaters die out, that’s what we’re getting whether we like it or not. And cinema cannot survive without theaters. Without them, it becomes TV, a completely different art form.

Why Biopics Are Bad For Acting by Kayleigh Donaldson

Because the expectations of the biopic are so narrow and heavily commodified, the actors involved don’t really get a chance to be actors. They have to be impersonators, the big-budget equivalent of a Vegas drag show or a TikTok deepfake. To stray away from the agonizingly specific tics of their subject is to “do a bad job.” The actor has to look exactly like the real-life person or they will face cries that they’re not playing them properly. What that typically leads to is a hell of a lot of prosthetics. The obsession over aesthetic overwhelms the basic tenets of creating a lived-in character.

How Leisure Time Became Work ($) by Shirley Li : “The rise of the attention economy, which encourages optimizing everything a person does toward efficiency, accelerated our tendency to engage with our hobbies in a worklike, data-driven way.”

Has Witch City Lost Its Way? by Kathryn Miles

Even if we accept that it’s a good thing for witches to be making bank, is Salem the right place for that? Are witch-themed boutiques and events the best way to consecrate the site of a human rights atrocity, to honor and teach the history of what happened here? Or does it only confuse the history instead of enlightening people about the past?

The Single-Staircase Radicals Have a Good Point by Henry Grabar

Cut out one of those staircases, and you can cut out the corridor, too. Narrower sites are suddenly in play. Construction costs go down. The ratio of “rentable” space in a building goes up, which makes development cheaper. That in turn can translate into lower rents or more flexible designs. Two or three units a floor is suddenly more economical, which makes the stairway a more intimate, closely shared space. Family-size units. Units where the living room faces south to the sun and the street and the bedrooms face north to the quiet shade. 

What’s the most interesting thing you read recently?