Saturday, 22 November 2014

Leaving the zeitgeist for somebody else

Don't you love that word, zeitgeist?

To be honest, I'm never quite sure if I've pronounced it correctly. Is it more like zitegist or zeetgeest? Or zitegeest or zeetgiste? Oh well, as long as I don't have to say it. I know how to write it. And I think I have a rough idea of how to use it.

It always seems to be like a compliment that people pay to writers. Especially writers who are new and hip and happening. I suppose it must be one of the biggest accolades that any up-and-coming writer could receive - that they've really captured the spirit of our times in their writing - they've really captured the zeitgeist.

It's a funny kind of thing. Who decides what the spirit of our times is in the first place? Who has the faintest idea what this zeitgeist thingy actually is? I know I don't. And I'm not even sure that I want to try.

I sometimes feel like I'm working a bit out of time. That my stories exist outside the era that I'm working in, beyond any particularly modern influences. I know that's not true. We're all influenced by the here and now, and the things that are happening around us. But I often feel like I'm in a bit of a bubble, protected from some of the dominant aspects of culture that seem to be a big deal for most other people.

Do I have a problem with that? Not at all. Maybe I'm never going to be acclaimed as the "it now" writer who is capturing the spirit of the times, but so what? Times change. Spirits change. It's easy to be left behind. I like to think I'm creating stories with more of a timeless nature. Hopefully, people will be able to come back to them years later and not find them dated or linked to a specific time.

So I'm off now to write another story which, I hope, will live on for a long time after me. As for capturing the zeitgeist? Well, I'm more than happy to leave that to somebody else.


  1. Zeitgeist is like fashion: once most of us have cottoned onto it the trendsetters have all moved on. I’m like you, I live in my own wee world and there’re windows where I can look out at the real world which I do from time to time and wonder at it but mostly I turn my desk to the wall and get on with my work. I think it’s cool when an author or a musician can produce something that captures an era—Douglas Coupland’s Generation X or Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit—but these’re flukes. Think of any decade of your life and there’ll be touchstones. Did John Lydon have a clue when he was sitting at the kitchen table penning God Save the Queen and eating beans on toast that he was writing history? God, no.

  2. I think that an artist does what they feel moved to do, and that it's always because they felt that was what they should do at the time. A good marketer makes an active attempt to catch a particular wave in order for their creative process to be more targeted toward the end goal of a pocket full of cash. Either approach or a combination is equally valid. It's probably a fickle society that determines who and what creative endeavors truly capture the spirit of the times.

    Did Shakespeare aim to capture the moment or...did he do his best and later, after the imagination dust settled, people looked at what he'd accomplished and said, "Holly crap, Will, that's awesome!"

    The important part is doing the work. Which you do and you do it well. You're published, you've created good work, and that's pretty excellent. I appreciate what you do because imagination crafted into words and pictures is magical and the skill and effort you put into it are gifts to the world. Pretty cool stuff. Thanks.