I'm back

And I'm clawing my way out of a creative desert

Kinsey Grant
March 14, 2022

Hi there! It’s been a while since we last spoke and truthfully I’m nervous to jump back into your inbox. Writing this email, I can identify a familiar feeling—it’s the same one I got recently before seeing a dear friend I owed an apology. It’s excitement, I think, for the return of something that makes you feel full and happy, but also apprehension. What if it’s not the same way it used to be?

Kinsey, this is literally your personal independent newsletter,” you might be thinking. “Nervous is a weird thing to feel right now.” And you’d be right to think that. Nervous is a weird thing to feel right now—but I’ll attempt to (as briefly as possible) explain why I feel that way.

What do you do when your wheels keep spinning and spinning?

My team hosted a small get-together for some New York-based creators last week. While silently wondering to myself is this a pilsner or did the bartender give me an IPA because this really tastes hoppy for a pilsner but she’s so busy I don’t need to ask I’ll just drink it, an old connection walked up to introduce a fellow journalist he’d brought along. In facilitating the connection with some career highlights, he said, “Kinsey started writing these incredible emails about a year ago.” He then turned to me and asked when those “raw, honest” emails might return.

Cue a laugh, shrug, and small rash of nervous hives. Soon, I said, unsure whether I was telling the truth.

My emails haven’t been raw or honest or, really, existent outside my imagination for a while. I used to write things that made me feel like I was contributing to something larger than just the dreaded d-word (discourse). I asked questions about institutional trust and religion and the value of information and truth. And I felt so good doing it.

The morning after my friend at the bar asked when I might get back to “raw, honest” emails, I returned to read an email I sent on April 9, 2021, almost a year ago, to see what might have changed since last spring. It felt like looking at a picture from your teen years—you know you’re better at, like, everything now, but you recognize what a gift that time in your life was.

In that email sent almost one year ago were the words of someone who, yes, had far less on her plate, but who was also unabashedly creative and perceptive and excited. I like that version of myself. 

So I’m bringing her back. I'm writing today to say that I was, in fact, telling the truth when I said my "raw and honest" emails were returning soon.

I am endeavoring here and now (hello, accountability buddies) to navigate myself out of this creative desert I’ve been in for about the last six months. I’m not the only one who feels deeply burned out. I’m not the only one who feels like her words are futile when the world is on fire both literally and figuratively. I’m not the only one who fears needlessly contributing to the noise.

But I’ve permitted those fears and feelings to be too limiting for too long. Creativity and perceptiveness and excitement like that I see in my old essays are muscles, and I’ve let mine atrophy. I’m done with that now. It’s time to put in the work to feel good about what I write again.

So I will be returning to my weekly emails. These weekly check-ins might have something to do with what I’m talking about on Thinking Is Cool. Or they might not. They might be about nothing. They might be short or they might be long. Who knows.

This is a long-winded way of communicating that I’m back, baby. Since the start, I’ve wanted Thinking Is Cool to stay true to its experimental roots—it’s time to honor the ethos of curiosity by trying new things (and bringing back old things that were good).

I’m focusing a great deal of my time on YouTube, where my first full video episode will debut this week. I’m keeping the podcast alive and well with the same content YouTube sees first in case you prefer audio to visual. I’m writing more newsletters. I’m making a metric shitload of TikToks because despite my earlier misgivings about being a 27-year-old woman who pencils in “TikTok time” on her work calendar, it’s actually really fun.

I’m shaking off the seasonal affective disorder, getting my creative groove back, and enjoying every minute of it. And I'm not eating frozen cookie dough and tortilla chip crumbs for lunch anymore. Not to get all early 2000s rom-com on you, but life isn’t a dress rehearsal and wheel-spinning can only be forgiven for so long.

With that, welcome (welcome back?) to my journal. Time to get “raw and honest” again.

I mean, that was kind of raw and honest so I’m counting it as this week’s piece.

But I also wanted to share some thoughts I’d promised a bit ago about *gestures to everything* the state of the world right now. I’ve been firmly in the “I don’t know how to process this” camp as I work to understand what’s happening in Ukraine.

I’ve mostly had more questions than answers. To name a few: What must it be like in Russia right now? How do people like Putin come to power? Where does this once-in-a-lifetime event fall on the Richter scale we millennials have for all the other once-in-a-lifetime events we’ve lived through? Do white people only care about humanitarian crises when other white people are targeted? At what point will we know the full impact that watching a war play out on social media will have on our brains? When might this end?

I’ve been weary of posting too much about what’s going on, as I’m very publicly not an expert on literally anything, but especially not an expert on geopolitics and oligarchical paradigms. So instead of posturing as one, I’ve been talking about what I know about: the internet.

I made some videos: one about sanctions, one about economic warfare, one about Brittney Griner and the internet’s game of favorites, one about influencers posting perfectly Canva-designed infographics about the Russian invasion of Ukraine followed by a paid promotion for Juicy Couture.

The last one is the one that has challenged me to think the most (perhaps that’s unsurprising given my line of work and penchant for parasocial relationships). I think it’s because I find myself wondering if my relative silence as compared to the influencers' relative noisiness reads as complicity? It isn’t—I just don’t want to speak out of turn. I don’t want to repost some infographic activism to tick a box. I want to inform and be informed. But I’m so afraid of doing the wrong thing.

I wonder if that fear speaks to the expectations we place upon people with platforms, regardless of what their subject matter expertise might be. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and here’s what I think:

We shouldn’t expect 100% reliable news 100% of the time from anyone other than reliable news publishers. The expectations we place on public personalities are already astronomically high, and asking them to now take up the mantle as geopolitical pundits and reporters in addition to influencers and tastemakers? It’s setting ourselves up for failure. It’s feeding the false information machine.

So let’s not. Instead, let’s turn to the professionals. You may not like the capital M Media, but this is quite literally what they’ve been training for. This is news, and in news, truth is often a more valuable currency than audience.

As such, in lieu of my oft-uttered “I’m not sure, I saw something about it on TikTok,” I’ve been turning to these resources for information (read: the most accurate news and analysis I can source in a sea of who the f*ck knows what’s going on) regarding Ukraine:

  • The DealBook newsletter. Andrew Ross Sorkin is a journalist with what I think appears to be a real fervor for accountability (I would know—he once publicly held me accountable for something I absolutely deserved to be held accountable for on Twitter). His team’s coverage, which skews a bit more business-y, has been really clear and reliable for me.
  • Dirt. This newsletter is a marvel of the internet and I’ve come to really love everything about it, but the Russia/Ukraine coverage has been particularly spectacular. The sanctions explainer they did on March 8 should be required reading for anyone with a Twitter account.
  • Garbage Day. This newsletter, written by Ryan Broderick, is one that I’m sure many deeply intelligent people who work in digital spaces will recommend. My inclusion of it on this list might not be original, but it is warranted—Ryan has such precisely articulated, original ideas.

I’m also reading the classics (translation: sometimes, in moderation, looking to the “real time updates” tabs on sites for the NYT, WSJ, WaPo, and the rest of the buttoned-up news brigade—trying times and all).

But there's space to expand this list! So if you’ve found a resource or writer or collection of ideas that’s helped you to grapple with today’s reality, I’d love to hear from you. 

Thank you for reading today! I hope you have a creative, fulfilling week. Subscribe to my YouTube channel!! Alright that’s all TTYL! And by L, I mean probably later this week.

-Kinsey

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What if we all stopped to think a little harder? To have conversations with each other? What might the world look like? I’m Kinsey Grant and together, we’re gonna find out.

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