Zeitgeist – I love that word. I love that aura of European sophistication that it evokes (especially given that I’m as un-European-y sophisticated as you can get). I love the literal translation as well – time ghost. It summons up all sorts of images in the mind – like some sort of white shade holding up an hourglass (I know – I’m terrifyingly literal).
I reckon it must be one of the greatest compliments any author can be given, to be told you have your ‘finger on the zeitgeist’. Surely to capture the pulse or mood of a moment in time would be a crowning achievement of any author. Think of someone like F. Scott Fitzgerald or Jack Kerouac, and how even just the mention of their names evokes memories of a particular period. What better way can there be for a writer to be remembered than as synonymous with the times they were chronicling?
Capturing that zeitgeist, that elusive spirit of time, is definitely something I aspire to as a writer. Whatever it is I write, I like to think I’m grabbing hold of something emblematic of the current times. I feel like there’s only one problem. I’m not sure that the zeitgeist I’m capturing is the one that most people are actually living through.
They say that the best way to observe the zeitgeist of a time is via the popular culture. But when I look around at what is on offer, I don’t see anybody doing what I’m doing. The things I’m concerned about don’t seem to be the things most other creators have the slightest interest in. The books I see getting published, the movies up on the big screen (at least back in the day when you could actually see a movie on the big screen), the shows on television (most of which now seem to be streamed, rather than broadcast) bear little resemblance to the sorts of ideas that whiz through my mind.
Sometimes, as I observe popular culture, I wonder if the zeitgeist they’re capturing is the same one I’m capturing. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m living in a completely different time from everybody else.
So what does that say about the whole concept of zeitgeist? I have no idea. What does that say about me as a writer? I have even less idea. All I can hope for is that maybe someday, my writing and whatever passes for the current zeitgeist may converge. It could be that I’ll catch up to it, or maybe it will catch up to me.
Either way, it would be a most splendid thing if my odd little comically-fantastic stories somehow become emblematic of these odd little comically-fantastic times.
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