An essay about feeling down, but not out. Also, Situation Normal turns 3!
The optimistic opposite of flat is multi-dimensional. You are many faceted. You just have to let one of the facets take the wheel. The others will help steer.
Congratulations on your third anniversary, Michael (they used to be called Blogversaries, maybe they still are). Here’s to your next 40,000 subscribers, dude!
I’ve only been subscribed for a short time, but you can count me among your biggest fans. I don’t come here for jokes, because you’ve made me cry too. Call it honesty, whatever it is, you’re just a damn good writer.
Anyone who writes humor (or anything, probably) knows that flat feeling. At least, I do. I can’t force funny. And stress/feeling down/burned out is the funny killer.
Fortunately, I don’t write epic, funny, intelligent essays about my life each week like some Substack writing wizards do. Instead, I knock out short (often humorous) fiction and “one minute wit.” And slap three of them into a newsletter once per week. And keep my day job. I have a fairly large stockpile of stories and “one minute wit” nuggets in a Scrivener file. So it is easy for me to schedule several weeks ahead and slay the deadline dragon. Then there is almost no pressure to write. I can wait until I am inspired. I also currently write a serial but I post chapters whenever I write them. No schedule. No deadline.
I know my method of newsletter writing probably isn’t helpful to you (or very lucrative. 🤨) But taking breaks helps me, also. Walking is a great idea generator and soul refresher for me too. Or I focus on other creativity (mostly music) when writing feels flat. Beats cleaning toilets.
Anyway, congratulations on three years. It is a major accomplishment. 🤓
Oh yes!! Thank you Michael! I feel flat a lot when it comes to writing. I’m newish on Substack (but not new as a writer). Fascinating to see that procrastinating and writer’s block are BIG consistent themes here. I guess that makes me feel better or more relaxed or something. Glad you posted this week!
1. When I’m feeling flat--and I love your word for this feeling--I get in the shower and sing/ howl or get outside and take a long walk in the woods. Or I go to a coffee shop or another public place to surround myself with people energy, even if I don’t feel like it. Key is to get out of your own head and shake, or wash, off the flats.
3. A new font?
4. Cleaning the toilet is crap.
I just want to say that I loved this essay and I think it was one of your best and most relatable. I'm so glad you wrote about the feeling of flatness. If anything, it just demonstrates how great a writer you are. You make flat interesting!
Love your jokes but also love to read your serious thoughts. Thanks for sharing.
Hey flat friend! My metaphor in this flatfeeling is what I call "Fried Egg Syndrome" - you know when you're thirsty, but you don't drink water because your body is on another planet even though your brain is saying, "I AM THIRSTY," but by the time you finally drink water, it's too late? Because your brain is tired, and you are a fried egg? That's feeling "flat" for me.
I also learned recently that there's a psychological term for this: interoception. When our minds say we should do something, our bodies naturally respond. When interception is blocked (from excess stress), we dissolve from the mind-body connection.
1. I too feel flat these days, and I know we're not alone. I don't think there's a quick or even temporary fix. You just keep going and eventually the vibe shifts.
2. I don't have time for such luxuries.
3. Fancy podcast microphone.
4. I listen to The Economist in audio while cleaning my bathrooms. Strong recommendation.
5. Only when the liar gets caught.
7. Yep. Really good production value. I can hear the Todd effect.
1. Of course - I often feel flat. Usually I sit in it until I get fed up with myself, then I put one word after another until I have something. Or I play with my grandson.
2. I’ll get back to you.
3. Something from Fisher-Price. A third birthday is a third birthday.
4. I usually sing; something soulful, or “Barnacle Bill The Sailor.”
5. Yes, when it’s held up to truth. See the scene between Mel Brooks and Bea Arthur in “History of the World Part One.”
6. Ah, using the “Dobrenko Blank Space,” eh?
7. I began. I will continue. I’m procrastinating.
Happy 3rd birthday to SN! Imho I don't think it matters if you're flat or bumpy or hexagonal, the most important thing is you keep showing up for your ppl/readers! That is a major achievement. Also these are freaky deaky times. Maybe being flat is a sign of yr sanity or relatively good mental health. Anyway, I am cheering for you: & I wrote a v nice review abt yr new podcast on Apple podcast app, using that cool link you provided at top of newsletter. HBD, rock on.
That flat feeling is one I recognize. It's best not to fake it so I'm glad you wrote about it. In my own life, periods like this one usually precede a surge of creativity or a new turn in direction. It's as though the psyche is going into brief hibernation where we empty out and let things be quiet..it's not always pleasant to come face to face with myself at these times. When it breaks though, I can usually see and hear with new appreciation. I appreciate this post very much. Congratulations on your Substack birthday! I will listen to my first Estrin story on the podcast tonight.
You’re not alone Michael! I’ve been feeling flat too. The whole world feels flat 🌏 (but not actually, very round indeed).
We are here to PUMP YOU UP!! Just kidding. Flat is ok. It makes the non-flat days that much better. Speaking of flat, I did the opposite of flat today. I hiked up some major hills, more like steep ass sides of mountains. I could hardly wait to get to the flat part. So, sometimes you wish for flat. And flat is actually better than the hills--especially if you're going up. I'm not funny, but you are even when you're flat and not a hill. Hills are to die on. You don't want to go to the hill. Stay on the flat. There's always next week! And happy third birthday!!! WOOT WOOT! It gives me hope that if you keep at it the readers will come. Congratulations.
I know flat. I hear you. Flat for a month. Avoid the news. 🙏
“people read Situation Normal because they trust me to tell the truth, and OK sure, the truth is funny, or rather, it’s funny because it’s true, but really, the main thing is that it has to be true, above all else.”
This is EXACTLY right, ME. And I enjoyed this week’s post as much as any of your others, because of what you said here.
But I do also feel flat and I very much relate to this post because I’ve been struggling with the very same thing: my newsletter has taken on a “funny” quality, and my readers seem to love that about it, which then makes me feel like I have to keep being funny, and turn into a funny factory, but the truth is, I don’t always feel funny. Your post this week is a good lesson for me: give the people what you’ve got. If it’s authentic to you, it’ll be well-received. And also, even your post on being flat had some amusing tones to it.
So, thank you for your honesty. I got more from it than you probably ever intended, and isn’t that nice? 😊
I felt so much of this today, Michael. Our spirits process life's ebb and flow in a similar "real shit" way, it seems.
1. I do. But I call it feeling Grey. Or Gray. Not kidding, I look up what spelling is correct every time and the internet always tells me "both." Either way, I've been in a stretch of Greigh lately. Hoping to bust out of it soon. I plan to clean out my closet today. So... I get that part of putting off the work doing something valuable. I GET IT, man.
2. Yes and no. I'm a catastrophizer, so I see a project's failure before I even start. That causes temporary paralysis during which I can't take any steps forward on a project. It's annoying AF, as you can imagine.
3. I support the giving of cake and socks. Happy birthday, SITCH NORMZ!
4. I think about how I'm the only one in my house who thought the toilet needed to be cleaned, and how disturbing that is, given the state of the toilet when I get to cleaning it.
5. I'm a truth teller, too. Lies feel like pranks to me. Both make me very uncomfortable. Meanwhile, I lie to myself without shame all the time. But those lies aren't very funny. Just mean.
6. He-man. It was awkward, but we got over it. Eventually.
7. Duh squared. 💜