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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

I hate this timeline…

During lockdown — which I began in mid-March, before the UK (where I live) officially locked down, and pretty much continue to this day — I have been on a roller coaster of emotional reaction. Some days I’m not too bad, feel like I get productive work done, and manage to conjure up a relative optimism about at least my own personal future, if not that of the world at large. More often, I end up doomscrolling on Twitter, getting bogged down in the horrific news roiling both the UK and the US (my home), and ending up so distracted and depressed that I cannot concentrate on writing.

This makes me nuts, because I know I should be taking advantage of this comparative downtime to catch up on all the work I need to do here — from hacking away at an ever-growing backlog of reviews to backend admin stuff that there’s never time for — as well as getting going on all the new movie-related projects I want to do, plus the fiction that is ready to burst out of my head, if only I could sit down and work on it.

This becomes a seesaw, too: I have to acknowledge to myself that I am a sensitive and politically aware person living through a cultural cataclysm, and that is inevitably going to be somewhat distracting. I have to remind myself that writing and publishing three feature-length reviews in a week — as I did this past week — is a tremendous output… or would have been, in a time before the Internet, with its insatiable appetite for content. And yet I still end up feeling wildly inadequate. Like a failure. Like if I could just figure out how to game this new digital world, as some people seem to have managed, I would be doing all right.

(When I first moved to London, almost 10 years ago, I befriended — as in, we’d chat amiably at screenings — an older male critic who had been working for a major London newspaper for absolute ages. If I remember correctly, he may have already been aware of who I was, and had already been reading my work before we met. He told me that his job was basically a two-and-a-half-day-a-week gig — go to a few screenings, write a few reviews — for which he got paid a near six-figure salary. I’ll never forget the unfairness of how this entire industry had changed between his career — he retired years ago, and probably his situation would not have endured much longer anyway — and mine. My income is six figures only if you count the figures to the right of the decimal. *sigh*)

Anyway: I’m not looking for pity or reassurance or cookies or anything like that. I’m just explaining why I am behind on everything, and reassuring you that I feel hella guilty that I feel like I’m letting my loyal readers down. I’ll likely have an upswing soon, and get back on track.

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maryann rants
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