The Last Think Piece

After 25 years, I’m retiring from ‘takes’

Meghan Daum
GEN
Published in
6 min readDec 16, 2020

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Illustration: Mark Pernice

For roughly the last 25 years, I have lived in a constant state of trying to have an opinion. I’m not talking about opinions of the “I’m not much for art deco” or “I like this lasagna more than that lasagna” variety. I’m talking about opinions about politics and culture and, most of all, other opinions. I’m talking about opinions that need to be as original as possible and also adhere to any number of prescribed requirements when it comes to word length, tone, and timeliness. Since my mid-twenties and in publications from Self to the Los Angeles Times to the one you’re reading right now, I have been consigned to produce such pieces on a particular schedule — weekly, biweekly, monthly — regardless of whether I have anything to say at all.

Do you know what it’s like to be forced to say something when you don’t have anything to say? It’s like having the dry heaves. You sit at your computer, desperately typing out words and phrases that, in opinion pieces, commonly precede actual points.

In the age of Trump, this means ___

More and more, we’re seeing an American consciousness that ___

While this may have nothing to do with TK, the fact is that TK is the driving force behind TK.

You feel queasy, but no relief comes. Your body convulses. Your throat clenches. Still, nothing comes out. Meanwhile, the continuum of stress-inducing professional accountability looms over you like an overcrowded shelf poised to topple its contents on your head. If you don’t think of something to say, you won’t finish the piece. If you don’t finish the piece, the piece won’t be published. If the piece isn’t published you don’t get paid. If you don’t get paid, you go broke and your life falls apart.

In other words, if you can’t adhere to a fixed schedule of saying something original in anywhere between 700 and 2,000 words your life will fall apart.

To live this way is to essentially walk around with a maple tap that you’re ready to jab into any person, place, or thing that might provide fodder for material. That acquaintance who happens to be some kind of expert on brain science? You can’t stand him, but when he suggests having lunch you agree in the hopes that he might…

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Meghan Daum
GEN
Writer for

Weekly blogger for Medium. Host of @TheUnspeakPod. Author of six books, including The Problem With Everything. www.theunspeakablepodcast.com www.meghandaum.com