welcome to the personal website of peter varnum
My writing lives here.
Hello, and welcome. This is a place for my writing to sit unadulterated.
I’ve written personally for years, but as I began to write publicly, I was swept into the world of “optimization.” This started during my years at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, where the writing team coached “clickable” content. In a separate blogging brainstorm meeting, people kicked around the idea of formatting articles differently, breaking up text with subheadings and images.
This thinking results in the “listicles” you have seen all over the internet. Legitimate news outlets have added dot points at the beginning of their articles in case you just want the “TL;DR” version.
I believe it is a problem that people think even medium-sized articles are “too long,” and that their time is so stretched that they “didn’t read” the full thing. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for dot points and lists. I believe in those at the right time too (you’ll see some below).
But writing, at its core, is about more than just communicating happenings (and even if it were, dot points wouldn’t be enough). It is about painting a picture of context with words, connecting the reader to those words or, with luck, to something deep within themselves. It is about a writer finding his or her voice, sharpening that voice, and displaying the result in a sort of prepared vulnerability. Many friends and colleagues shared with me the comfort they took, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, in reading a well-crafted thought piece that took them 20 minutes to read. This as opposed to doom-scrolling through Twitter.
“Prepared vulnerability” is what this site is about: sharing with you my nakedness in a way that also strengthens myself. I have prepared these words through the personal exercise of years of reflection, the creative exercise of putting them to paper, and the intellectual exercise of revising them so they may land with a reader. And in that process I bare myself; I make myself vulnerable to you. I am honest and emotional by nature. I have learned to lean in to these qualities as assets rather than conform to an implicit demand that I steel myself for the world because I am a man.
My stories are worth sharing. And they are mine. They may sit elsewhere on the internet too, but they live here.
what my writing is about
- Mental health: my own experience; the field of global mental health; the social determinants of (mental) health; and the narrative taking place around mental health in different parts of the world.
- How I think about issues: of race; of privilege; of values; of behaving in accordance with what I believe.
- Readings that have inspired me: articles and books that make me think differently; authors I follow; and the mindless stuff I used to be ashamed to admit I read (e.g. legal thrillers and ESPN).
What my writing isn’t about
- “Building a community:” I’m not trying to become a guru of anything. I’m not trying to build a movement. I’m trying to share my thoughts and stories, because I think they are worth sharing. If you think so too, please share this site with others.
- I’m going against every rule out there by not allowing comments on my pieces. If you truly want to engage with me in a discussion about a topic, email me. I’ll do my best to engage with you that way.
- The decision on comments may change in the future. As I start out, this decision is about ensuring the writing is what matters, not an obsession with traffic and engagement. I’m also uninterested in dealing with trolls, mostly for self-protection right now.
- I realize this limits group discussion. That’s okay; some of my writing is published elsewhere, and there can be discussion about it there.
- Superimposing my life’s experience onto others: I write with the knowledge that my experiences are unique to me. Some thoughts and feelings may resonate with you, others may not. It is not my intention to communicate “the way things are” simply because that is the way things are for me.
Some stock photos.