Ebb and flow.. what a weird combination of words.

Alec Zaffiro
3 min readMar 12, 2020


There’s an ebb and flow to writing — well, there’s an ebb and flow to everything, right? Ebb and flow.. what a weird combination of words.

First off, what’s an ebb? I wonder why no squiggly, red line appears after I type it. Definitely seems like not a word. Ebb.

With writing, I struggle with the idea that I need to say something profound. Like something super important, and crucial to the entire existence of mankind.

I want to change the world.

I really do and I think I can. I know I’m capable. A song goes “one man can change the wooorld” and I’ve heard it, so I know it’s possible.

But when people ask “how,” I fold.

Questions are powerful.

I have a love / hate relationship with questions. (call it an ebb and flow?) I love asking questions, but I don’t love answering questions because answering questions is hard; it forces you to think and be precise and zero-in on why things are the way they are. That’s hard.

It’s much easier to ponder the what-ifs and what-could-bes because generalization and ambiguity lack specificity. Being open and creative, is more fun than being serious and practical. Duh.

So when someone asks me how I intend to change the world, I get bummed out. I come face-to-face with the reality I have no clue how to change the world. I can’t answer this very well which represents my readiness to handle it. Or lack thereof.

I could say “for the better.”

As in “I want to change the world for the better.

That’s an important distinction, yeah. I could change the world with murder, fire, and mass destruction — but that’s not really the impact I intend to have. So “for the better” is at least somewhat useful, but it raises more questions.

With writing, I like to answer questions and solve problems.

It feels counterproductive to plan the question and answer before thinking about it. Writing is that thinking and it’s how you solve problems you’re interested in figuring out. By thinking.

Sometimes, I take on stories I feel ready to answer. But those stories suck in comparison to the stories where I don’t know what the end looks like.

This is one of those.

I’m literally getting to the bottom of this. The bottom being the end of this story where I come out with a better understanding of what I think about this ebb and flow thing.

What’s funny is we all have questions inside us that need answering. They’re really hard to get to though. It takes a culmination of time, energy, and focus which, if you haven’t noticed, a lot of things are competing for your time, energy, and focus.


There’s no room for divided attention when writing. Otherwise, you never get to the root.

I have many questions I may never answer fully.

Why am I so fearful? Am I useful? Why is it hard for me to love? Why is my job set up the way it is? Why is it hard to say what I’m thinking? Why am I single?

I have lots of questions.

Notice the nature. A lot of me’s and my’s and I’s. The most pertinent questions are that of the individual. They’re predicated on my existence in light of all the unfathomable amount of data points in my life.

I could explain why these are questions, but they are questions.

The ebb and flow thing.

With writing, I get in the habit of attempting to answer questions that don’t matter — not to me, which means not to anyone else either.

The problem is I think they matter to other people. I fall into the game of wanting to seem smart and insightful and write something that’ll get high praise.

But it undermines the reason for writing in the first place. Which is to think and to think something useful. Sometimes I just need to unapologetically think.



Alec Zaffiro

I write to think and organize my ideas. I like psychology, philosophy, and self-improvement—em dashes are my specialty. Not an expert.*