My first memory was of whorls of dust circling a soundless explosion in the darkness; falling toward that fire as other primal motes coalesced into my siblings. A long while later, I realized that I was circling closer and closer to an inevitable end, when the particles that had so improbably found one another to form my body would be disintegrated. I sped through the void, a meteor suffering from the twin curses of consciousness and longevity. My orbit was not stable. It wobbled ever so slightly on its ellipse, and would one day plunge me into another orbiting body.
In the last moments as I neared oblivion the dense silence was broken: I heard a voice; and another, and one after that.
Ten years ago I was hit in the face with a pint glass. I was in a pub in Sydney and it was around three o' clock in the morning. The night ended with some broken bones in my hand, an emergency room visit, and an interesting cab around nine am.
Three and a half years ago I decided that if I was ever going to be a writer I would have to, you know, nail my ass to a chair and write. I figured I'd give myself five years to make this little hobby of mine a real thing. I also took Ira Glass's famous quote about creative work to heart and acknowledged that it would be a very long time before my writing didn't suck.
Nearly every time I find out that I’ve been reviewed I read it with my hands over my face, peeking between my fingers. I’m sure that the reviewer will have seen everything that is wrong about what I’ve done, that I’ll be flayed alive, shamed forever. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out like that. As it turns out, people seem to like my shorts. At least enough to be an Editor’s Pick at Blog Critics, in this review by Sheri Hoyte:
. . . fascinating collection of short stories sure to engross readers through multiple levels of entertainment satisfaction. The stories span the genres, and with elements of horror, urban fantasy, contemporary fiction, and humor, the anthology has something for all literary tastes.
Hear that? “Multiple levels of entertainment satisfaction.” I can only take that to mean that I satisfy like a snickers bar, bitches.
The writing is nothing short of brilliant, and the straightforward clever dialogue of the characters and dramatically depicted scenes engage the reader completely from the first story to the last.
Please go read it. I have crippling narcissism and crave your approval. Plus, the review goes on to say even more lovely things.
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. It is dwarfed by ancient city of Angkor Thom which is just next door and sprawls over nine square kilometers. Standing amongst the colossal four-faced towers of Prasat Bayon it is easy to imagine living in a time where the fantastic was a part of every day life, when people weren't so sure the bumps in the night could be rationally explained away—unless of course those rational explanations included water spirits.
The Shinkansen looks like a Boeing business jet stripped of wings and stretched long. The seats are wide with ample room to recline. A waitress dutifully attends to your car, passing out all manner of snack. The bathrooms have toilets that will wash your ass with a laser focused stream of water only to bathe you in warm air until dry. To feel uncivilized as an American in Japan is to be an Acela rider stepping onto a bullet train for the first time.
THE NIGHT TRAIN pulled into Jaipur city station at a little past eight in the evening. Laura, me, and my buddy Kevin boarded in Delhi the day before. As we step off, a young man in a black shirt says, “Need a ride?”
"Hard work is its own reward." That's the sort of thing you hear a lot if you grow up around working class people. Probably a lot elsewhere too, but that's my point of reference.
Oh McSweeny’s, you’ve done it again.
Have you ever dreamed of being a “writer”? Of course, you have! Doctors don’t make as much as they used to and we no longer go into space! What choice do you have? Besides, math was never really your thing. Well then, why not become a content creator for Galaxos Online Publishing?
We pay $15 per piece of content, whether it be a well-cited, thoroughly researched 5,000-word essay or ten captions under fair-use photos, so, y’know, more bang for your buck with the photos. Also no one reads essays, so win-win.
It’s really a funny read, written by a talented comic writer. It’s also true that making a living as a writer is pretty difficult. There was, according to popular mythology, a period in the mid 20th century where an apocryphal white fella (no browns or ladies, this was the 1900s) with a typewriter could earn himself a decent middle class income pounding out sports columns or 6k word adventure shorts or something. Then the Internet happened and everybody got a blog and content became cheap and now people like me are just forced to write shit for free.
However, at the beginning of this Internet thing there was a (golden?) period where people who had the tech savvy, the access, and the motivation to become bloggers could use that first-mover advantage to turn their writing into an actual living—even women and people who don’t need to slather themselves in 50spf to avoid cancer. That period took a little over a decade to pass. Some of those first-movers really ended up with long term careers, it did happen! For literally tens of people!
Don’t fret. It’s still possible to make a living while writing. You just have to be creative—and as a writer that’s what you do, right? Try any of the following:
- Move to a cheap developing nation and write for ViceFeed or whatever. You get ten years max before it’ll be too expensive, plan accordingly: developing implies progress. Nobody said geographic arbitrage was easy.
- Be born rich. This one works super well and has been working super well ever since that Iraqi trust fund prick wrote Gilgamesh.
- Get a really good job for like half your adult life then take several years off to write, only returning sporadically to work, filling the gas tank for another few months at a time. Retire in poverty. (I’ll let you know how this one turns out.)
Or you could have a normal job and write in the mornings or evenings or the weekends. Like, as a hobby. You know how some weird fuckers build massive model train sets in their basements? Or knit quilts? Or raise chickens? Like that. Even cooler, you could publish your work on a blog or on your Facebook wall or in agonizingly long tweetstorms. People might even read it! Because you, like a full 21% of the world’s population, probably have a social media account filled with your friends. Friends are wonderful. They’re patient and a lot of them will read the things you write just because they like you and that’s pretty sweet.
You could also spend your time writing hottakes on clever humor pieces, intentionally missing the point like the worthless content-suckling Internet ouroboros that you are.
Stop me if you’ve heard this, but I fancy myself a writer. It has its moments, for sure. There are times that I sit down and pound a keyboard like Ben Stiller playing Jerry Stahl in Permanent Midnight (high five to the three people who saw that movie.) I’m talking about a full on state of ecstatic madness. Slamming keys, staring straight up at the ceiling, glancing back later to see a few hundred words of GOLD. Fucking gold, I tell you.
Then I have to connect it to something, usually a story. According to the rules, one of those has to have:
- A beginning
- A middle
- An end
Blame Aristotle. Anyway, that’s the bare minimum. In addition to that, I’ve discovered to my chagrin that a story also needs to have characters and tension and some kind of cohesive theme that ties everything together. So after watching my word count shoot sky high, I have to go back and make sure that every word that I’ve fingerpooped onto the page acts in some way to reinforce movement or characterization or theme or some other such thing.
I can’t claim to have figured it out or anything, really but I’ll tell you what works for me: writing around it. It goes like this: read and re-read what I’ve written, pull out my notebook, and write about what happens next. I don’t write a bunch of questions like “What if the police captain had a talking tapeworm?” I write things like “The police detective’s tapeworm starts talking about how many drugs he’s been taking.” (Actually that’s what I would do if I was Irvine Welsh because that little scenario is in Filth which is a wonderful book that you should read.)
But the point remains. For some reason, putting pen to paper and writing about what happens next seems to be a pretty effective way for me to waddle through those vast expanses where I really don’t have any fucking clue what I’m doing.
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