I am a big fan of writing, I love reading great writing regardless of whether I agree with it or not and I truly believe that the best writing should be celebrated whenever found. This week MTV News effectively shut down its current operations in order to redirect its focus towards video and short form content. Basically, MTV wants to get in on the ADD quick hit industrial complex that prizes cutesy, attention-grabbing 30 second videos over actual quality and labored over writing.
This news comes on the same week that Complex’s interview series Everyday Struggle went viral over a confrontation between its host Joe Budden and Migos happened on the air. Everyday Struggle is the textbook example of everything worth hating about media today: a show where middling (at best) rapper, Joe Budden, and sentient twitter parody account, DJ Akademiks, yell at each other and at guests for any number of minutes. It is the rap version of First Take and as low brow and shameless as it is, it’s brilliant. A cranky rapper complaining about rap next to an easy punching bag isn’t intriguing or quality but it is entertaining and succeeds at inspiring both hatred and love –which work the same as far as online traffic goes. For as much as Everyday Struggle personally disgusts me, it is an indicator of where all of media is headed. Easily digestible and shameless content that focuses on “takes” and panders to large masses of people; garnering strong reactions (positive or negative) is an easy sell and good content for companies that purely want to make as much money as possible. It’s getting harder and harder for journalism and great writing to fit in this incredibly cynical climate.
I don’t know anything about teens but I know that when I was a teen I read my dad’s copies of GQ and Esquire all the time. It’s what made me want to be a writer and when the blog era began, I used Livejournal, Myspace and Blogger as my training grounds for writing longform content about music and movies. The teens of today turn to Tumblr now for the same thing. The idea that teens are not interested in good, interesting writing feels disingenuous. There’s no doubt that video content is all the rage but the two things can coexist and this latest plan to forgo good writing feels extremely cynical and dismissive of the very audience that MTV hopes to appeal to. Regardless of whether it.s video, essays or a page full of giant, flashy gifs to catch the eye and/or cause epilepsy, treating your audience like its stupid never works out in the long run. MTV News marks the second time a site that had grown dear to my heart thanks to its dedication to good writing and interesting subjects has been dissolved thanks bottom lines and money-hungry corporate execs (the first was Grantland). It’s incredibly sad and it makes you feel like there’s no point in being good at your craft when lowest common denominator trash is more talked about and coveted than the best writing out.
2017 has been the worst year for me as a freelance writer. The editors I once worked with have left their respective jobs or the new ones I talk to are either unresponsive or more fickle with who they give assignments to. Despite my snarkiness and the disdain I show towards media on Twitter, I blame no one for this but myself. Media is an extremely tough gig and it takes more than talent to stay afloat. It takes networking, insightfulness and strategy. There are a million writers out there and many of them have thought the same pitches that you have; it’s up to you to find that unique angle to set you apart and connect with the particular audience of the site you’re pitching to. Not getting work out there has been extremely difficult and frustrating but more than anything else, I miss working with good editors who made me better at what I do. That to me was the most satisfying part of the writing process: having that person there who could take your words and make them better, more thoughtful, more detailed and beautiful. I don’t know where writing online will take me or if I’ll ever break out of this funk and have my words on more sites, but I hope and pray that I will work with editors again to be better at my craft. I do not believe in accepting the new normal of easy controversy and reaction bait; I still believe being a good writer is worth it and the words of the best of us will last when all the disposable content has been forgotten.
I’ve been thinking about Twin Peaks a lot lately. I finally got around to watching it two months ago and I’ve kicked myself ever since for not watching sooner. David Lynch’s circus of soap opera, mystery, intrigue and nightmares is one of the most unique, weird, heartbreaking and beautiful things I’ve ever watched and it’s amazing that a major TV network even gave this two seasons. I’ve been sad a lot and this show, strangely, brought me a lot of comfort. See a show like this sparked the imagination and experimental switch in my head which has been like a breath of fresh air.
Part of my depression has come about because of my place in life and the fact that I want to make a living writing and make a living filming but I haven’t come close to either. There comes a point where you’re so mired in hopelessness that you question whether or not you really want this. Is it really that I just hate my job or don’t find much excitement in the thing I studied in college? Would I really care as much if I were making enough money? Maybe this really is just a phase that I haven’t quite outgrown yet. Tumblrs with snarky, C-grade humor and wordpress blogs that devolve into narcissistic vents of frustrations don’t exactly make a great writer, and if I’m not actively trying to be better, what exactly am I doing?
Then you watch something like Twin Peaks and it all comes back to you. You remember what great art and great writing can do and you revert to that child that wanted to be guided by imagination before life pounded reality into the mind. It’s the same feeling you get from a great record or a breathtaking film. I am not a great writer but I yearn to be because I obsess over great writers. I don’t strive to have the answers or know the right thing to do, I only strive to learn, keep learning and always want to learn. That’s the feeling I get from a writer like James Baldwin or Toni Morrison, from a Ta-Nahesi Coates essay or from a television show like Twin Peaks. These are people following their mind’s road–wherever that may go. I like that sense of adventure and that effortlessness to take the mind as messy as it is and make something eloquent. A fiery passion can create a hungry min yearning to grow. I hope that fire walks with me.
Winter is the worst season. Everything is bleak, dark and cold and it brings out the worst feelings burrowed deep inside of you.
I’ve been sad a lot lately because of winter and because of loneliness and because of a deepening lack of fulfillment with my job and the poor life decisions I’ve been making. I’ve felt stuck because I’m not really sure what exactly would make me happy right now.
My writing is becoming stagnating because I’m not writing for me anymore, and writing for other people has gotten so arduous that I don’t even like writing at all right now. My actual job is relentless and everyday I come home and curl up into a ball and pray something happens that forces me not to go in the next day.
I go back home to see my parents at the end of the week and I’m not thrilled by that either. There’s nothing in my old hometown for me there either. I don’t really belong here or anywhere that I know of. Hell, I’m not even sure who I am anymore. My life has devolved into a mess of hangovers, laziness and bad decisions. I feel no control.
This is not a cry for help. I’m not interested in holding hands and talking it out. Kind words aren’t going to have much of an effect here. I understand that people have bigger problems– this is just a release. I’ve been trying to figure this life out for 24 years and I’m probably not gonna stumble on the answer tomorrow. Maybe someday things won’t be like this but for now this is what it is. Winter is here and I am a ball of sadness.
More than any other medium, books are a gateway to the ultimate fantasy world. More than TV, movies or even music. They require the imagination to to work overtime, even with comic books there to paint a picture for you. For those of you who haven’t caught on yet, I like to entertain the idea that I’m a real writer-you know, a guy who writes (or at least wants to write) professionally… for a career… to live off of. Foolish I know, but everyone has a dream. I’ve been reading books, mainly comics and graphic novels, since I learned to read. From Calvin & Hobbes to the batman detective comics to when I first discovered the dark knight returns and Watchmen, these were the books that shaped my world. Sure I took cues from fiction books and pop culture essays, I mean they’re the reason I write the way I do, but those comics formed the prisms of my imagination.
I’m in love with creating worlds in my mind; because why not? Real life is full of shit and daydreaming and fantasizing are the only things around to keep you sane. Disappearing into books and comics, or even films, assist with the process. Years have been spent hiding in secret forts, spaces in closets or within the confines of textbooks that you’re supposed to be reading. (And oh how you dreaded being called to read a chapter in class as a result.)
All of this hullabaloo is my way of talking myself into believing I can join this industry of people I’ve admired. It’s a tough world; you’re young and still full of hope, still believing you can write for that magazine you love or making that film that you’ve wracked your brain over day in, day out or even coming up with that graphic novel you’ve been thinking about for a long time. It’s definitely a weird time, life hasn’t made you completely bitter yet. (Yet.) That’s what keeps me moving I guess; not fame, money or glory but the undying hope that I can be an industry guy. The type of writer that all my favorite writers enjoy reading stuff from, that would be better than anything.