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By Eric

I started writing these “Quarter Life Crisis” posts as a way to a way to unleash my own frustrations. Prior to joining Reactionary Century, I had never really used my writing as a way to explore myself – at least not directly. Over the last few months, however, I pried into myself once a week to explore my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Exploring myself is something that I have always done, but that exploration took place exclusively in my own head, where I could protect my ideas from the outside world.

Once I convinced myself I had something interesting to say, and could hide behind the relative anonymity of a byline, I began writing my thoughts into these weekly posts. Whether or not you, the readers, got anything out of what I had to say, I will probably never know. I don’t need to know.  Although, I certainly hope you gleaned something.

What I do know is that I gained a lot out of writing once a week about myself. The fact that I had an audience, to be quite honest, is irrelevant. I learned about myself and improved myself. I honestly believe I am a better person today that I was when I first started writing “Quarter Life Crisis.”

The reasons for my changes go far beyond writing for this site once a week, but scribbling my thoughts certainly played a role. Life, as everyone knows, and as every cliché teaches, us ebbs and flows. Consistency is hard to find.

As I look back and look forward, I realize that I am ending this writing venture at the perfect time. I don’t really feel like I am in a “crisis” anymore. I haven’t figured anything out, really, but I’m pretty content with that. The angst, cynicism and stress give way eventually, and you realize that you’re just happy with the things you have, as opposed to the things you don’t have.

Maybe it’s because I feel like I am currently ebbing (or flowing? I don’t really know which is the good one…) but I really can’t look at my life in terms of a “crisis” anymore. Whereas a few months ago I needed somewhere to release my insecurities, right now I feel pretty good with where I am (and who wants to read about someone who is happy?).

I’m hanging up my general life musings pen for now, but I will continue to write. I encourage anyone who ever read my thoughts, and realized they felt something similar to write their ideas down. Even if it’s just in a journal. I promise it will be the best decision you ever make.

Quarter Life Crisis has come to a close, but if you want to keep up with Eric you can find his writing on www.tktwincites.com. Or follow him on Twitter to keep up with whatever he is thinking, writing, or doing.

By Eric

I hate hard news. I hate it hard. Harsh, but to me there is nothing worse than reporting the news.

This is where I backtrack momentarily, because I am not trying to demean reporters in any way. It takes skill. I know this. I’ve tried it. However, I also know that it absolutely isn’t for me. I thought it was, once upon a time, but I was a freshman in college and drunk 44% of that time.

No, what I have learned through my various meandering thoughts and equally meandering writing ventures, is that I have no interest in journalism—or reporting, at least.

My point here isn’t to rant about myself – as far as you know – but rather to state that it is often easier to figure out what you don’t want to do than what you do want to do. (Which sounds more obvious than it is.)

When I first decided I want to write, I was hell-bent on being a sportswriter. Lock it down, I’m covering sports. I joined the paper freshman year in college as a sports reporter. I did the standard things a sportswriter does: cover events, interview athletes, write game recaps. It was exactly what I thought I wanted to do.

Except I hated it. A lot.

At the time, I didn’t really think of year-and-half I spent hating being a sports reporter as something that would become defining for me in any way, but it turns out that it was. It showed me that something I was so sure I wanted to do was something I didn’t want at all.

People get so wrapped up in trying to make the job they think they want work, that they don’t explore whether or not that job is what they really want. Even if you spend a couple of years doing something you thought you would love, only to realize it isn’t why you really want, is that really a bad thing?

It’s a lot better to change your plans and be happy, than convince yourself you are happy if you really aren’t.

By Eric

A writer pretends to know everything, knows they know nothing, and hopes the reader doesn’t catch onto their trick. I know I know nothing, and that’s why I write.

Being that I am a writer in the loosest sense of the word, I’m not going to claim some insight into the writing process. I’m certainly no visionary of prose. All I know is that when I sit down to write something real, something meaningful to me, writing the first sentence is the hardest part.

The first sentence is too easily chased from your mind like last dewy breaths of summer, leaving you with nothing but yourself and hollow thoughts.

Somewhat ironically, hollow thoughts eventually lead to questions. Which lead to answers. Which lead to more questions. Which lead to words. Which lead to sentences. Which leads me to where I am right now.

As I sit analyzing myself and my lack of any meaningful thoughts to put on the page, I began to question why I would ever want to put myself through such a practice. I’ve never made money writing. I’ve never written anything that stands out on a scope beyond a few wandering compliments. I’ve really never gotten anything out of writing.

But that’s not why I write. I write for me. Selfishly. It’s the only way to think, when you’re collecting your thoughts for the page, because I can assure you, most things that are written are hardly read, and those that are, become cast aside and forgotten within seconds. I know this, and yet I put myself through the wholly torturous process. Even the most inconsequential blog post on the most mundane topic can be the hardest thing you do all day. Or all week. Or all month.

Writing is the ultimate practice in alienation and solitude. It isolates you from your surroundings, and sucks you into yourself. You can pour yourself for hours into something that you put everything you have into; knowing from the start that it probably won’t leave a mark on anyone. Why, after all, would anybody possibly care? They’ll never know how much you put into what you write. And even if they realize how much time it consumed, or how much you stressed over a few hundred words, they’ll never really be able to understand. They can’t. Writing lacks equity. The writer writes, the reader reads, and neither ever really understands the other. Each party is left with only thing they had from the start: their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas. The two sides met for a moment, and may have left an impression on one another, but each is ultimately left only with themselves.

The reason I torture myself so much with words should become abundantly clear to anyone who knows me. The process explains me completely. The solitude. The alienation. The selfishness.

I spend the majority of my time spewing flippant sarcasm or cracking wise. I can make people laugh and I know this. I can be witty and fun. I’m completely aware of this. In most social settings I’ll play off the group with a few jokes or bad puns. People laugh. It’s fun. And it’s real. It’s certainly the real me, and I enjoy it as much as others seem to.

But at the same time, I know there is another side to how I think. The side that makes me write. The side that alienates and pushes people away. The side that keeps me in solitude.

I open up to no one. At no point in my life have I felt legitimately close to another person. Most of my friends would, without fail, call me generally apathetic. I’m stoic. I’m constantly at an arm’s length. Frankly, I could sit in a room with my friends for hours and literally not say a word without anyone batting an eyelash.

If I’m not making a joke, or feeling in the laughing mood, odds are I’m not going to be the best company.

My complete inability to connect with people is why I write. Why I was drawn to the idea of writing from the beginning. I spend most of my time before, during and after I write wondering why anyone would possibly care what I have to say. It’s the same question I ask before I write anything. I find myself boring. Uninteresting. Devoid of substance. In person, I feel even more boring. More uninteresting. More devoid of substance. And worst of all, more mumbly.

Writing allows me to collect my boring thoughts and put them into a form of expression. When I write, it’s just me at a keyboard. Nobody else is around, so nobody else knows. I’m hiding in plain sight. Words on a page don’t lie.

When you’re writing you can open up to the page without worrying if it will reciprocate. You won’t get hurt. You won’t get laughed at. The page accepts what you say without giving back. You speak your mind and don’t have to worry whether the other side feels the same, or is willing to give back the amount of passion you put in. Writing is the emotional coward’s way out.

Before I began typing this, the only thing that lay before me was a blank page and a blinking cursor. As I finish, all that lies in my wake is bunch of words. Aesthetically, the difference is minimal – black and white versus simply white. But as a form of expression, the difference between a blank page and a full page is impossible to describe.

I know I’ll never write something of particular merit, because merit is all relative. But I know I’ll continue to write. Maybe someday I’ll be able to look another person in the eye and tell them how I feel. Maybe I’ll be able to interact one-on-one in complete comfort. I hope so. Otherwise I’ll be left only with the solitude of writing, and I can’t possibly imagine a less comforting comfort.

By Ryan

Note: This is the first in a series of columns inspired by the excellent Reality Hunger by David Shields.  You should read it.

1.

Every writer strives for the perfect ending.

2.

The majority of the songs here end with the band repeating some variation of the chorus while the engineer pulls down the master knob on the soundboard.

3.

Skip to the end.

4.

A strange thing happened to me when malfunctioning Netflix DVDs cut short recent viewings of the films A Serious Man and A Single Man (yes, I saw Solitary Man, but the theatre projector soldiered on through the end credits): I had absolutely no desire to see the last five minutes of these films.  They felt complete to me; the titular characters had said their bit, and now it seemed that all that remained was to conclude the all-sacred plot.  This was an activity I was not interested in.

5.

YouTube and Wikipedia visits by my film-viewing companion confirm that both films end with a major event—two catastrophes meant to change the way one thinks about all that came before them.  This information changed nothing, but rather it confirmed what I had suspected all along: the plots of these films don’t matter.

6.

As Stephen Frears, the director of High Fidelity, worked to translate the best moments of the Nick Hornby novel on which the movie was based, he found to his surprise that the best moments were the voice-overs, especially the direct speeches of Rob Gordon (John Cusack) to the camera.  Frears said, “What we realized was that the novel was a machine to get to twelve crucial speeches in the book about romance and art and music and list-making and masculine distance and the masculine drive for art and the masculine difficulty with intimacy.”  This is the case for most novels: you have to read seven hundred pages to get the handful of insights that were the reason the book was written, and the apparatus of the novel is there as a huge, elaborate, overbuilt stage set.

7.

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not arguing against story.  I like stories, and I think they are a great means of communication.  Just don’t confuse story with plot.

8.

Plots are for dead people.

9.

No one’s ever gonna watch an improv scene of two people arguing and say, “A ha—they saw his point of view!”  Don’t follow the plot.

10.

Why are films, novels, videogames, etc. so built around plot, then?  One does not remember the details of a great work—one remembers the emotion, the argument, the aura.  We partake in art to better understand ourselves and our world.  The specifics of good art are interchangeable; the message is not.  “How does Rothko make you feel?” not “What color is it?”

11.

A book report that starts “The Great Gatsby is about Nick Carraway…”

12.

I don’t care where it’s set; I care what it says.

13.

Hamlet would be a lot better if all the plot were excised, leaving the chain of little essays it really wants to be.  But while it’s true that Shakespeare’s plots can sometimes seem like armatures dragged in from the prop room, they are also there to service the need for human sensation.

14.

Nothing about plot is sensational.