December 3, 2011

Interview With Megan Boyle, Lit Girl

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What is the issue?
Megan Boyle is the author of Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee, a book of unfinished blog posts published by Muumuu House in November. I read her manuscript on a PDF file on my cell phone.

Thought Catalog: Do you at all consider yourself a feminist?

MB: Not really. I don’t think I think as much about differences between men and women as ‘feminists’ do. It seems crazy to me to think that some people get paid less than others just because they were born with equipment to grow another person inside of them. It also seems crazy to me to think half of the world is conspiring to oppress the other half by creating products like lipstick.

TC: When did you start getting involved with online literature? What attracted you to it? How did you start sharing yourself with people?

MB: In late 2007 I read “Bed” by Tao Lin and went to his blog and found other blogs and online literary magazines and ebooks. When I think about what attracted me I just have an image of a vague mass of bright colors and really small text, like my brain is trying to recreate the design of bearparade.com or something. I liked bearparade.com. I liked the feeling of finding stuff that seemed to have been there for a long time without me knowing about it. It seemed like a lot of people were writing about life without trying to make it sound better or more interesting than it was, or pretend they didn’t feel depressed or bored or lonely. That attracted me. People wrote about looking at the internet instead of all the cool stuff they did when they weren’t at their computers, so it was like there was an automatic empathy starting point because I was just sitting at my computer too. I made my blog in October 2008 and started commenting on other people’s blogs and gradually submitting my writing to places.

TC: Did the book start out as a journal? Do you write like that usually, or did you take on styles for it that were conscious toward a goal?

MB: They’re all blog drafts. I’m not aware of writing in a different style right now than I did while writing the book, but I’m thinking about different things now. I think my style or the nature of what I’d disclose in each entry depended on whatever I was feeling when I wrote it.

TC: How do you think of yourself in relation to “literature” as a whole? Do you ever struggle with the thought of wanting to write more narratively (i.e. traditionally)? Does it feel really good to be able to publish something like this?

MB: I don’t really think about myself in relation to literature as a whole, other than being involved in it because I wrote a book. I don’t struggle with wanting to write more narratively/ traditionally, I do that sometimes. It feels good to get this published, yeah. I’m glad my first book is a bunch of stuff I originally thought wasn’t good enough for anyone to see.

TC: Do you feel like you’re learning aspects of your subconscious when you write or do you think that you mainly alleviate yourself of conscious thought?

MB: Sometimes I tell myself if I write something my brain won’t need to remember it and then I’ll have more room for whatever the part of me that thinks it needs to make room by creating memory space thinks that space will get filled with someday. I think writing makes it possible to reflect on my thoughts faster and from a less-entangled perspective than if I was just letting myself think things.

TC: Give a vaguely brief biographical portrait of yourself (where you grew up, what college was like for you, when you decided you wanted to be a writer, etc.).

MB: I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore. I went to four colleges in six years and spent the longest amount of time at DePaul in Chicago. Mostly took psychology, writing, and philosophy courses. Pretty sure anything else I could list about my history in a short space would sound similar to what 60-80% of people in their twenties who lived in suburbs and went to colleges in the U.S. might list. I started focusing on writing pretty hard a year and a half ago.

TC: Do you listen to music while you write?

MB: Rarely, I mostly do it to drown out other noise. Sometimes I wear headphones but don’t play music, to feel ‘plugged in’ to something. That seems like a pretty cool trick.

TC: How much do you read?

MB: 2-5 books a month if I’m in a ‘reading a lot’ period, which I’m not currently. I read things on the internet every day.

TC: Do you feel better about your life having published a book?

MB: I’m happy when I think about it. I think every day I’m either feeling better or worse about my life.

TC: I think it kind of feels simple to imagine your style of writing, because it’s about the mundane and ultra-specific details of life, as not being very inspired or transcendent or any of those words you might attach to something like a Kerouac novel or Herman Hesse novel or something like that. What are your thoughts on the statement I just made?

MB: The only thing that seems to have been created without any decipherable inspiration is the universe. It doesn’t seem possible for any piece of writing to exist without an initial creative impulse — an amount of inspiration is required to write “I feel uninspired.” Life feels like a long series of simple moments punctuated by peak experiences. If I were to write a second-by-second transcription of 30 seconds of a peak experience of mine it would probably read like a composite of small details that would make up any other 30 seconds of my life. Transcendent moments and mundane moments are both made of seconds and oxygen and bodies and light and atoms. I don’t experience transcendence in realtime, usually it just happens like anything else and with time I realize I’ve mentally classified it as significant. Generally I feel less drawn to writing that romanticizes life or wants to give it a moral or punchline. People who wouldn’t like my writing because they think it’s boring or uninspired probably read books for different reasons I do, which is fine.

TC: You seem like someone who’s managed to not totally give a shit what a lot of people think about you or your writing. Is that true?

MB: The degree to which I care what people think about me/my writing seems conditional to my relationship with the person. I care a lot about what people I like and regularly interact with think about me. I want people to feel good around me. I like hearing anything anyone has to say about my writing because whatever they say will be something I hadn’t thought.

TC: When you say you started focusing “pretty hard” on writing a year and a half ago, what sorts of things did you start doing that you didn’t do before? Did you see a big improvement in your writing from before?

MB: Mostly I think I just started viewing my writing as something other people would see. It felt more exciting to do which made me want to do it more often. The most notable new thing I did was probably writing down thoughts I’d normally dismiss or sort of let pass through me. I also started staying awake late in my school’s 24-hour computer lab to work on stuff, paying attention to how writers I liked became what I considered “successful,” and reading more. I don’t think I’ve noticed non-technical/grammatical improvements in my writing over time. When I re-read old things of mine I think “how did I do that, that’s great” and “how did I do that, that’s terrible” in similar ratios.

TC: People say that Baltimore sucks. Do you agree?

MB: I like Baltimore. When I haven’t liked places it rarely has anything to do with the place itself, usually something else is just going on in my life that I don’t like.

TC: Did you learn anything important in writing classes at school?

MB: In one of my classes we read an essay that said to carry around a notebook where you can write your ideas as soon as you have them because otherwise you won’t remember them. I learned “intents and purposes” is not “intensive purposes.” I also learned if I want to be on time for class I need to pretend it’s ten minutes later than it is.

TC: Have you ever considered acting on an impulse to go all rock-star in interviews and talk about how nobody understands Muumuu House or you or Tao Lin, and how everyone should just f-ck off for talking sh-t? Seems like you probably experience a lot of sh-t talking.

MB: I don’t feel like convincing anyone they should like Muumuu House or me or Tao Lin. I’m pretty non-confrontational and I barely even know what I want out of life. It seems natural to for people to sh-t talk and misunderstand each other, people seem to enjoy that. At their best negative comments seem like spectacles of the strangeness of humanity, and at their worst they often don’t make much sense. They’re mostly interesting for me to encounter because if I see something I don’t like I’ll just stop looking at it or do something else, but it seems like some people feel threatened by things they don’t like, and imagining their reasons can be funny. I’d probably feel a similar level of interest reading two paragraphs of negative things a stranger says about me as I would watching a YouTube video of a person dunking their head in a tub of rice or something.

TC: Do you think it’s essential to have a blog “this day in age” if you’re a writer?

MB: Blogging seems less popular now than it did a few years ago. A lot of writers’ personal blogs I used to read are now either deleted or pretty clearly used as promotional tools. Having an agent seems more important than having a blog. Writing things people will want to read seems more important than having an agent. I feel like I don’t know anything about what’s essential for writers to do. TC mark

Michael Juliani

He goes to journalism school at USC, a place full of ambulances and jackhammers, and writes a column, “From Young …

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