Questions For Young Writers

Are you writing? Or have you been apprehended by the repeated presence of “writer” and its history? Is Rob Epstein’s Howl (2010) the reason you write? Does having a reason to write make you feel more like a “writer?” Why are you so impatient? Why are you so damn impatient? If your friend started an online lit journal and offered to publish your work only because you are the friend and this would be your first publication, do you still feel as though your work has something to say? Did you get anything published when you were 18 and now you feel embarrassed because it reads like nothing you currently write? Why were you in such a hurry? Why should you feel embarrassed? Don’t you think it’s funny to share embarrassing moments? Why should no one think you’re capable of making a mistake? Are you plagued with competing proximities within (what might feel like at times) an onslaught of online journals and blogs and meme culture and vlogs—literary ideologies circling you faster and faster with charisma smiles or gimmick-trolling? Do you think there’s anything wrong with a gimmick? Do you think you should post an article on your blog about why a book you just read is “so crappy” without justifying said crappiness? Do you have a reputation as a copycat writer? And how does that make you feel? Are you happy? And isn’t self-delight most important? Do you believe that? Does a daily bombardment of imagery in the media pressure you to simplify your work? Do you think there’s anything wrong with simplifying your work? Don’t you think simplification can still result in difficult writing? Do you think every writer should be striving to make work that is difficult or not entirely accessible to mass audiences? Is difficult writing like experimental writing? Do you feel comfortable reacting to the work of another? Have you read enough to react? How do you know? How do you know when you’ve read “enough?” Do you think you can only be serious or only be funny? Do you think like a binarian? Do you just want to get noticed? Do you want to do anything you can to get noticed? What if you get noticed too quickly and cannot provide the well-articulated opinions your readers might be expecting? Do you think a writer has to be articulate? Do you just want to be the next-big-thing? Do you think it’s important to be famous? Do you just want to be the next Great American Author? Do you want to shout it from the rooftops? Do you think an Intro Creative Writing course should open with DFW’s “Death Is Not The End” and do you think the instructor should ask each student (upon completion of the text) if s/he thinks s/he knows why s/he wants to write? Do you think writers should construct hierarchies around other writers? Are you afraid of ideals? Have you tried parasitically latching onto older and more well-known writers in hopes of increased blog-traffic? Did it work? Did it result in public embarrassment? Do you regret sharing that opinion in a public forum on the Internet? Are you afraid to learn something new about yourself? Must writers present themselves as deities? Or believe themselves to be deities? Is there nothing appealing about the human that occasionally fails? Don’t you think we should all occasionally fail? Don’t you think we do? Are you writing to be a “writer” or can you see past that? Should you be looking ahead of social realities and our beloved institutions of art? Do you think it’s too late for rigorous analyses? Do you think there are too many rigorous analyses? Are we living our “lief” or adhering to freight-aesthetics? Do you just want to be a “writer” or do you want to write with your entrails a denouncement of arbitrary literary tradition? Do you think we should sometimes slow down? Go faster? Do you think I’m a young writer also? Do you know I’m only 22? Do you know I don’t care? Do you know I know I’m not perfect?

Enough? TC mark

image – Tom Palumbo


More From Thought Catalog

  • Nishant

    Not enough. More! This was so fantastic and close to home!

  • Cd

    rant much?

  • Robyn Showers

    That was really annoying.

    • Michael Koh

      Then why did you go and presumably finish reading it? (Accusatory tone)

    • Anonymous

      Comments like yours are really annoying.

    • Paul Cunningham

      I ask over 40 questions and that is the best answer you can come up with?

      • guest

        well, you offered a few false choices via ‘binarian’ reasoning, and as a reader i felt like a bowling ball trying to gutter myself but hitting bumpers.  you provided an inherent narrative through your string of presumptive questions + their sequence + their latent freight-aesthetics, which was prob what robyn found ‘annoying’.  

        and obviously asking a question separates you, the author, from having to really answer it, which is whatever, but it also puts the reader down a bit.  by throwing out so many questions — and so many ‘snarky’ ones — it comes off as kind of as not-inappropriate but not-respectful lecture.   you don’t have to be perfect but it’d be preferable if you were nice.   if your message is the medium aka pariah for a point then, hey, enjoy the kind of writing lief that leads to.

        the answer to a lot of your questions is you’ll understand when you’re older bro.

        respect the aud.

      • Paul Cunningham

        These were just questions. Not really a string or a strand or a cord or a chain of totalitarian anything. No real message here.

    • Nishant

      Are you the OTHER Canadian pop icon from the 90s?

  • Joanna

    Ha! More. I’m a young writer, only 21. Far from a deity. But what’s wrong with crappy drafts? In the words of an older writer: if you can’t write a shitty first draft, you can’t write. I think the whole world should slow down, at everything. Take one second to breathe; just one though.

  • Oliver Miller

    I’m waiting for someone to ask what “lief” and “freight-aesthetics” are, because I have no idea personally, and I’m, like, a writer?  Trembling question mark?

    • Stephen Tully Dierks

      “lief” is a reference to Steve Roggenbuck

  • Carissa Hanson

    Isn’t the goal of writing to tell the truth?

    • Kathleen Krueger

      Absolutely not, Carissa. In fiction, for example, the goal is to tell such a fantastic lie that it sounds like the truth. ;-)

  • Amy Barkham

    I’m writing. No. I will watch it today. Feel like a writer when the reader
    feels completely spent. I don’t know. I don’t know. I would never accept that.

    It happened at age 23. I can’t look at it anymore. The clock was a’ticking.

    Never that. It’s funny-WTF, not funny-LOL. Because il y’a des choses beaucoup plus importants auxquelles ils devraient
    penser. I’m scared of Oliver Miller’s genius. I don’t know what you
    mean. That’s something a critic would do. I don’t. It makes me feel like I’ve
    cheated the source. Not as much as I’d like to. Finding meaning to everything
    is most important. Absolutely. Entertainment cripples. That would suppose that
    I feel superior. There’s nothing wrong with that though, relatively. Nope. Leave
    it to DFW. It’s become a kind of trend. Yeah. No. I haven’t read all of the
    classics, that’s how I know. A hundred fifty pages past Fifty Shades of Grey. I
    can only be me, whoever that is. Bob Dylan. Every day. Not really. I’d write
    some more. That’s the job of the writer if s/he sees writing as an art form. I’m
    not sure anymore. It used to be that being famous taught you more about
    yourself than others. I would love that, but I’m not considered American. Cray.
    The thing is there’s a DFW in every true writer already. Writers should be
    friends. They can be daunting. I would personally never do that. It would never
    work. The friendship between Hemingway and Fitzgerald just didn’t work.
    Sometimes, when you look back, you’re almost in tears. It’s frightening.
    Everyone likes to believe that they’re God. Personally, I don’t think death
    kills. Youth, yes. We should indulge in failure. Gotye: you can get addicted to
    a certain kind of sadness. Way past that, buddy. Definitely. Too late! Not
    enough analyses on rigorous analyses, here in America. I’m living it up. Giving
    a pen to my entrails just now. Slow down. Go. You could be. I can’t know for
    sure. You shouldn’t talk like that. You’re perfect.

    Carry on.

  • apeksha

    I Just recently started writing (again). And I think about all these things everytime I post. I decided, I’m only 20, (and already much better than I was back at 15 ! :D) these questions don’t matter right now. 
    I care about story telling, I also care about being honest. And that I am going to wait, really really wait till I feel like what I have to say is worth being paper-bound. 
    For now though, it’s good, having a blog that a few friends know about, where random people drop-in insightful comments, being on a writing curve at all. 
    Best of luck! I hope you make it to the bookstore someday and I hope it is art you are proud of! :) 

  • Paul Cunningham

    All I really meant by “freight-aesthetics” is when a particular artistic
    standard is passed around from person to person–toting standards via
    the popularity and mobility of opinions. Treating an aesthetic standard
    like goods to sell:

    “Why do you believe art is THIS and only THIS?”

    “Because my professor said that art is THIS and only THIS.”

    “Living lief” seemed like the only refreshing contrast.

    • Oliver Miller

      Ahhh.  I just avoid anyone who talks about art ever.  If someone mentions art, I start giggling nervously and automatically.

  • Oliver Miller

    I clicked on the link, saw the word “Dubstep,” then remembered how old I am, which is 89 years old, and closed the link again.  I’ll just lief in ignorance, I guess; heh.


    Sometimes I wonder if the “young writers” of thoughtcatalog think about what it means to have their name attached to a site like this. And by “like this” I mean a site plagued with Ryan O’Connell’s “boner jokes” or posts about drug use or virginity loss. These types of things, believe it or not, don’t look good on resumes.

    Publishing houses don’t turn to the internet and look for shitty-yet-irreverent thoughtcatalog spammers for a cash cow or for the next Great Anything.

    Writing is a lost art, and here’s why: None of you idiots have anything to say. If you read half as much as you write (and some of you people are pushing 10 articles a week, it seems), the industry which you’re dying to be a part of wouldn’t be dying itself

    • Paul Cunningham

      I think literary art is only lost or dead for literary artists who worry about “resumes.”

    • Oliver Miller

      Except for the part where a bunch of us have book deals.  So other than being wrong, you’re totally correct.

    • LaTourista

      “None of you idiots have anything to say” -I agree with that. Resumes or whatever you’re harping on about are pretty irrelevant in the life of a writer, along with family get-togethers, taxes, and good liver health.

      There is a chronic lack of reading amongst young writers, though.

    • Anonymous

      ryan o’connell has a book deal with simon and schuster, easily one of the most esteemed new york publishing houses…

  • Antonio is a Chicken Prophet

    I’ve been meaning to write. I love writing, but I’ve never been able to stick with anything I write for longer than a few pages.
    Thing is, people tell me what I write is really good and original. But… I always lose interest in the story or write myself into a dead end, or just plain get bored.

    • Kathleen Krueger

      Then, Antonio. It may be, like me you aren’t supposed to be writing long pieces or books. That is not the only kind of ‘writers’ there are. Quit trying to be an ‘author’ and just be the kind of writer you are.

blog comments powered by Disqus