Being The Anti-Writer

There’s been some discussion regarding what it means to be a writer and how one actually goes about doing it. Here are my two cents.

I still have trouble identifying as a writer. Even though I do it for a living; even though I’m at work right now writing this piece, I still have difficulty calling myself that. This is the part where commenters say, “That’s because you’re not a true writer. You suck!” So you can go do that now. Sigh.

When people ask  me what I write about, I freeze up. “Um, boys, being gay, pop culture. I don’t really know.” I sound like a fucking idiot, but I don’t really know what else to say. Even though I write a few pieces a day, l’m not sure if there’s a cohesive theme to all of it. Should there be? Would that make me more of a writer?

A lot of my insecurities and confusion stem from the fact that I’ve never related to the classic idea of a writer—a miserable alcoholic who’s grossly underpaid and cynical about everything. Ernest Hemmingway drinking absinthe in a dive bar in Spain, Sylvia Plath putting her head in the oven: This is what it means to be a writer. Then you die at a young age and your value is only realized posthumously. Gee, suffering has never seemed so chic or pretentious. In college I majored in creative writing and was surrounded by people who subscribed to this bleak definition of being a writer. In my classes there’d be someone named Cole, a lesbian who identifies as gender queer {?} and kind of wants to be a boy and smokes cigarettes and sometimes cries while reading her poems about owls and Kathleen Hanna in workshop. Then there’d be someone named Holden—named after the guy in Catcher in the Rye, duh—who doesn’t go anywhere without his Vonnegut and Bukowski and sometimes reads at poetry slams and fucks girls named Azura in public restrooms. Every experience they had was used and abused for their writing. Emotions were just fodder for their novella which was always in a state of near completion. “It’s just not quite there yet. Maybe I need to go to Budapest or something,” they would tell me.

I just didn’t get it. They all seemed so disingenuous and, quite frankly,  too serious. You could tell that most of them actually had pretty good upbringings and parents who loved them, but that wasn’t beneficial to their writing. They needed more tragedy so they self-inflicted a lot of problems. Meanwhile, I just kind of hung out and wrote shitty Joan Didionesque stories about California and liking boys. They were really soapy and dramatic because I hadn’t quite figured out yet how to cushion tragedy with humor. I was afraid to be funny because I thought it would prevent me from being taken seriously. I’m so glad I grew out of that.

I was different because I didn’t drink copious amounts of whiskey and eat ramen and listen to sad music on my record player. Not to get too personal but I’ve had some weird terrible things happen in my life and I realized early on that being happy is a conscious decision. I could either lay in bed and cry about everything bad that’s ever happened to me, or I could get out of bed, meet my friends for lunch and distract myself by talking about dicks for an hour.

I don’t mean to tell anyone that there is a wrong or right way to be a writer. I’m simply explaining why I’ve had trouble seeing myself as an actual writer.  Want to know another strike I have against me? I’ve never read Anna Karenina. There. I admitted it. Lock me up and throw away my MacBook Pro! TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

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