Writing used to be a craft for the introverted intellectuals. It was an outlet for those with brilliant ideas and terrible social skills to share with the world their thought provoking perspectives on everything from the theories of the universe to mundane observations of the everyday. Publishing houses sifted through these works to find the gems, the best of the best, and these would then be disseminated to masses that were thirsty for newness and novelty.
Thanks to the digital age, however, anyone can publish whatever his or her heart desires. Unfortunately, while everyone is now a ‘writer,’ it seems that nothing is really being said. Blogs abound with useless musings by self-proclaimed ‘creative’ individuals that are just dying to be heard— err, reblogged. And so, we inquisitive minds who yearn to feel some kind of intellectual stimulation will listen to their rambling posts, attempting to gain the wisdom they claim to be imparting. We listen to their ironic lamentations about the negative impact of technology on the creative process. We listen to their ‘reports’ and to their ‘anecdotes,’ written in all their clichéd glory. We listen hard and we listen well, and, at the end of it all, we feel nothing. This is an emptiness only known when one has read countless blogs and page after page of articles on Thought Catalog, hoping to be enlightened—or at least entertained—and instead is left only with the knowledge of how one man almost went on a Tinder date. This is the emptiness of the Internet age of writing.
There are of course, the occasional prized pieces, which are everything we could have hoped for in an essay we didn’t know we needed to read. They draw us in with both their flirtatious syntax and captivating subject matter. They give us hope when they use proper grammar and cite sources to back their claims. They remind us of what it feels like to be wooed by a writer; what it’s like to want to share new thoughts with friends and discuss the implications of such interesting points of view. We feel the overwhelming urge to email the author, and sometimes we get as far as composing salutations before we realize we don’t really have much to say to him or her. We just want to be friends, to absorb some of their marvelous spirit and writing abilities.
However, stumbling across such fantastic articles is often an accident, a happy coincidence that is difficult to repeat. With each random success, we are given false hope that our search methods are actually fruitful. We become conditioned by these chance occurrences to believe that our Google searches or a friend’s recommendation via Facebook can deliver us the stimulation we crave. The effect of these inconsistent rewards is the unsettling anticipation that the next click could reveal the essay that will change our lives forever, and so we continue to click in our blind search for brilliance.
The Effort Is There (Or is it?)
In these futile attempts at finding something decent to read, I have come across hundreds of disappointing articles, essays, and anecdotes. I’m assuming there must be a Millennial Writer’s Cult to which the authors of these pieces belong (one that’s very inclusive, I’m sure), and which requires each of its members to adhere to the following rules:
1. Use self-deprecating humor and constantly reference your own ‘weirdness’ (but not your actual weirdness, only the stuff that could possibly be relatable, like singing in the shower).
2. Take advantage of any and all opportunities for puns, and follow such word plays with the phrase “pun not intended,” even though it most certainly was intended.
3. Never be sure of yourself. Use the phrases “I think” and “I guess” almost as frequently as the words “whatever” or “amiright?”
4. Organize your entire essay as a list. Begin the title with “25 Reasons You Should…”
5. Ignore grammar rules. If it looks correct to you, it’s good enough.
6. Always publish the first draft.
Also included with membership is a catalog of “completely original topic ideas that you will definitely contribute novel insight to.” Some of the most popular include:
1. Anything about millennials’ social and/or dating skills
2. Body image
3. Feminism in the 21st century
4. Body image and feminism in the 21st century
5. How annoying your Facebook friends are
6. How terrible your eating habits are, and how little you care
7. Why being single is THE BEST
8. Why being in a couple is THE BEST
9. Advice on how you should feel ‘in your 20’s’ (only applicable if you, as the author, are still in your 20’s)
As a ‘Writer’ Myself
I can already hear aspiring writers across the blogosphere scoffing at this piece, calling it an ironically rambling essay itself. And I am aware that to some degree, it probably is. But, by writing this piece, I am not claiming to have defeated the monster of a task that is creating good content. However, I do believe in my subject and so I feel I am writing with purpose.
For the Future
The process of spontaneously generating new material, breaking it down, and putting it in focus is the most difficult part of the writing method—and all of that usually takes place before the pen even hits the paper. Writing a piece that you’re proud of however, should take time, energy, and hard work. After all, isn’t that where the joy comes from?
I’ll conclude with this timeless piece of advice that we’ve all surely heard before:
“If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”