This Essay Will Make You A Better Writer
I’m divided between two conflicting ways I treat my writing online. On the one hand, I want to write fully realized, wildly imagined, subversive essays. I want to write 7 pages and let them rest, come back a day later, edit and repeat. After a week of obsessive editing and reflection I want to press publish with confidence.
At the same time, this is online media. A few weeks immersed in this world and you understand what that means. No one has the time to wait.
Accordingly, I feel the need to publish large quantities of good content, always—literally, always. I want my hands to touch the keyboard and immediately feel my fingers lose themselves to an unstoppable rhythm, firing out an incessant stream of relevant opinion and theory.
I’m consciously working towards a system that reconciles both attitudes (reader beware, this essay is my drawing board).
My best essays are ones that have taken time. I’ve written first drafts in a fever and then meditated on several versions (rewriting every sentence, thinking critically about every word). The catch is that my best essays have never been my most popular. I’m sure this tortures most writers.
My most popular essays have been ones I write at random. I respond to a certain Google/Twitter trend and ejaculate 500 words of witty opinion that I hardly think twice about. Later, my boss tells me that 40,000 Batman fanboys want me crucified after reading my snarky thoughts on the Dark Knight Rises casting decisions.
I reflect on my “better” essays and frown. Nobody cares, nobody cares—the sentiment clots my bloodstream, paralyzes; I feel unattractive and bitter. What’s a writer to do?
Admittedly, I’m a contradiction. When I click on a catchy headline I’m almost always turned off if the essay is long. I think, “fuck that shit!” But if the opposite is true I eat the words up.
Like everybody else, I want solid content presented in short paragraphs with small total lengths. It’s not because I don’t like to read. It’s because my entire desktop is an exciting, clever, contemplative text (think about it).
Online essays are competing with Twitter, Facebook, iPhones, Spotify, Google, other headlines, et cetera… The online essayist can’t separate himself from that reality. To be totally honest, he has to stop competing with it.
Writers are no longer solitary figures. Today’s writer has to be incredibly social. Our individual style, opinion and text is being transmitted to our audience not only through essays, but through all social media. Therefore, we have to be experts of all social media.
Realization: I have to write with this awareness, inventing an essay that’s compatible with media exterior to it.
Acceptance: My “best” essays are actually rather dated and incompatible with their context. Sighs, deep breaths. Okay, I’m at peace. My computer is my temple.
I’m not only a writer but an artist and a magician. I have to shape my thoughts and pour them into a space with fluid borders, from multiple mediums, all the while beating relentless time constraints. I guess the trick is to do this and still have a thoughtful reader say, “This is good. This is art.”
Follow Kyle Kouri on Twitter @KyleKouri
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