You can’t write for The New York Times if you keep being such an asshole

I want to be a writer, and sometimes I don’t know what that means.

I know that Molly Ivins and Hunter S. Thompson were writers. I know that they were good writers. And I wonder why I’m not a good writer yet.

I know that I care about education and foreign policy, and would wax politic about them non-stop if I had an adoring audience. But for some reason, the adoring audience is always the first on my checklist of “how to be a writer.”

I’ve fallen into the trap that Merlin Mann warned about: I’m so focused on being a writer that I’ve forgotten to actually write.

Flipping through news sites everyday, wondering why I’m not yet writing for The Atlantic or The Economist, doesn’t make it any easier. Instead of sitting down and actually writing, I mope about how if I only had a column in The New York Times, then I could really write.

So yeah, that just needs to happen, and then I’ll write. Oh, dear.

And ultimately, I end up flipping through mediocre news articles telling myself “I could have done this.” I caught myself thinking it this morning as I read yet another repetitive article about Syria, and I realized something. Every modern-art-hating asshole in the world has looked at a Mondrian painting and said “I could have done this.” And my response to all of those modern-art-hating assholes is: “yeah, but you didn’t, asshole. He did.”

Maybe I could have written that repetitive article about Syria – but I didn’t. And just like Mondrian didn’t end up in the MoMA just by being Mondrian, and Thompson didn’t end up at The Rolling Stone just by being Thompson, I’m not going to get a column in The New York Times without first doing the work I keep saying I can do. Perhaps it seems intuitive to those with more willpower than I have, but for me it takes a self-reprimanding blog post to remind myself to stop being an asshole, just start writing already.

If The Times doesn’t want to publish my articles about why obligatory schooling should be abolished or how Vladimir Putin is a scary man who should not be trusted, then I’ll just send them to Thought Catalog, thank you very much. They’ll take anything.


One thought on “You can’t write for The New York Times if you keep being such an asshole

  1. Hi Robin–You don’t really know me (though you doubtless know my daughter, Netiya), but I read your blog with interest, and figure it’s about time to respond to a couple of things.

    First of all, I won’t believe you are Miley Cyrus until I see a video of you twerking.

    Second, taking time off is usually a good thing. I went to Shimer right out of high school, and it was a disaster. I dropped out after one year with a 2.0 GPA and the maturity of a twelve year old (I now have the maturity of an eighteen year old, and plan to stay that way). Some would say I wasted the next two years of my life, working dozens of menial jobs, traveling cross country four times, taking a few classes at a shit college in New Jersey. But those years were what really prepared me for life. Much of it sucked, but I got a healthy dose of reality, became truly self sufficient, and figured out that this was not how I wanted to spend the next fifty or so years. I ended up back at Shimer, pretty much by accident, and suddenly found everything that seemed stupid and/or incomprehensible to me at 18 made a lot more sense at 21 (though I only manged to raise my GPA to 2.64, which has not dramatically affected my life since). You may end up spending the next thirty years at an ashram in India. But taking time to try different things and maybe figure stuff out is generally not wasted time.

    3. I have a friend who does write for the New York Times; he wrote the recent article about Susan Henking. He has also written several books, including the bestseller (for about a minute) Buddah or Bust. I am hoping/planning to have him come to Shimer and talk abut being a writer, as in, how to make a living at it (not easy) or just have fun and maybe make some money. I hope you will still be around then. I’m thinking maybe in October or early November. If the stars align right, perhaps you can spend some time with him one on one, or at least in a very small group. He’s a good guy, interesting and something of a raconteur.

    Good luck with the puppets and your life, Robin, and if you want to respond, my email is

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s