This column begins its fourth year of existence this September. A column I didn’t mean to create, yet that kept growing. A column that has made me a few enemies, a handful of fans, and even a book of the same name. What goals I had were general: challenge conventional wisdom about careers in writing, offer alternatives, and explore how other kinds of artists face similar challenges. These themes dominated year one.
Year two was THE GUTTERS, an often-interrupted series of essays on how I took almost twenty years to publish my first novel with a professional publisher. In unpacking that ride, I also wrote about depression, imposter syndrome, the challenge of being smart in a world that thinks you’re stupid, and how I often got in my own way.
This past year, in the wake of the 2016 election, the tone shifted to themes of oppression and resistance on the one hand, and what to do once you’re a “published” author on the other. Among the more poignant revelations from that run was how easily we are fooled by success into thinking somehow, some way, the system is now fair. The alternative is just as important but often harder to sustain in the wake of daydreams: the system is rigged, so how do we game it to get what we want while making the art only we can make?
Someone asked me if I had a greatest hits package of FXXK WRITING. Of course! It’s FXXK WRITING: A GUIDE FOR FRUSTRATED ARTISTS!
But of the past three years, there have been less discussed pieces that spoke deeper to me.
THE WORKAHOLICS CREED, which I was informed was a favorite of a rockstar (can’t divulge) and remains a warning to myself that WORKING YOURSELF TO DEATH IS NOT A RETIREMENT PLAN, DESPITE WHAT AMERICAN LATE STAGE CAPITALISM WILL TELL YOU.
ON STUPIDITY AND SILENCE, a short series about how my perception of being a mental defective drove me to do great and stupid things.
BIG TIME vs. MAKING IT delves into the challenge of success and what it means, and how it can manipulate your thinking about art and life.
And that mission continues in year four. But the tone will be a little different. The goal is to do pieces that are like a knife fight in a phone booth: short, sharp, and deadly. I’ve largely been a machine gun spewing ideas and comparisons until the ammo went dry. This year I’ll be more like a sniper. Less talk, more bull’s eyes.
That said, I’ve enjoyed the freedom to scream at all of you for three years. For this I’d like to shout out to Anna Yeatts, who continues to champion both the attitude and content of a very strange corner of Flash Fiction Online. To Samantha Sabovitch for being the latest great addition to the team and making me sound even better than I am! To other writers who keep inspiring me like Carrie Vaughn, Nick Mamatas, Spencer Ellsworth, Molly Tanzer, and more. People who put in the work and keep navigate the maze of arts and commerce to fight another day.
And to you, the readers. Some of you are friends, others students, and a very small cadre are strangers and regulars who like what I have to say, even if you don’t agree. I want to say thanks to you for your support. I get a fistful of hate mail from people who think I am unsupportive, that I shit on the dreams of others, that I dare to call out people whose conduct and work I find abhorrent.
I largely write it for you. Because I am you. I’m a frustrated artist who dreams big and works hard and realizes that these two thing may not mean grizzly shit in achieving our goals. But we keep trying. We keep making. We keep getting in the ring for just one more round. Because we still have something to say before the dirt drops on our coffin box, and all our fires snuff out.
See you in September for the latest evolutionary stage of FXXK WRITING.
In the meantime, support Jay’s continued need for food by buying a book!
© 2018 Jason S. Ridler