My life, as it plays out in my mind, is a series of fragmented memories. Perhaps it is my foggy brain, or just a normal faded memory, but my mind feels like it is filled with a bunch of blotchy points set in time.
10 years ago I was graduating high school, seven years ago I was in college — flipping huge tractor tires in my backyard. Three years ago I was riding my bike and getting increasingly sicker; two years ago I was on my deathbed, last year my health started to improve, and now this year, I’m on the verge of getting out of bed again.
These are the moments and associated topics I choose to write about for many of my essays and blog posts.
I also write about newsy topics, sure, but only if I am able to fit in a paragraph or two about a cause I care about. While not entirely true, it seems I can’t bring myself to write about any topic of which I can’t pair with MECFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome). Take my Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times: If I wasn’t able to mention MECFS in that piece I’m not sure I would have willed myself to write it. Okay, it was the LA Times, so I probably would have found a way to complete the assignment, but it certainly wouldn’t have been as rewarding and if it had been a lesser known publication I know for a fact I wouldn’t have written it.
How I got Here
Three years ago, when I was still able to live on my own and before I became bedridden, I worked full-time (albeit from home) as an editorial assistant for a financial publication. Everyday I woke up and monitored three separate stock portfolios of which my boss tracked and wrote about for the 50,000 paying subscribers to his weekly newsletters. I did a lot of research, ghostwriting, and editing for his newsletters as well.
I was a business major in college and investing was always something that interested me, but writing with a conservative, Reaganomics ideology took some major acting skills on my part.
And while I did a pretty good job mimicking a fiscal conservative, I was primarily doing it for the paycheck. Eventually that mentality took my body down, as I couldn’t handle the workload while living with ailing health. I remember my boss leaving me a voicemail on a chauffeured drive home from one of his weekly appearances on Fox News and I just couldn’t gather enough energy to call him back.
I soon became too sick to take care of myself, let alone work. And as I mentioned in my last post, working my body into the ground while my friends and family took care of me felt selfish.
Eventually I had no choice but to let go of my job. I was too sick to speak or eat and distinctly remember my mom having to call my boss and tell him that, despite his “No man left behind” speech, I couldn’t continue.
While that was only two and a half years ago, my outlook on life and how I want to spend the rest of my time on Earth has immeasurably changed.
I Won’t Write About the Kardashians
I submit my essays to many publications and nine out of ten times they get rejected. I would probably have a better success rate if I was willing to write about the Kardashians or articles titled “7 Hidden Menu Items at Starbucks.” But I’m just not willing to do that anymore. Why? Well, besides having already gone down that path as a new college grad desperately looking for ways to pay off my student loans, my heart just isn’t in it. It was never in it, but now — ever since the ghostwriting about Reaganomics — I just cannot muster the will to write about trivial stuff. And let me tell you, it’s not like the paycheck makes it a tough decision.
When I had to write about things like porta-potties and the best nightclubs in Tulsa, Oklahoma (yes, I actually wrote about both of those things) I only made about $20 an essay. The work I do now is much more infrequent, but it’s way more rewarding. And infrequent is actually a good thing for me because I am all-too aware of pushing myself too far with deadlines and the stress of a large workload like I have done in the past. So now I write at my own pace and only about topics I truly care about.
That said, I still put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to achieve things. I want to have my memoir published, for instance, and despite countless rejections, I will not give up until it is published. But that’s because my heart is in it, just as my heart is in every post I write on this blog and every essay I write for publication. So here’s to keeping the ball rolling….
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7 thoughts on “Why I Refuse to Write About Trivial Things ”
Same reason I won’t write fiction that I don’t deeply love – the effort is far too large for me to afford to waste it on trivia, even if it sells.
Well. what happens when you don’t write? A week or a month goes by and does it makes a difference? I write because I have to write and with ideas spewing into my mind, when I cannot see the computer or sit up, I get mad. I get crabby and I am bored. Also I am going to be 68, on the downward spiral of ME. So J, I think you are doing wonderfully well despite the yucks, BIG yucks. You will write that memoir, but first you have to live longer. A memoir isn’t that spectacular until you are close to 50? The best is yet to come and I am not a Pollyanna. I just know.
Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement. There are lots of memoirists under 50 who wrote incredible stories … Augusten Burroughs, Jeannette Walls, etc. My memoir is finished, 88,000 words about the car accident and nearly dying from MECFs, just waiting to be published. I think it’s going to be pretty wonderful when it gets published. I just hope somebody gives it a chance.
Reblogged this on Heightened Senses and commented:
A solid head on his shoulders; I tend to into the muck when I occasionally have a rant about pop-culture and rage against what post-modernity is doing to systematically melt our minds. Jamison, our brother in arms, has his priorities straight (he says, grovelingly 😉 )
Interesting topic indeed!
Sending prayers specific to the publishing of your memoir. I cannot wait to read it!
A round of applause for your blog post. Keep writing.