2015: A Year of Writing and Killing My Darlings
In 2011, when I was an overly precocious, upwardly mobile junior TV exec in training with nascent dreams of mayyyybe becoming a TV writer, my sister — a fellow entertainment industry refugee — warned me of one thing: “If you’re going to be a writer, you need to be okay with no longer have job stability.”
2015 is the year I finally felt like a writer, mainly because 2015 has been the year I finally started acting like one. After spending the better part of the last four years truly wondering whether I was a “real” writer or just someone who can turn a phrase here and there, this was the year that I stopped wondering. It’s not because I started publishing better pieces, or varied my bylines outside of commodifying my ethnicity, gender, and anything else I could package, or grew enough of a pair to start challenging white men in media with ill-advised tweets earning mixed results. It’s because it took 12 months, 23 days, and 260 articles — including this one — to realize that 2015 truly was the year I reached a defining moment: If I want to feel like a writer, I have to stop giving so many fucks about everything else.
As Craggs so astutely pointed out, I burned a lot of bridges this year. I spent the entirety of last year and the better part of this year making as many public mistakes as humanly possible, obsessing over the opinions of a tiny, vocal minority, and then overanalyzing every possible ramification in a myriad of ways except the constructive ones that might have enabled me to stop fucking up. Each one of those mistakes and its subsequent consequences was earned, but the time I spent dedicated to thinking about all those mistakes, all that noise, could have filled decades, if not just the year.
Yet somewhere along the way, buried in the many, many unattainable fantasies I imagined that would earn me both professional accolades and personal retribution at long last, I realized that the victory wasn’t quite as quixotic as I was making it out to be; the victory was simply putting one word in front of the next, page after page. And now that I’ve found the joy in what I’m creating — not what reactions it might create once it’s out in the world — I’m finding it much harder to give any sort of fucks about all that other noise.
From TV writing to blogging to reporting, my writing medium has been ever-fluid in the last four years. But one thing hasn’t: my sister was right, job stability as a writer is a myth. But actually being a writer? That’s a choice. The pieces below aren’t just pieces I loved in 2015 — a year filled with fantastic editors, infinite amounts of wing-stretching reporting, and bylines in publications I never thought possible — they’re the many varied ways in which I went down swinging against haters and critics, both real and perceived, even if I didn’t realize that just continuing to write was already winning the battle.
2015 was the year I realized what it took to be a writer: choosing to be one, regardless of all the noise.
The “C” Word (Matter)
Alana Hope Levinson and Madison Kahn are two of the best editors I’ve ever worked with, and not just because they patiently suffered through three exceedingly different iterations of this piece before coming up with the best version themselves, and releasing me to root around in the personal lives of droves of unsuspecting men of all ages. It was one of my favorite pieces to report, and even more enjoyable to engage with after the fact, underscoring perhaps my most important goal of 2015: to only write pieces I would go to the mat in defense of. (Sorry hot takes.)
This year, in what can only be described as media power brokering at its finest, beautiful angel Meredith Haggerty became the features editor at Racked. She let me write this weird, wonderful investigation into the gender tax on beauty and lifestyle products. I’m still using Dude Wipes and men’s eye cream.
Having come from working in entertainment for years before writing, I’ve often wondered if I’m an entertainment reporter, or just a writer who happens to know entertainment. Thanks to Gabriella Paiella, who now lets me write about entertainment on a weekly basis for Maxim, I no longer have to wonder. What was supposed to be a 20-minute interview with the most beloved drug addict on “The Wire” about his new Amazon show quickly morphed into a day of mid-morning drinking, shoe shopping, and social Tourette’s, and is one of my favorite celeb profiles I got to write for Gaby this year. (The link has temporarily died in the wake of Maxim’s redesign; click back later, or check out this Hannibal Buress interview instead?)
Inside Instagram’s Long Guerrilla War on Porn — and the Users Who Keep Coming Back (Talking Points Memo, The Slice)
I once told Nona Willis Aronowitz she was the Tami Taylor of editors, and I stand by that. Aside from ego boosting emails imploring us internet essayists to come work with her, Nona is the entire reason I was able to build past blogging and into “real journalism,” and I’m overjoyed to have worked with her twice this year on pieces I point to often — especially during the holidays when trying to convince relatives I don’t just write about sex and family secrets for money. This one, about people who use Instagram to share sexy photos and porn despite being repeatedly pushed off the app, was one of my favorites; what started as an exploration of an ostensible public sex fetish gone digital, quickly turned into an analysis of teens, sex, and voyeurism changing from illicit to mundane without any of us even realizing. Also, teen peen and eggplant emojis abound.
What started as a quick coffee break to further procrastinate writing a quick, 10-minutes of effort max news hit on Starbucks’ disastrous #RaceTogether campaign quickly turned into a day-long mission to get some barista, any barista, to talk to me about race, on St. Patrick’s Day in Midtown Manhattan, no less. It got some nice buzz (get it? Coffee puns, y’all), plus, I got to leave work for half the day and didn’t have to listen to my boss inappropriately lust over rapey male porn stars in Slack.
“Just as a heads up, you’ll have to be okay with porny art.” Ali Drucker at Maxim handed me a weekly sex column and threw that warning out, as if porny art was a barrier to my life goals of becoming Carrindian Bradshaw. In just a few months we’ve covered dating trends, Fight Club references, and hundreds of dollars in vibrator tech (saying nothing of the thousands I’m saving on therapy), and I get to self-importantly hit on dudes in bars by telling them that I’m a columnist for a men’s magazine they might have heard of. Ali and I brainstormed ideas for next year and I. AM. LIT.
Another pitch that Gabriella Paiella took a chance on — the women of competitive eating — turned into an even cooler profile of Miki Sudo, the fastest rising star in competitive eating regardless of gender, and what life looks like when you reach the top very quickly. Hanging out with the stars of competitive eating was by far one of the most interesting weekends I’ve ever had.
I’ve been spending a lot of 2015 trying to figure out how to write about my culture well, rather than simply for the sake of, and this interview with former Das Racist rapper-turned-producer Heems hit exactly that. Just like many of us, Himanshu Suri is a contradictory Good Indian Kid: creative dreams by night, social media marketing work to pay the bills by day. We talked about his new album, tore up the model minority myth, and Heems dropped a quote about how he balances all of his cultures that has haunted me since he uttered it: “We create things so that we don’t have to talk about them.”
Another Nona Willis Aronowitz joint, this one officially turned me into the type of journalist who travels for stories (a bucket list goal I didn’t realize I coveted until I checked it off the list). What was supposed to be a quiet trip to find an apartment turned into attending a concealed carry rally on the UT Austin campus, along with some very real concerns about potential gun violence. Even though I’m diametrically opposed on the issue of campus carry, Nancy, the above pro-concealed carry activist toting her goldendoodle, cowboy hat, and IDGAF attitude, has become my new badass spirit animal.
The Boat Race (Victory Journal — Issue, 10 Print Only)
After an erstwhile start in print as a staff reporter for Whitney High School’s Aspects (RIP weekly newspaper that is now just a blog) a little over 10 years ago, I finally got back to being published in print for the fine folks at Victory Journal, the most beautiful magazine I’ve ever held. There is little I love more than sports journalism, so even though this piece was just deep captions on a stellar photo essay from Sophie Green, getting back to the medium with a publication I adore was a great way to close out December.