I could start with a brief paragraph highlighting – or in all likelihood hyperbolizing – my skills, successes, and what I believe makes me a competent writer and editor. I could then attempt to relate to you by sharing my pipedreams of writing the next great novel and going down in the annals of literary badassery with the likes of Hemingway and Bukowski. I could then fill in the remaining gaps of the article with sentiments of questionable sincerity reiterating – over and over again – how excited I am to read the fruits of your literary endeavors. Everything would go smoothly and I could finish within the hour – except for one problem: that article would be bullshit. You don’t want to read it, so I don’t want to write it.
Hello, my name is Keaton and I will be overseeing the Insight, Culture, and Science sections here at The Wanderer.
I did write that article. I shared how my experiences teaching and tutoring English inspired me to help others write. I explained how the defeat of my first – and certainly not my last – rejection letter made me almost give up on myself. I concluded by describing the orgastic feeling that accompanied my first publication – a clever little narrative bow, if you will, to tie everything together with a happy ending.
I reviewed that article and realized how inane it was. I had written my very own “never give up on yourself” narrative. I became painfully aware of the irony I added with each uninspired keystroke: I was producing the type of article I will do everything in my power to discourage with my time at The Wanderer. Just as I spared you the details of my humdrum journey of overcoming literary adversities, you too should spare your potential readers a similar fate. If you are striving to set yourself apart from other writers – which you should be – then producing uninspired narratives is probably not the best way to forge your identity.
True love triumphing in the end, always looking on the bright side of life, not crying over spilt milk, whatever – the list of cliché-riddled articles is as long as it is unfortunate. A half-dozen pedantic articles on “Why We Millennials are the Greatest Generation.” A few touching on “The Importance of Loving What You Do,” and the inevitable – complete with pictures of palm trees and piña-coladas – “Why People who Travel are Happier.” These articles differ mainly in their titles and reiterate the same cookie-cutter conventional wisdom and blanket statement approaches to relating with their readers.
I too want validation for my work, but I refuse to believe this type of writing is the way to achieve it. No one remembers the authors of these fluff pieces because they are not engaging. We don’t learn anything intimate about the author or ourselves in the process. The Internet was once a bastion of free information transfer where innovative ideas were celebrated instead of buried at the bottom of the pile. Instead, sections of it have turned into one cosmopolitan magazine after another with benign articles chock-full of lackluster uninspired advice that no one asked for. It appears the editors of these publications believe their readers will stomach anything that is stirred in a feel-good cocktail of uninspired repetitious advice and platitudes – I think they’re wrong.
Little of substance is gained through lists that presume to tell us mundane facts about ourselves. Instead, we learn about each other when we share experiences through the stories we tell. With that in mind, at The Wanderer, we are going to put ourselves out there. I want to read something you’d only scribble in your private diary. I want your ambition of becoming a successful writer to overpower your fear of exposure. I want you to break the mould. If I get the overwhelming impression that I am connecting with you just by reading your work, then our readers will too, and that is something special.
It is not lost on me that I am attempting to write an original article about the importance of being original. I suppose I too should put myself out there. I’ll do so by admitting that an overwhelming majority of what I write is garbage – and I mean hot liquid left-out-in-the-sun garbage. I often deposit my mental excrements into a folder in my phone to use as fuel for future material. Examples include: “I bet you Sesame Street characters speaking German is horrifying” and “One should strive to be exactly like a pug.”
I no longer have any idea what any of that means – but at one point I considered it important enough to write down. All my ideas begin this way. They evolve, sometimes, because through a handful of marginal successes sandwiched between multitudes of failures I have trained myself not to be self-critical. I wrote an article (a travel piece, as it were) a year ago wherein I included personal musings. I revisited it recently and it proved cringe-inducing. I now hate almost every word of it. However, I don’t regret submitting it. The day it was published a reader commented on how my story caused her to inadvertently begin weeping in the library. Strangers approached me and explained how my experiences resonated with them. Despite never meeting me in the flesh, they asked intimate questions inspired by what my writing revealed about myself. They did not make fun of me, as I feared – they were curious. This came to me as an unprecedented sense of accomplishment and reinforced that what I had to say mattered, at least to a handful of readers. For that reason alone it remains on the website.
Dear potential writer, I invite you to share with The Wanderer team your scribblings, your auto-corrected iPhone notes, and your drunken social media posts that you embarrassingly remove the next morning. I say with the utmost sincerity that I want you to email me unedited and uncut article ideas at three in the morning. Although they may be ridiculous and possibly lead to a dead end, they are original and unique to you. Isn’t what you were feeling at that time – no matter how absurd – worth at least exploring a little further?
There is one tired sentiment that I can type out without feeling the urge to head-butt my keyboard, and that is that I genuinely look forward to working with all of you. I realize I may come off as an editor who is hard to please; however I assure you that I will not shoot down your idea. If you do share something clichéd and preliminarily unoriginal, then I’m going to challenge the hell out of you and help turn it into something we can both be proud of. Clichés are safe, and safe is boring. If you agree, then lets go for a coffee (or a beer if you’re buying), let’s chat on Facebook, or just shoot me an email. No matter how we correspond, it is my goal to together make something original, truthful, relevant to the Edmonton community, and therefore worth reading.
Until then, keep Wandering!
Keaton Peterson | Managing Editor
Illustration courtesy of Wanderer Online Design Editor Janelle Holod