6 Random Pieces Of Online Writing That Have Stuck With Me

How often do you read an online article or blog post to the very end? Moreover, how long do you actually remember what you read?

Recent research shows that we rarely read online articles in their entirety. And while the old adage of “you only remember 20% of what you read” has been debunked, the true percentage is probably nowhere near 100% for the non-rainmen of us.

We are a world of skimmers, which makes that small amount of material we read through to the end–and actually remember–even more special. Great writing never truly leaves us, even years down the road. Instead we internalize it, possibly changing forever the way we think about the world.

Here are six favorites I wanted to share that have never strayed too far from my mind:

A Special Graduation Message to the Class of 2012
By Drew Magary for Deadspin

“Your life is going to be monumental regardless of what happens after you graduate. Life writes a story for everyone and that story is filled with big, dramatic things like death and disease and love and addiction and despair. From the richest man to the poorest man, we all go through triumph and misery. No one makes it out alive.”

I wish the speech at my graduation had been even half this straight-shooting and inspiring. Instead, my school hosted John Boehner, and all I can remember is him making a boner joke (seriously).

Poignant and perhaps brutally honest in spots (in what I’ve seen to be true with the world so far), there are certain passages from this piece that pop into my head whenever I find myself in certain situations:

“When you drive alone at night and you don’t have the radio on, you feel like you’ve entered some kind of void in the universe.There’s no one to talk to. There’s no one to listen to. It’s just you, the pavement, and a scattering of other white and red lights around you. You enter an endless dark dream state; it’s what an atheist imagines death is like.”

Or whenever I am lacking motivation and am feeling woefully existential, wondering what the point of anything is:

“The point isn’t to do great things. The point is to just do things. The point is to experiment with the world around you and see how you can best use it to better serve your own little universe. And the more you use the world, the more it opens up for you. The seemingly unrelated shit you do has a way of eventually connecting. You’ll read a book and then bring it up spontaneously in some job interview and make a connection with your future boss. You’ll go out to get shitfaced one night and bump into your future wife. I’m not saying it’s all gonna fit together perfectly like you’re in Slumdog Millionaire, but certain things will fall into place. Life is a cumulative experience, and the more random shit you do and the more people you interact with, the more the world can be of service to you.”

If someone were to ever ask about my basic outlook or philosophy on life, I’d probably just forward them this piece.

Truthfully, my only goal when I write is to create something that has the kind of staying power with the reader that this piece has had with me.

How We Judge Others is How We Judge Ourselves
By Mark Manson for MarkManson.net


“If you measure your life by how much you’ve traveled and experienced, then you will measure other people by the same standard – how worldly they’ve become. If they prefer to stay home and enjoy the comforts of routine, then you will judge them as incurious, ignorant, unambitious, regardless of what their aspirations really are.”

This post really hit home for a multitude of reasons and made me realize just how much value I put in travel. Unconsciously for most of my adult life, I had been holding people who were well-traveled in very high esteem because I looked down upon myself for having never traveled abroad (yet).

And this idea holds true (for me) across all different areas of life–I used to be obsessed with my body image and would work out purely for aesthetic reasons. At the same time–and not always realizing it–I would also be constantly judging others for their physique.

Now that I have a much more positive and healthier attitude about fitness, not only do I rarely (if ever) critique my own body, it no longer even crosses my mind to assign value to others based on their physical conditioning. The same goes for the having routine in one’s life. After all, “The yardstick we use for ourselves is the yardstick we use for the world.”

And while it’s certainly open to debate, the line “Everyone is either trying to prove or disprove who they were in high school” is gold and something to think about.

How to Live Without Irony
By Christy Wampole for the New York Times Opinionator 


“But Y2K came and went without disaster. We were hopeful throughout the ’90s, but hope is such a vulnerable emotion; we needed a self-defense mechanism, for every generation has one. For Gen Xers, it was a kind of diligent apathy. We actively did not care. Our archetype was the slacker who slouched through life in plaid flannel, alone in his room, misunderstood.” 

It’d be hard to describe a hipster (which I have been called more than once) to someone without using the word ironic. However, point by point, Wampole makes a great argument that the hipster subculture is just the flagship of a mass irony-movement that has bled into every corner of today’s society, from advertising to social media.

While admitting her own shortcomings with ironic living, she also identifies the irony-movement as a kind of defense mechanism, a reflection of a bigger issue with our generation having difficulty being honest and direct about who we are and what we want. The piece is far from an empty critique or rant–Wampole concludes with offering actionable-advice intended to raise our self-awareness of our own ironic tendencies:

“Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)? In other words, do your clothes refer to something else or only to themselves? Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly? In other words, is your style an anti-style? The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?”

It’s almost enough to make me stop saying YOLO sarcastically. Almost.

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators
By Megan McArdle for The Atlantic


“Most writers manage to get by because, as the deadline creeps closer, their fears of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fears of turning in something terrible.”

This fear of turning in nothing has gotten me through more assignments and projects than I could ever begin to count. McArdle weaves this idea into a theory about why writers are such terrible procrastinators; essentially, she argues, it’s because they were good at English class.

“Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class.

This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not—indeed, probably won’t—be the best anymore.”

Guilty and guilty. Even though I enjoyed it, I gave no serious thought to incorporating writing into my career or even as a side-pursuit until after college. I honestly feel that a big reason for this was that writing always came so natural to me–how could anything so easy give me success in life? What was the big deal?

The rare times I did try and sit down to write creatively I would hit a block shortly after beginning. Because I had never really struggled in any capacity with school-assigned writing, it was easier just to chalk the shortcoming up to not being talented enough. I was good at writing, but not that good:

 “The kids who race ahead in the readers without much supervision get praised for being smart,” says Dweck. “What are they learning? They’re learning that being smart is not about overcoming tough challenges. It’s about finding work easy. When they get to college or graduate school and it starts being hard, they don’t necessarily know how to deal with that.”

Our 21-Day Journey Into Minimalism
By Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus for The Minimalists


“Everything we buy has extra costs associated with them, not just the price on the price tag.”

While I’ll probably never come close to being able to make one of those ‘look at everything I own‘ posts (I love my books and pint glasses too much), this series of 21 mini-posts by ‘The Minimalists’ introduced me to the idea of minimalism and forever changed the way I look at possessions.

I used to be a pack rat, convincing myself to keep all kinds of junk in the event that I ‘might need it someday’ or assigning some sort of sentimental value to it.

Some of the posts are a little extreme (e.g., getting rid of your car, selling your house) but going through the series post-by-post had me paring down the amount of junk in my life, and it felt good. Even today, be it from my computer desktop to my closet, I am constantly trying to keep things restrained to that which I actually use. I truly believe your possessions end up owning you, and getting rid of the noise has allowed me to focus on the things that are more important to me (e.g., writing) than managing and organizing items.

20-Year-Old Hunter S. Thompson’s Superb Advice on How to Find Your Purpose and Live a Meaningful Life
By Maria Popova (and Hunter S. Thompson) for Brain Pickings
From Letters of Note, compiled by Shaun Usher

“Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.”

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in myself over the past two years is that I am much more hesitant to give ‘advice.’ As I mused about in a recent post, I’ve tried to stop thinking about there being a ‘best’ or ‘right’ way to do things, or that I would even know what that might be. Even when talking to people now, I use a lot more qualifiers (too many according to some) and try to make it clear that I am speaking only from my own anecdotal evidence.

Remarkably insightful for a 20 year old, Hunter sums up my new disdain for a lot of self-development material nicely in a letter to a friend:

“To give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.”

I have also recently realized the importance of being more process than goal-oriented (to the point where I have thought about getting rid of my bucket list). Over several paragraphs the late journalist opines about why this is important:

“To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors—but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires—including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.”

And if you’ve made it this far, thanks for skimming.

What random online reading has stuck with you?

A letter to myself about routine

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” 

–Steven Pressfield

Dear Andrew,

Without realizing it, you have become a massive hypocrite.

You have sworn off and lambasted, to anyone that will listen, something that has allowed you to achieve things that you are incredibly proud of, something you owe a great deal to: routine.

With your nose in the air, you assert your adverseness to the norm by reciting such truisms as “Routine is the enemy” and “Comfort breeds weakness”.

You have bragged everywhere from cover letters to casual conversation that you have an ‘addiction to change’ and that you could “realistically live some place new every six months.”

But only through routine and being (mostly) in one spot geographically have you been able to devote a small chunk of time every day the past 18 months to writing. Only this has allowed you to self-publish two books so quickly and turn this blog into something you are proud to share.

Everytime you do travel, even if it’s just a few days, you always end up missing routine. Admit it. Your brain starts to crave that morning solitude and complete immersion in your projects.

Do you think you’ll get that on a six month backpacking trek across Europe living out of hostels? Unlikely. Do you think once the novelty of foreign lands wears off you’ll be itching to ground yourself in one spot and get some work done? Most definitely.

It’s ok to have a base. It’s ok to have roots. And it’s ok to call a place home for an indefinite amount of time. It’s not selling out, it’s investing in yourself.

Yes, there is tremendous value in travelling and pursuing new experiences. Living in new places and experiencing different ways of life is indeed a great way to gain perspective. However, while that all may mold and teach us plenty, what we do in our daily routine creates that foundation we get to sculpt.

These constantly shifting variables and ADD living are the enemy of routine. While there might be a kind of glamour in the ‘wayfaring writer’ penning the Great American Novel in a rail car, this is not how you work best. You traveled quite a bit last year, and while planes and hotels seem like the perfect place to get serious work done, that’s not what happens. Maybe for some people, but not you. 

Part of this animosity comes from having written off (unfairly) what a routine exactly is.

Think about fitness, specifically CrossFit, whose principals of incremental change and highly-focused (yet brief) intervals you have applied to other areas of your life. While the workouts change every day, CrossFit is a perfect example of how routine need not be repetitive and mindless. To get good at the activity, one must still apply themselves consistently and frequently—aka they must apply themselves with routine. A deliberate, defined, and constantly-varied routine, but one nonetheless. 

So stop sullying routine’s good name. It is not the enemy, but a powerful partner whose relationship with should be nurtured to the fullest.

Just do the work and enjoy where you are. The world will be always be there, and as the fruit of your labor now, you will have it someday soon.  


Thank you.

“Writers tend to be so paranoid about talking about their work because no one, including us, really understands how it works.”

-Anne Lamott

A Confidence Carol has been out a week, and while there were some high stress moments leading up to release day, overall I am incredibly pleased with the launch.

I was going to do a “XX Things I’ve Learned From Writing Two Books” post, and while I am sure it would be enthralling to read about how I didn’t (and barely do now) have any idea how a semi-colon works, everything I could come up with pales in comparison to the most important thing I learned:

I have awesome people in my life.

Anyone that’s ever written (or done any kind of art) seriously can tell you how frightening it is to put your work out to be judged for the first time. You are at the mercy of the masses, and perhaps the only thing worse than a poor review is your hard work simply being ignored.

Writing is an extremely personal and internal act, and letting a piece of work that you toiled over, for months on end, out of your grasp has to feel a little like seeing your first child go off to college. All that you have helped cultivate and grow is now on its own, completely out of your control.

I admittedly had a minor breakdown in the coffee shop I was inhabiting last Monday in the hours following the book going live. Rationally, I knew not to expect much response other than some Facebook likes, but because I had been building up to hitting that submit button on Amazon for so long, I wanted immediate gratification. I wanted 1,000 copies sold the first hour, my name to rise to the top of the Kindle Charts, to see my cover on the front page of reddit…I wanted to go viral.

And while none of that happened (yet), something just as good did.

People that I knew, and had actual, real relationships with started to send me texts and messages. Messages saying that they bought my book, that they were excited to read it, that they were proud of me.

The fact that friends and family of varying degrees had voluntarily given me their time and hard-earned money for something that I wrote in Word over the past few months boggled my mind and made me extremely thankful, a feeling that no amount of sales to strangers would have given me.

Among many acts that left me flattered to the utmost in the past week, I had:

  • two friends write good reviews (unsolicited) on the book’s Amazon page
  • a friend I hadn’t talked to in over a year text me about how much he was enjoying the story and how it had made him think about his life
  • multiple people at my gym excitedly tell me that they are reading the book
  • my brother time the posting of my headshots on his blog with ACC‘s release
  • a high school classmate saying she convinced three of her friends to buy
  • one of my favorite Twitter follows tweet my book to her 400,000+ followers (also unsolicited and I still have no idea how she found it in the first place)
  • countless people selflessly share the Facebook status announcing the book’s release
  • a friend offer to introduce me to her brother, who is an established playwright
  • another friend offer to promo the book on his platform that is much more established than mine

It all gives me a feeling that is difficult to put into words. Writing can feel very lonesome at times, but this past week I felt as if I had an entire team of publicists behind me.  Moreso, it reassures me that I am going down the correct path for myself, and that I can make this dream a reality.

Of course I want to make money writing, and of course I would love my work to go viral. I’d be flat-out lying if I said otherwise. But you have to learn to crawl before you can walk, and having my friends and family support my work is like having the best team of teachers to lean on in the world.

So thank you, readers. This project was one of the more exhausting experiences of my life, but after all is said and done I can easily say it was one of the more rewarding as well. I can’t wait to start the next book, and I hope you will enjoy it even more.

Thanks again and happy holidays.


A Confidence Carol—Out Today!

I am ecstatic to announce that my new book, A Confidence Carol, is now available on Amazon for Kindle. Click here to purchase and I hope you enjoy!

Don’t have a Kindle? Download a free Kindle reader for your computer, smartphone, or tablet. Don’t like those options? Send me a screenshot of an Amazon receipt and I’ll send you the PDF.

This project has simultaneously been one of the most educational and exhausting experiences of my life, and I have plenty of ideas for follow-up posts pertaining to its creation and the creative process in general. 2014 is going to be a big year for me, and in addition to generating a steady slew of new and awesome content, the site is going to be getting yet one more re-design. A sneak peek:

But for now, thank you all for your support and eyeballs, enjoy the book and be sure to let me know what you think!

Download Chapter One of A Confidence Carol for Free! [Update: Full release on 12/16/13!]

As promised, the first chapter of A Confidence Carol is now available for free and for one week only (PDF only for the single chapter, apologies).  Enjoy!

[The week is up, but check back Monday, December 16th for the full release on Amazon!]

As you’ll see, I wanted to do more than just make a contemporary retelling of A Christmas Carol. Being a huge fan of the classic, I wanted to pay homage to it by preserving a lot of the style and more signature lines from the Dickens version. The result I think is very unique, and I would liken it to being more of a literary remix than just a modern day face-lift.

And I am sure I am breaking Product Launching 101, but the exact release date for the entire book is not yet set in stone (getting to make my own timeline is both a small curse and a blessing of independent publishing). If I were a betting man, I would expect it to be on Amazon sometime during the second week of December. Unless of course I decide that Ethan would be so much cooler as a hypochondriac with a Cajun accent and I end up having to rewrite a large portion of the text.

No matter when it lands, I will post an update here and on social media as soon as I figure that out. Be sure to subscribe so that you aren’t having to check back incessantly and distort my page views (and self-esteem).

What did you think of the first chapter?