I’m sitting at my desk in my increasingly uncomfortable office chair drinking red wine while listening to Anita Baker. For someone in desperate need of a vacation, but months away (at the very least from taking one), I’ll take whatever temporary moments of escape I can get. For years now, editors and many of my fellow writers have referred to me as a machine due to the way I’ve been able to churn out assignment after assignment. Maybe, but I think it’s about time someone put me in the shop.
Last week, Cord Jefferson wrote yet another very good essay, this time on how tiresome it can be writing about racism over and over again. It’s worth the read, and as someone who, too, writes about race a lot, I can attest to the sentiment. For one of the outlets I regularly write for, I often joke to my friends that they might as well give me a column called “That’s Racist with Michael Arceneaux.” My way of tackling what I often think are worthless targets is to simply make fun of them. Even so, I’d much rather go with the Mariah Carey method of dealing with a complete waste of space: “Ain’t gon’ feed you, I’mma let you starve.”
I wish dealing with racism was the least of my problems, though.
Since graduating from college and actually collecting checks for my writing, I’ve tackled pop culture, politics, music, celebrity gossip, sexuality, race, satire, and social media. I am happy I’ve been allowed to write about so much. Not everyone can be versatile, or at least, be convincing at. That doesn’t negate exhaustion, however. Like, I’m not necessarily over writing, but I am somewhat tired of a few things.
The aforementioned writing about idiotic racists, but also subject matter I can classify as either “dumb shit” or “silly shit” or “patronizing shit.” I came across an article entitled “The Internet has a content diversity problem.” In it, the writer basically takes shots at varying publications for following into the listicle vortext in response to the chase for clicks. I’m somewhat conflicted on that. Do I think “sharebait” has further contributed to the decline of people’s attention spans and their desire to read anything more than 500 words that might require them to think? Yes. Nevertheless, for a bunch of people stuck in cubicles and offices at least three hours too long, I can understand the desire to read something easy breezy.
Plus, I’ve contributed to the problem ’cause those pay the checks. And honestly, writing a “dumb list” is a lot harder than people realize. It can be a challenge to make any piece look like easy reading.
I’m less annoyed by the list than I am this growing subgenre of online journalism that’s basically “Tell ‘Em Why You Mad, Son.” It’s like watching people race to out politically correct the other in an effort to sound more evolved than the next. There are plenty of things to get mad about, but so many seem insincere because it pays to rage. A lot of it comes across a lot like masturbation. As in, let me patronize you, oooh, baby, baby, they’re so bad, but your point of view, so-so-so good.
I don’t wake up everyday wanting to be “mad.” I want to make people laugh and make people think. If some people deserve a roasting, so be it — just don’t position it as “moving the debate” forward. That would require a level of respect, and gasp, nuance, which so many writers seem to lack.
Then there are the “LET ME ENRAGE YOU ON PURPOSE AND THEN PRETEND I ACTUALLY HAD SOMETHING MEANINGFUL TO SAY BECAUSE MY ATTENTION WHORING ASS GOT THE ATTENTION I SO DESPERATELY WANTED.” Fuck off twice, please.
In any event, I found it more interesting that a writer is complaining about diversity in content but only cited works from mainstream publications. That’s not surprising, but no less dually ironic and irritating.
What I’m personally sick of is having to chase for a check. I’m even more sick of having to churn out more than ever because though there may be an across the board wage depreciation, the publishing industry has really made an effort to take advantage of it. Even when I am offered the chance to write something that actually excites me, I have to contend with the reality that I have to be careful where I pitch it ’cause motherfuckers ain’t trying to pay the way they did even six months ago much less two years.
And yes, sometimes I do feel like Beyoncé being forced to cover Keri Hilson’s catalog due to increasingly stupid and/or lazy readers.
You know, a lot of the time I get told, “I’m so proud of you for living your dream.” I know the intent is complimentary, but I sometimes wince anyway. Yes, I’ve written a lot of things I’m particularly proud of – this year included – but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m living my dream. I’ve accomplished select goals, but my dreams are too big to truly embrace a statement I find hyperbolic.
I could go on, but I’m about to switch to Anthony Hamilton and perform “Float” in my apartment.
A few weeks ago, while watching Oprah’s Master Class with Whoopi Goldberg, she said something to the effect of, “Do what you have to do until you no longer have to.” That’s something I continue to tell myself, though I do know I have to push (and get it right) to do more things worthy of my talent (that pay better). Even if I feel tired. Even if I increasingly get upset by the state of the biz. Thankfully, there are people every now and then who remind me that in the midst of the noise, my voice still stands out. I appreciate that. More than most will ever understand.