“Write drunk. Edit sober.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Jess linked this on Facebook the other day. I’d already heard about Cat Marnell via outlets like Gawker, coketalk, and pretty much the whole rest of the Internet, mostly about what a shame it was that this person would so willingly allow herself to be fired in favor of her party girl image. Some people had sympathy for Cat Marnell, others seemed confused. I thought “what a fucking idiot.”
I know girls like this. Not just girls who are high all the time, and who careen towards self-destruction with a reckless “lookit me go!” abandon. I know girls who do this and want to call themselves writers, and you know what? They all write the same. It’s all half stream of consciousness and half hipster dirtbag references, bragging about letting people down, pissing money down the drain, and not caring about it. Except if they really didn’t care about it, then it wouldn’t be worth talking about, right?
With Cat Marnell and the people like her, their writing isn’t an issue. That’s because there isn’t writing. There’s scribbling shit down during an Adderall binge. What they call style is poor structure and bad grammar, and whatever theme they had has split into messy tangents, unchaseable, untraceable, and just fucking sloppy. It’s not writing, it’s noise. This is not to say you can’t write on drugs. You can. People have. But the best writers on drugs are still disciplined writers. They work. They create. They create a lot, and granted most of it is crazy ass drivel, but that’s true for writers who aren’t on drugs, too. What I’m saying is that there’s a difference between writing as work and writing as coke-fueled, teeth grinding, greedy bastard talking at you, and people like Cat Marnell are talking at you.
Again, I’m not saying you can’t do drugs if you want to write. As with anything that essentially poisons your body (or allegedly makes it better, see: kale), drugs and alcohol can be fine in reasonable doses. Well. I mean, not meth or bath salts, but the people taking those aren’t really into books in the first place. But when your thing is drugs and writing just sort of happens and not even all that well, then what are you? What do you want to be? Cat Marnell calls herself a writer, but for her and people like her, I don’t think that’s the honest answer, even if she writes long posts, which is apparently reason enough for her. Perhaps a more specific question is, if you had to pick just one, would you rather be a writer, or would you rather be famous? Which one of those turns you on more? Is it writing, the act of sitting down to produce something from intangible concepts and use it to tell people how your brain works? Or is it infamy, because that’s the kind of famous that happens when you’re only famous for fucking up?
I choose writing, and not because it’s the smarter or nobler option. I choose writing because that’s what drives me. I’d rather meet a deadline than quit my column job to, as Cat Marnell did, “smoke angel dust on the roof of Le Bain and look for shooting stars.” Is this because I’m pathologically afraid of being broke and also I like to keep myself in fancy foods? Yes. Is it because I already learned that I’m a better writer when I’m not fucked up? Also yes. If I write in the morning, I need coffee. If I write at night, I like a beer. Beyond that, everything comes out senseless. AGAIN, other people need or like more and are perfectly good writers, but again, they’re not making their careers out of burning out in spectacularly idiotic fashion. You can’t do drugs exclusively and kind of just expect to be a writer on the way.
Cat Marnell famously doesn’t give a shit about what I or anyone else thinks. She doesn’t need to. Vice is right there to suck her dick, and probably unironically. It’s the girls who try to write like her that are the problem, girls who still think that somebody’s going to notice and adore them for no reason at all, and the best way to make that happen is to get everyone’s attention. Fuck working. Fuck being relevant. Fuck eating and sleeping and not looking like a broken off-brand sex doll. What they still don’t understand is that it’s not like some special snowflake talent is going to shine through no matter what. It won’t. It doesn’t. Nobody’s that lucky, and almost nobody, including Cat Marnell, is that talented.
“I want to make a promise to you, the reader. And I don’t know if I can fulfill it tomorrow, or even the day after that. But I put the bastards of this world on notice that I do not have their best interests at heart. I will try and speak for my reader. That is my promise. And it will be a voice made of ink and rage.”
– Hunter S. Thompson, from “The Rum Diary”