Meanwhile, twenty six years later...I sat facing the computer once again, the black cursor line in MS Word flashing angrily at me. It was a chess match I often lost, but always felt compelled to play. A glaring, teeth-gnashing, turn-clock-slapping matching of wits. Me versus a completely empty page layout, the software daring me to spill the uneven contents of my caffeine, alcohol, and drug addled brain across 10,000 pixels of white.
The laziest thing a writer can ever tell you about is himself or herself. When a writer does that they really have nothing to say and you should entirely skip reading the shit draining out of the massive abscess attached to their neck. I mean seriously, did you read that Norman Schwarzkopf autobiography? Yeah, that was a laugh riot Stormin' Norman! You goddamn cut up with your Hail Mary jokes and your post-game shower towel slaps at Colin Powell. Tell me another hilarious anecdote about how much you honestly cared for every soldier you ordered into combat. Did you lose sleep thinking they might get killed by the big bad? Awwwww! I bet you did!
In fairness to the unimpeachable General Schwarzkopf, his 300 or so pages of Reader's Digest Enormous Print Edition were probably as bad as they were because of a platoon of ghost writers. Which reminds me! Correction: The only thing worse than a writer talking about himself is a writer pretending to be someone else talking about himself. Unless "himself" is a fictional character, and even then, it can get messy and unpleasant.
Today I am twenty six, roughly five years after my age gives me any really welcome benefit and still much too young to start getting discounted movie tickets. I don't really feel old exactly, not as much as I expected to, but I do feel the push of time at my back and at my front. Time has dilated with perception, as if the bandwidth widens with each year and I swallow its passage with ever-larger gulps.
In the Western World a popular and often-adapted myth involves the idea that only you are real and everything around you is a fiction. It could be a fiction created unconsciously by you, a fiction created by some vast computer using your body as an implausible biological battery, or as in the movie "Jacob's Ladder" it could be a sort of split-second internal mechanism for coping with your own death. The point being that after 26 years the one piece of evidence I have to support these extremely unlikely myths is that I no longer perceive time at all as I did in my youth. When I was ten I could spend 15 minutes kicking a soccer ball around and run off the playground feeling like I just spent a week having fun. These days it can take me an hour to write a paragraph, two just to tie my shoes, three or four hours to take a shower, and so on.
It is nearly proof that I am trapped in "The Sims" and I expect to start setting plates of food on the floor in my kitchen at any minute.
About a week ago I received an e-mail from a reader in Antarctica who is working on the absolute cutting edge of science in an environment that can kill you in probably five minutes of exposure. Not quite deep space yet, but we're working our way there. Don't mistake this for bragging, I was genuinely amazed to read that we had fans so far away. Hell, I am amazed to find out we have fans on the South Side of Chicago, so you can imagine I nearly had a coronary when I found out people on the South Pole were reading Something Awful.
To segue, the letter was very affirming, because every writer I know including me has a sort of psychopathic hatred for their own material. As the words are coming out there might be some passing affection, a love affair that fades in a matter of hours and reverses course to the Hate Canal in under a week. This isn't shallow angst, nor is it some profound statement of the "life of an artiste"; it's just a matter of course. We have lots of children and we get tired of them really fast.
The effect this can have on a writer's self-confidence is monumental. I consider myself fortunate to have a steady position - at least up until Lowtax reads this and screams me into his office - but even with a constant trickle of reinforcement from readers I am incessantly second-guessing myself. I say "this update sucked" and invariably I get e-mails saying "that was the funniest shit ever!" and then a week or two later I make the mistake of swooning over one of my own children. That's how I set myself up for the inevitable crushing defeat of receiving no e-mail, positive or negative, about something I poured my heart into.
And why the fuck should I? Do I think I'm better than you or something? Do I think that my life, my opinion, or my feelings are more important than anyone else's?
No, quite the opposite. I can vouch for everyone currently here at Something Awful; writing and entertaining you (or attempting to) is closer to a compulsion than a symptom of an inflated ego. We do this because we love to and because we have to, and those of us who don't rarely last very long doing what we do. Our work is sometimes forced by that awful and inescapable passage of time that people who aren't assholes like me like to call a "schedule", but for the most part it's like squeezing a huge pustule and groaning with relief as it oozes out onto the page.
Not quite four years ago I hated my job. I mean I REALLY hated my job. I was working in a small town in Ohio, putting in sometimes 60 hour weeks at an ad agency, doing repetitive web design for companies that probably had one computer on a 56k modem next to a water cooler. I was at a small office where my chance at upward mobility had been stamped out by nepotism, not that I even really hold that against my former employer. When I would come home after a ten or eleven hour day I would sit down and try to write and it was an agonizing struggle. I was forcing it.
The long hours, tedious work, and sudden absence of any real "future" provided for an epiphany, and not one of those fake epiphanies I talk about frequently. It was either make a radical change in my life or abandon my dreams of writing as much as possible before I die.
I chose to try to freelance while starting a comedy website called "Geist Mag". I had quite a bit of money, and felt confident that with a total devotion to my work I was sure to succeed. I almost did too! Instead, I totally destroyed my life. My wife left me, I fucked over my children (who I usually don't mention here for good reasons), I pretty much alienated all of my business contacts in the town, and my bank account had all but vanished. I slid into a bottle deeper than the Marianas Trench, marinating my powderkeg of sorrow and self-loathing with a dash of unspoken suicidal feelings. It was the lowest of times, but I didn't lose everything.
Sleepless and half-drunk at all times I somehow managed to keep writing. The sentences and paragraphs just kept coming and coming, maybe even more than before. Much like this piece they weren't necessarily the most coherent, but they were some of my most honest little children. My friends and family helped, but more than anything the rope I clung to was my words and even as I hated them I knew they were the most important thing I had. They sustained me.
Nearly penniless, probably drunk at the time, and living with two friends who accepted the shitty treatment I dished out in the form of introversion and intermittent rent checks, I hammered through every night and well into the day at my keyboard with the letters worn off the keys. I didn't so much see hope in what I was doing as I felt it, like a whaler unaware of the dark shape of his next catch beneath the waves who can feel a tingling between his eyebrows and know he is within its magnetic pull.
One night on a whim I messaged Rich Kyanka. I read Something Awful, was a fan, and had spent some money advertising my site back when banner ads cost a small fortune that slowly trickled through an ad network and landed as a couple of quarters in Lowtax's hand.
Rich mentioned he was going to E3 and I offered to fill in for him for a day. I was completely unaware of the complex social structure behind the scenes on the SA Forums and how making such an offer totally usurped it. Either because he was a nice guy or because he was desperate, Rich agreed to let me fill in, and I banged out a terrible shit heap of an article that was somewhere between a parody of Lowtax's style and what a retard does when he sees cake. For whatever reason some goober at nVidia (probably the multi-billionaire CEO) commented to Lowtax that the article was good, and Lowtax actually read it in surprise.
Rich allowed me to continue on as an intermittent guest-writer on SA and my position gradually grew. Most of the rest of my history at Something Awful can be easily discovered in our vast archives - their size still shocks even me - but one thing bears further mention. In a totally nerdy version of an office romance I met and fell in love with one of our forum administrators, and she is the strongest and most wonderful person I have ever had in my life.
Here I am; 26 years old, still not funny, still writing because I have to, and happier than I have ever been. I would like to thank Michelle, Rich, all of the readers, and most importantly my words. Often horrible, sometimes pleasing to my senses, without them I would not be where I am right now.
Hey fellow rodeo fans, Taylor "Psychosis" Bell here to wrangle you up an all new shit game! Not only is it a shit game, it's a shit game that's almost impossible to play!
Rebels attempts to be a stealth-based real time strategy game from the perspective of five idiots trying to escape from prison, but it ends up being just like playing Diablo while squinting and hitting alt-F4 every ten seconds. More than anything else, this game raises disturbing questions about the design choices made by “Philoslabs” and other fine budget development studios. Why does level one load quickly while all the other levels, which are roughly the same size, take at least 20-30 seconds? Why does a game with a handful of tiny character models and a total of six levels require two discs? Why did they decide to release this shitsplat when all it does it briefly assault you with ugly, broken gameplay and then periodically decide you’d rather look at your desktop icons? These burning questions would drive me insane if I hadn’t recently taken a vow of not caring about them.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.