Hi there. If you’re reading this then you’re probably a great friend or just bored out of your fucking mind. For those that know me, I write professionally mostly about music with a dash of film and pop culture criticism thrown in. Slowly my brain cells are fizzling out, writing opportunities are slim, and I need to force myself to put words on a page even if I don’t get paid for it, even when media corporations are killing jobs in order to keep the higher-ups’ bonuses, even if the industry’s fragility is extremely distressing, even if it’s tempting to, instead, stare at the wall while I’m on hold for another two hours with the Department of Unemployment. Hopefully, this small fraction of the internet might bring you some reprieve or some new discovery. For me, Empty Stomach is an experiment to write without monetary incentive, to help my ~practice~, to structure my time around something in this uncomfortable, bonkers world we’re in right now.
So why the hell did I name this thing Empty Stomach? I’m not going to lie…it just sounds cool. But also it aligns with a characteristic I’ve learned about myself and am trying to accept, to scrutinize: I never stay satisfied for too long. Now this sounds depressing, but actually it can be valuable. I’m always hungry to write, to learn about new music, to learn about old music, to acquire new language, to understand new perspectives. Frankly, as a freelance writer I’m often exhausted by chasing small payments for emotional labor and an intensive hustle. Sometimes it can feel like getting dumped by your middle school crush over and over. That doesn’t stop me from doing it…
“Hey Timmy! Do you want to, like, go to the Starbucks in downtown LaGrange and loiter for a while?” I ask sheepishly. “Hey, thanks so much for this, but I’m gonna have to pass. I’m already going there on Saturday with Devin. But please follow-up in the future with any other awkward places for us to stand around and annoy people,” he says ruffling with his untucked uniform shirt. I painfully smile, not feeling completely defeated, with a balloon of pressure expanding in my chest. I KNEW IT. I. Knew. It. I should have asked to loiter at the Barnes & Noble instead. FUCK. I walk to the bus stop, headphones in and Sufjan Stevens’s Illinois blaring, thinking about which day I’ll reach out to my shaggy-haired beau again.
…reaching for redemption with one last hopeful idea or wacky pitch. It’s the best feeling when my ideas get validated and are expanded and strengthened by the brilliant editors I’ve been blessed to work with. And even then, it’s not enough.
When I was going into into my Junior year in college I took a creative writing course over the summer. Aside from this awful story some girl wrote about childhood nostalgia—using a metaphor of sand getting in her peanut butter and Fluff sandwich as a transition to adulthood—the one thing that never left me was a comment from the oldest and quietest dude in my class. He looked like a cross between that actor from The Good Doctor and Andrew Garfield, and he always had a notebook on him to write down every single thing he felt important. He dissuaded us from thinking this was basic note taking, which many of us weren’t doing anyway with our minds lost in summer’s hedonistic sunlight. He clarified that he had to write everything down in order to remember it.
Now I don’t recall if this was a pompous thing to say or if he was divulging a personal tic in a vulnerable moment, but four years later I regularly think about his compulsive habit. It reminds me of the cracks in memory and my own lazy stubbornness. That at one point in time, I thought I didn’t have to write things down to remember them. That I already understood a thought or fact completely so it didn’t deserve a blank space to grow. I have a notebook, I try to journal. But again, I’m hungry. Maybe eager for others to read my thoughts or for me just to have a semi-formal outlet for my music finds and strange pop culture conspiracies. In this weird and awful quarantined time, I’m just looking for a little satisfaction and indulgence. Whatever this turns into, I hope you and I can find that here.