Don't read this blog post: I have no wisdom to offer you this week
No, I wasn’t serious serious about you not reading this blog post, and I do appreciate the fact that you stopped by for—nothing.
The fact is, this blog post is the confluence of two seemingly unrelated, but tragically significant, events: a quote I read this week that made me think and a Chipotle cup. Those two “incidents” led me to the decision not to write anything this week, a plan I swiftly abandoned because, well, I have to write something this week, don’t I?
Or if I do have nothing to write this week, if I turn that nothing into something, will that make it less wrong, wasting your time like this? Will you still hate me, but not as much?
These are the kinds of philosophical conundrums I’ve been wrestling with since swiping through the New York Times and finding that quote that caught my eye.
The quote was actually one of many bite-sized observations, musings and recollections written by Andy Warhol’s former collaborators from the Factory in the 60s and 70s. David Croland—model, actor, illustrator—was one them. This is what Croland said of Warhol.
Andy was a great teacher. He taught me to always get a corner table in a restaurant, where you could see and be seen. People really looked at each other in those days. They didn’t have cellphones. The entertainment was you.
Being alone with our thoughts in public is something we may have forgotten, (outside Paris, where apparently it’s still accepted and practiced.) This is actually a problem, especially for writers. For writers, Croland’s entertainment—us—is our material and our audience. We’re always writing for people and about people. If we forget what they sound like, move like and look like, we’re not writing for them anymore. Or we’re writing from memory, which is sounding way too Orwellian for nine o’clock Wednesday morning.
When was the last time you sat down at a table or bench in a pubic place and just watched the free entertainment? No swiping, no fingers itching to click on that push notification that might be an acceptance from McSweeney’s (but is probably just another newsletter from Contently)? When was the last time you walked the streets entirely unplugged, and were at ease?
Save that thought.
Let me tell you about the Foer Cup.
• • •
The Foer Cup
The story of the Foer Cup, or at least my cerebral relationship with the Foer Cup, is now a distant memory, but it goes something like this.
One day, the young Brooklyn-based novelist Jonathan Safran Foer was sitting at a Chipotle in New York City when he realized in a mild panic that he had nothing to do while waiting for his food. He’d forgotten his phone at home, he had no book. He’d read the menu a hundred times. It was a life-changing moment, and the birth of the Foer Cup, a panacea for lonely, fidgety diners who have no entertainment while they wait for their food.
Foer decided, as he ate his burrito minutes later, that he would never be without content again while he waited for his orders at Chipotle. The very next day he approached the Chipotle people and pitched a wax-coated cup (and probably bags, napkins and T-shirts too, because really the sky was the limit) that would feature short stories Chipotle diners could read while they waited for their burritos. (Most of those stories would be—and were—written by Foer and his friends.)
The question this raises is a subtle one: WTF? Isn’t this freaking insane?
Or let me put it another way. Do you need, or want, to be ingesting stories while you wait for your burritos? I know reading is good. I love reading and read everyday. My God, I’m an ecstatic reader. But sucking up content even in the moments when you’re supposed to be doing the opposite strikes me as dumb.
As dumb as the Foer Cup.
Or the Franzen Bag.
• • •
Beyond the Foer Cup
Sadly, the alternative to the Foer Cup isn’t this blog post, because what did I really offer you but some Wednesday morning griping and honest snark? And to be perfectly honest, that’s not even the worst, and you know it.
The worst is piling up in your Gmail inbox even as you read this, begging entrance: dozens of well-meaning content providers you clicked yes to, pumping content into your ears like cake frosting, producing the never-ending static that gets in the way of the ever-fainter, possibly permanently receding signal.
So what is the solution if it’s not a cup or The Ultimate Guide to Creativity by 99 Designs?
The solution is this: stop reading this awful stuff and go take a walk.
Max Sheridan's writing has appeared in a number of online and print publications in the US, UK and elsewhere. He's worked as a teacher, journalist, editor and copywriter. He's the founder and director of Write CY, a Nicosia-based platform for creative writing and community storytelling, where he teaches Story Craft, a 10-week short story writing course. His novel Dillo was released by Shotgun Honey in December 2017. Talk to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.