Wordsmith Wednesday: Cloud Nothings’ “Wasted Days”

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Our words this week come from Cloud Nothings’ song “Wasted Days” off their 2012 album Attack on Memory.

The lyrics are:

“I thought/
I would/
Be more/
Than this”

The simplicity and directness of Dylan Baldi’s words (and delivery) always force me to stare them in the face. Repeated with increasing intensity in the song, these words creep in and wrap themselves around your face, pushing in parts of your skull you thought were solid but still have some infantile give to them. I feel these words in the words and eyes of the people around me at work, at shows, in the grocery store. I’ve looked out my kitchen window many times in the past couple of years with these words spinning in my mind, both in my own voice and Baldi’s. Complacency has always scared me. I’m ever unsatisfied, often unable to take pleasure in any present personal crest because I’m standing in the shadow of the next summit. While I’m disappointed or depressed some days, it’s usually not of any tangible failure, but rather a nagging need to do more, to be more. This mindset may burn me out or it may keep me trudging forward in search of new fixes of fulfillment. Either way, I’m sure I have many more hours standing in front of windows with these words winding around in my head.

– NR

cloudnothings

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Wordsmith Wednesday: Keaton Henson’s “Small Hands”

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This week’s Wordsmith Wednesday is from the song “Small Hands” off of Keaton Henson’s album Dear. It goes,

“Get distracted by my music
think of nothing else but art
I’ll write my loneliness in poems,
if I can just think how to start”

A struggle that I never seem to be able to win is the tug of war between wanting to write, and create, and master, and actually being able to begin. One of the hardest parts of writing is conquering the fear of starting, the fear of creating something unworthy, so you stop, you quit before ever beginning. Appreciating, and getting lost in other people’s music is easy, but creating something yourself is a whole other ordeal. Once you begin though, once pen and mind are put to paper, the process of writing often flows naturally. All that is often needed is a nice, hard shove.

– KK

Keaton

Wordsmith Wednesday: Bully “Milkman”

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After a brief hiatus for the holidaze, we’re back with another Wordsmith Wednesday. This week we’re highlighting a lyric from Bully’s song “Milkman” off their 2015 debut record Feels Like.

The lines are:

“I could be a milkman,
Or I could get up and could be what I want to be”

Alicia Bognanno’s words deftly engage an anxiety that exists around work and worth in our culture that discourages many people from even attempting to do anything that doesn’t translate directly into (a sense of) financial stability. There’s a stigma against pursuing any type of “dream” that doesn’t fit neatly into an American Dream of prosperity through practicality that it seems is all but dead. When I’ve felt discouraged or lazy this past year, especially in regards to the magazine or my own writing, I’ve tapped these lines for some motivation. Some days are easier than others, but I’m still trying to get up every day.

– NR

Bully

Wordsmith Wednesday: Ralph Waldo Emerson

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This week’s Wordsmith Wednesday comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson. They are,
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
Though these are words by Emerson that are often quoted, they are still constantly applicable to every day life. They teach us to keep moving forward and, as hard as it is, to not dwell on the past. Every day is as malleable as the next. We can chose to sit still and allow past decisions to fester within us, or move forward and shape our own future day by day.
– KK
Emerson

Editors’ Note for Issue 3

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The following is the full Editors’ Note for Issue 3:

“Anxiety can either cripple or drive you.

It can drag you down like a stone, trapping you on the murky psychic riverbed to choke on seaweed and self-critique. It can be the palm that holds you underwater, screaming bubbles and scratching at the invisible force. It is the sound in the distance, the figure in the dark, the uncertainty of the answer to a difficult question. It is the thing that stops you from enjoying any taste of success by planting the thought of a more satisfying success just ahead yet unseen. It is FOMO and the neighborhood watch and small town racism and narrow-mindedness in all forms. It is the smoke break and the bitten-up fingertips and standing on the back porch at 4 am.

It can also be the motivation that forces you back to the surface, making you flap your arms until you figure out how to turn slapping hands into a doggy paddle into smooth strokes propelling you for as long as your mind muscles allow. Anxiety can feed off fear, turn frustration into fuel. It can be the foundation for great innovations, inspired music, transcendent literature. It is that thing that must be alleviated through expression, the need to take some internal pressure and spit it out into the world so that somebody else can chew on the idea for a while. It is the desire to find solutions.

The tricky conundrum is that anxiety can also suppress that expression, trapping everything inside your skull. What if what I think is stupid? What if what I made isn’t good? What if what I did isn’t important? What if people laugh in my face? What if they laugh behind my back? What if they laugh in the comments? What if nobody cares at all? Anxiety can be completely paralyzing to creativity, killing all motivation before the process has even begun. The effect can be especially fatal if the primary motivation is to create something impressive or cool in the eyes of others instead of trying to give a voice to that gnawing thought in your frontal lobe.

The real trap is allowing anxiety to breed off itself, choosing activities and developing habits that perpetuate rather than alleviate that stress weighing on your brain and strengthening that pressure pushing down from a place unseen. This seems to be the elemental basis for addiction, whether it be to drugs or beauty or success or anything else. They all appear born of the idea that acquisition or achievement of some formless, yet theoretically attainable, thing will take away the “bad stuff” i.e. the generalized anxiety associated with just being alive.

The catch of course is that if a little is good, then more must be better. And so we overdose. We want so desperately to relieve that near constant anxiety associated with not feeling good that we cease to even let the uncertainty enter our lives by developing habitual coping mechanisms. We get high. We apply makeup. We work to exhaustion. We check our phones incessantly, hoping for communication from a friend/acquaintance/news source/etc. We make sure the boogiemen of doubt and depression don’t creep into our minds by making sure every crevice is filled with entertainment or consumption or communication. We are constantly doing regardless of what is being done. Some may say we do these things to feel good, but it seems more likely we do them to not feel so bad. And there is a difference.

This magazine itself probably started as a way to relieve some anxieties we hadn’t wanted to face yet. Anxieties about achievement and value and creativity and success and death. The fear that we were just floating through life thoughtlessly, consuming without creating and, thus, feeling empty and unsatisfied. A looming uneasiness that we were stagnant, being pushed in directions we didn’t want to go because we were ourselves directionless. Neither of us had dreams of starting a literary magazine. This isn’t a career move or a resume builder. This isn’t about social capital or appearing intelligent to our peers. This isn’t self-worship. This is two lost people on a park bench. This is sure why not. This is screaming into the void.  This is the need to do something.

The pieces of writing included in this issue are great examples of why we chose literature as our something rather than another medium. They make us feel connected to the authors, the world around us, and ourselves. They are nuanced and subtle yet moving, just as the more vivid parts of life often are. They relieve some of our own existential anxieties by giving us proof that people are finding ways to live despite the ever-present pressures. They inspire us to try and do the same.

Above all, they make us feel human and unalone. We hope they do the same for you.

Kathy Klimentowski/Nick Rossi
Chicago/Nashville, October 2015″

Sobotka Issue 3 Editors' Note