Thought Catalog editor, writer tells all
Chat with Ryan O’Connell reveals details on life in the blogosphere
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 10, 2012 14:02
Ryan O'Connell, a writer and editor on the website Thought Catalog came to UVM Feb. 8. The week before, The Vermont Cynic got a chance to chat with him about writing, being a twenty something, and shame.
The Vermont Cynic: Can you tell me a bit about how you became involved with writing for Thought Catalog?
Ryan O'Connell: Sure. I first became involved about a year and a half ago. I just stumbled upon it because a writer I really liked was writing for it. I clicked on the website … and it really piqued my interest. I just submitted pieces from there on out. Luckily the stuff I submitted, people liked … after a few months they asked me to be an editor. It happened really organically, it was really serendipitous.
VC: I know you write and edit for Thought Catalog, what exactly does being an editor entail?
RO: Being an editor entails going over all the submissions — we have to format and edit articles every single day. It's really just me, Stephanie, Brandon and the publisher Chris [who format and edit]; it's a lot of work for just a four person company.
VC: How do you decide which of the submissions to publish — what do you look for?
RO: We get a lot. A lot of people just replicate what they see on the site. We want things that are different. We just pick whatever we find interesting. We don't want to just be known for doing the same thing over and over again.
VC: What's your favorite piece that you have ever posted on Thought Catalog?
RO: I have a very fond place in my heart for "How to be a Twenty Something," but the pieces I really like are usually the pieces that don't do well. They're really personal and dark, and a lot of things I do are trying to relate to an audience — trying to articulate peoples' feelings into words. I love that, but the pieces like "Here's To Getting Older," "Don't Wake Up Alone On A Saturday Morning," "The Three Worst Hangovers Of My Life With Pictures" — anything that's kind of just more for me that's not just catering to the audience — are really the ones I love most.
VC: Is there anything that's off limits — that you won't ever write about for Thought Catalog?
RO: I won't really talk about my relationships now. A lot of stuff I write on about Thought Catalog was stuff that happened to me in high school and college. If I'm dating someone or sleeping with someone, I won't really write about that. I don't think I've ever — well, maybe like one time… Most of it's stuff from 20, 21 … I'm 25 now. I have respect for whomever I'm dating; I don't write about them — it's not fair.
And then if I'm going through something really personal [I won't write about it]. A lot of what I write isn't personal, it's universal. … I don't really write about my life now.
VC: A lot of what you write on Thought Catalog is about twenty somethings — many college students are just on the cusp of that age group. Do you have any advice for those of us who are just entering our twenty something stage of life, anything you wish you could tell yourself a few years back?
RO: I'm still telling myself today. I don't have it all figured out. You know that person that gives really good advice that can't take their own advice? That's me. Well, sort of. Not really. Sort of. I'm partially writing that stuff to remind myself.
What I have learned in the last few years is not to beat yourself up for everything. We are such a shame-based culture — pleasure has such a connotation of shame to it.
Your life isn't going to end if you accidentally get wasted on a Tuesday. It's so inconsequential. Not if you do it every day, obviously, [but once in a while isn't a big deal.] If you beat yourself up over something where you slept with a boy you shouldn't have or something, it allows you to do it again. If you say "[I did that but it's] okay," you move on.
VC: What do you want to do in the future?
RO: My roots are in TV writing. I grew up writing script … I'd like to write a book and get this 20-something thing purged from me and give birth to it, and then I'd like to write for television.
I'm very dialogue –based; I like how people talk, and writing that down. I think [I'd like to do] TV, maybe sitcom. You definitely can't be a blogger, like at 40, doing this kind of stuff. I don't think I have it in me.
VC: Have you been to Vermont before? What are you excited about for your trip to UVM? RO: It's my first time — I'm so excited. How cold is it there right now?
VC: Today it was around 25 degrees.
RO: Oh Jesus Christ. New York is literally 50 degrees. I'm dreading the cold. I'm excited because I hear it's gorgeous. I'm [also] ready to have my townie bar moment.
It's like, listen, I love it because every bar I go to [in New York] is a shit show. You have to really worry what you look like. I'm excited to go where no one knows me… it's very liberating.