This is an exert from the website of one of my favourite writers.. Tucker Max.
I just had a very interesting and enlightening exchange with the guy who runs the website Points in Case [www.pointsincase.com]. I am going to post it in full, then on Monday I'll throw it up on the main board for discussion:
From: nathan degraaf
Date: Jun 24, 2006 12:18 PM
Subject: Your Points in Case Critique
First allow me to thank you for drawing attention to Points in Case by poking fun of one of Gaudio's worst pieces. The man is only twenty, and as such, is still learning how to write (much like, from what I can tell of your articles on the web, you are still learning how to spell). Next time, I wish you would insult some of the senior writers on the site, such as myself or [redacted], both of whom have actually finished college. It's only fair. I mean, I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Pick on someone your own size."
At any rate, I wish you the best of luck in your work. No one kisses and tells like you do.
From: Tucker Max
To: nathan degraaf
Date: Jun 24, 2006 12:32 PM
Subject: Re: Your Points in Case Critique
What the fuck are you talking about? I haven't linked anything from
that crappy site for weeks, and every piece I have ever linked from
PIC I've made fun of. They all suck. I have no idea what "authors" if
any I've singled out, simply because none of them have distinctive or
But what do I know? I'm not a NY Times Best Selling Author...oh wait.
You should be appreciative. If it wasn't for me and Ryan, your site
would have no traffic.
Originally Posted by nathan degraaf
Tucker, your site doesn't bring Points in Case much traffic. PIC has been up for six years and averaged a million hits a month long before you showed up. I don't know who Ryan is. I don't owe you anything. And I'm not appreciative of you for anything more than reaffirming my belief that I can get wasted and laid as much as I want and not consider it a character flaw. If you want to be a critic, that's your business.
By the way, your voice is just the cackling laugh of the over educated, ultra-rich snobs who think life is designed to entertain them. I'm sure you had to dig deep to find it.
Originally Posted by Tucker Max
I just checked out your site more...dude, I honestly feel bad for you.
Seriously. Your site has been up 2 more years than mine, and still
doesn't approach the traffic mine gets. That really has to suck, to
see one guy pass you so quickly and so definitively. The truly saddest
part is that you went to school for this. Did you really get a degree
in creative writing, or were you just kidding? Let me give you some
advice on writing, since I seem to be better at this than you are
(except the spelling part, whew, good thing you have that to fall back
If you want to be a writer, go live a life worth writing about. Your
college articles weren't good when you were in college, and they are
only going to get worse now that you are out of it. In a technical
sense, my writing is whatever, but the reason I get millions of
readers a month to my site, and the reason I wrote a New York Times
Best Seller, and the reason I sold a screenplay and two TV shows--is
because I have something interesting to say. Right now, you don't. Why
do I have something interesting to say? Because instead of taking
classes on writing, I went out and lived life. I took risks, I made
mistakes, I won, I lost, etc, etc, etc, and as a result I have lots of
compelling stories and hard won wisdom. You do not.
The good news is that its not too late for you. I was 27 when I
started my site, and now only three years later, I am a star. I don't
know if have the talent to get there or not, but at the very least you
have the time. Don't waste it.
Originally Posted by Nathan Degraaf
Tucker, I have lived more in my 27 than you could ever imagine. You don't need my resume but just understand this: I was slinging coke in east st. louis strip clubs when I was 17, I lost my virginity when I was fourteen, I've been arrested six times for alcohol related incidents, I did the 94 summer dead tour when I was 14. I have stories upon stories upon stories. My degree was free because I'd been published in the New Yorker when I was 13. Now, I don't want to get in a pissing contest with someone whose work I enjoy, but I will tell you this, you don't know me or own me. I've given you the same credit and if you can't extend it to me than fuck off.
PS--Oh, and congratulations. Few people except alpha males can actually get a rise out of me. I now believe you are who you say you are.
Originally Posted by Tucker Max
Well, if all that is true, than why are you writing on a mediocre site that no one cares about? Instead of outling the "rules" for IM convos, why aren't you writing about touring with the Dead? If you have better stories, what are you saving them for? The paragraph that you just
angrily pounded out is far more interesting than anything on your site. Why are you serving your readers bologna when you have beluga in the back?
Originally Posted by Nathan Degraaf
Justin wrote about IM. Not me. I've written about the dead, Pat Tillman, sex, drugs, life and living. I don't think you've thoroughly read my shit. Click on my face and look for "Grateful for a Dead Fable" or "Pat Tillman: Better man than I" or even "A To Do List for the women of America." I'm Nathan DeGraaf, not Justin Rebello. I don't even use AIM.
And I'm saving my best stories for the book I'm writing. I know what PIC is. I'm not an idiot. Those kids won't get blood from me. I'm just playing in a sandbox, here. You want to see what I can do than give me a "No Rules" site and watch me fucking run.
PIC is a kid's game. One I will eventually stop playing as I am planning my own site and my own literary career.
Originally Posted by Tucker Max
This is coming from someone who HAS done it (and is still doing it):
There is no such thing as "a kids game" and "playing in a sandbox."
EVERYTHING COUNTS. Coulda, woulda, shoulda--shove'em up the Tooth
Fairys ass. Everyone "can do better," but very few do. Potential is
nothing; actual is everything.
I am not saying that you can't do it. But until you DO it, everything
else is bullshit. Stop talking about it, stop "playing," stop waiting
for whatever it is you are waiting for. If you can climb this mountain
and sit on top with me and Maddox and few other internet writers
who matter, then get up here. There is always more room for talent
than there are talented to occupy it.
I'll be here when you arrive...if you do.
Lots of interesting things here. Note:
-His bio page, to see what I referred to in one of the emails:
-This is not a call out or an "pwned" situation. I'm not trying to dog this kid or embarass him or make him look stupid or anything like that. He is not a bad writer, in fact he does show some real talent. In some ways this kid reminds me of me when I was close to his age. He obviously feels like he has the talent to compete at a high level, he just hasn't done it yet, but instead of doing it, he makes excuses as to why he hasn't. I know what that feels like, to see someone succeed who you think you are better than, and I know how much it sucks, how it forces you to look at your life and evaluate why you haven't lived up to the potential you've assigned to yourself.
What I was doing with this exchange was putting the mirror up to his soul, shining the harsh light of truth on his hypocrisy and his cowardice. When I was in his situation someone did it for me and that is ultimately how I forced myself to find the courage to take the risk and become who I became, and now I'm doing it to him. This is what I wrote about this subject a few months ago:
I read "A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius." I had heard about all the rave reviews it was getting and how it was hailed as some literary break through, and I read it and it enraged me. I knew I could write as good or better than Eggers, but instead of doing it, the first thing I did was shit all over him. I tried to knock him down to my level. I was only 25/26 and not really very self-aware, so I guess it was to be expected.
But after awhile, I stopped trying to pull others who had done something down to my level and instead tried to raise my own. I grew up enough to stop talking and start producing. And I did.
Now, I still think that Eggers is a bit overrated, but I have legit respect for him and his work, because I am mature enough to realize 1. what it takes to achieve the level of success he's had, and 2. what he does or doesn't do is pretty much irrelevent to my success.
But sadly, lots of people never reach this level of understanding. They just react against a successful person because they see another's success as a reflection of their own failure, and instead of turning that frustration inwards and improving themselves, they hate on the winners. After all, that is much easier than actually trying to become a winner themself.
I don't know if Nathan will man up, take the risk and put his best stuff out there. And if he does, I don't know what will happen. Only time will tell his fate, but I do know that after that exchange, he can't hide anymore. Either he has to try (and succeed or fail), or he has to recognize that he was too cowardly to do it. His dye has been cast.
-This is such a perfect explanation of something that so many people, especially critics, fall victim to: The "coulda, woulda, shoulda" phenomenon. You know people always talk about the things they want to do but never do them? Some people are lazy, some stupid, but the reality is that most are scared. If you don't try something, then you can always sit on the sidelines and talk about what you would have done; but once you cast your hat in the ring, you can't play that game anymore. You shed the ability to talk about what you might do; now, the discussion shifts to what you DID do, and you risk failure. One can always concoct a victory or explain away a failure in the abstract, but once you put yourself out there, once you actually set something at risk, then you open yourself up to the potential of real failure, and you can't talk or wish a real failure away.
Some people can't handle this. They'd rather talk about what they could have won rather than risk losing to actually win it. Personally, I don't get that attitude. I'd rather try my best and fail, then risk nothing, but gain nothing. At least that way I can go to bed knowing where I stand. [Aside from writing, another example of this in my life is basketball. From the time I was 12 until I got to college, I was determined to make myself a college basketball player, and in my dreams, a pro player. I played ball every day all day. I tried my best...and I wasn't good enough. In fact, I wasn't even close. It was comical really, that I thought I could make a 6' tall average athelete into a high level basketball player. I mean, I can play ball, but I am just not in the league with Division I players, much less pros. But that failure is relatively easy for me to deal with, because at least I know I tried, whereas most people never even do that.]
It's funny, so many people who read my stuff say things like, "Duh, I am funnier than this guy," or "My stories are crazier than his, I could do the same site way bettter" but very few of them ever do anything about it. Here I am making well into the six figures living this life, I am my own boss, I have almost anything I could want--if you think can do it, try it. The only thing between me and them is a blank computer screen [and the ones that do try, almost invariably fail because they are either not as talented as they think or are unwilling to put in the work necessary to succeed].
-I want to emphasize one thing I said: Everything counts. This is your life, you only have about 80 years if you are lucky, and everything you do counts. Even practice counts. Why? Because you are practing for something that does matter: A game.
When people say that high school or college don't count, they are right in a way. Most of what you do in either one is going to be forgotten once you get to "real life," like who was the captain of the baseball team or who went to prom with who. But in another sense, high school and college are very important, because they are practice for real life. Almost everything you do in real life is going to have some sort of parallel in school that prepares you for it if you pay attention and practice enough.
Why do you think I am such a good writer, even though I never took a creative writing class? Because I wrote ALL THE TIME; letters, emails, essays, forwards, whatever it was, I wrote and wrote and wrote. And I read a ton fo stuff, most of it by very good writers. I saw what it meant to write well. I essentially I practiced for years at my eventual profession, most of the time without even knowing it, acquiring the skills that would help me in what I do now.
Everything you do, in some way or another, matters. If you spend your entire youth fucking around and doing nothing, guess what your adult life is going to be like? Nothing. Why? You have no skills because you didn't practice them. Shit, why do you think I have this messageboard? In a very real sense, it "doesn't matter," but in another sense, it is very important. It allows me to write every day, and to get feedback from my fans and to keep my bullshit low by creating a place where people can call me out in a relatively easy and low cost fashion. This place is like the ultimate practice ground for what I do. So even though what happens here "doesn't matter" in the big picture, this place keeps me sharp for when it actually does matter.
[This is not to say that you have to be serious all the time. Of course not; practice can and should be fun and entertaining. And fucking off can sometimes be practice for other things. Video games can teach critical thinking skills, sports can teach strategy and cooperation, etc, etc. It's not that you have to always be doing something specifically designed for a future use, its more that you should always be doing something that adds to your life. Even when I relax, I am adding to my life by recharging myself for when I am doing something that requires energy.]
The essential point: IT ALL MATTERS, whether you realize it or not.
-It's funny, I write that last email telling the kid to shut up and produce, and I am not sure if I even fully understood that myself until about 3-6 months ago.
I used to get so fucking pissed that the mainstream media tended to ignore me and what not, but then one day, I am not sure what the exact tipping point was, I just said to myself, "What are you fucking bitching about? Stop it. You have done some really cool shit, but crying about lack of respect just makes you look weak. Get your thumb out of your ass and instead of wasting time bitching about lack of attention, do something that will force them to pay attention."
About 3 months ago I completely changed my entire PR strategy. I told Darryl to never mention FesteringAss to a reporter (to give it time to incubate and grow), and I told him to turn everything down that wasn't going to be both 1. big, and 2. sympathetic. No more wasting time with crappy AM radio, no more wasting time with stupid 40 year old washed up cunts who hate me. Time to focus on what I came here to do: A TV show, a movie, and to create a company (FesteringAss). Fretting over some crappy PR is not going to get me what I want; working hard in the pursuit of my goal is the only thing that is going to get me there. Everything flows from achievement--money, power, pussy, press, whatever it is you want, it has to be based on some solid achievement, and whining about some crappy magazine not covering my book does nothing to advance my goal.
My point? Even those of us who think they "get it" can sometimes slip up. Even if you are one of those who is taking their life in their own hands and really doing something rewarding, be wary of slipping back into bad habits. It can happen to anyone.
I am not sure where to take this thread. I am sitting in LAX right now waiting for my plane back to NYC, and thought I would fire this up. I'm going to post it now, and I'll figure out where to take it tomorrow or Monday.