12 Writers Confess the Worst Thing They Wrote in 2014

Pencil eraser
Christo de Klerk/Flickr

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

We posed the question to a bunch of prominent Internet writers and journalists, hoping that their painful answers might reveal something of the regret and insecurities that plague even quite successful writers. The life of a Web journalist today is full of ill-advised "takes" and tossed-off blog hits, and sometimes it's best to relive the worst of the crop just like we celebrate the best: out in the open, so their past mistakes might be avoided.

But don't judge the writers listed below too harshly. Of the many we contacted, they were among the few willing to tackle the question and share their worst of 2014.

RUSTY FOSTER, writer of Today in Tabs for Fast Company and formerly Newsweek

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

"Today in Tabs: Ready on the Left" and "Today in Tabs: The Jacobin Kerfuffle" (Newsweek).

Reasoning?

"No question it was this Jacobin fiasco. I still don't think I was wrong in my interpretation, but I have always regretted getting involved at all in what turned out to be more of a personal argument among a small group of people than the media fight I took it to be. At least I learned from it!"

SASHA GEFFEN, associate editor for Consequence of Sound; contributor to Pitchfork, Chicago Reader and many others

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

A pitch:

pitch
Sasha Geffen

Reasoning?

"This pitch is the worst I wrote in 2014 because it's me at my most macho; 'other girls won't touch this, I'm so tough and gross.' I also tried to use gender theory as an excuse to write a story about diarrhea. I had never worked with this editor before and I never got a reply."

MEGAN KOESTER, writer for VICE and a comedian.

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

"Let's Start Banning More Rich Racists" (VICE).

Reasoning?

"It is—sigh—a think piece, and not a very good one at that. A prime example of what we (and by 'we,' I mean, 'me') in the biz like to call salacious click bait, it was constructed not to create a dialogue, but to spew my worthless opinion on an issue which was already teetering on the precipice of no longer being topical into the digital ether. An online commenter declared I was 'far far [sic] worse than the Nazis ever were' for writing it. Was he right? Only time will tell."

KYLE KRAMER, editor, Noisey

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

"EMA and Feeling 'The Future's Void'" (MySpace)

Reasoning?

"I spent the first half of this year working as a freelance writer and the second half of the year as an editor, which made me realize that not only do most writers think they are far smarter and more interesting than they actually are—generally at the expense of conveying actual useful information—but that I am the guiltiest of thinking I am smart and interesting. Among all my overwrought writing that tried to cram in like 10 brilliant ideas instead of focusing on one or two actual good ones, this essay that I wrote about EMA's great but complex album The Future's Void is probably the most overwrought and guilty of cramming in too many ideas. For example:

Internet voyeurism's destruction of empathy—are more external than internal, dialed in on the perils and paranoia-inducing effects of an always-on culture. These aren't topics that feel quite as organically emotional as, say, the fallout from a relationship, but confronting them is prompting increasingly intense reactions within us all. The Future's Void is bold in that confrontation, beginning with the fact that it even heads that way at all.

Way too long and circuitous! Way too many big words! I really need to get over myself."

DREW MILLARD, features editor, Noisey

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

"Is Life Too Short to Care About 2 Chainz" (MySpace) and "A Poem Composed Solely From Noisey Comments, Volume One" (Noisey)

Reasoning?

"In 2014, I would estimate my 'batting average'—i.e., the number of posts I wrote and was proud of vs. the number of posts I actually wrote—was probably about .280. This is because I am extremely self-critical, and also objectively bad. Still, depending on my fielding and running (or editing, whatever) abilities, Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill still might want me for their baseball team in Moneyball. But this is not about my successes, or potential value in music writing sabermetrics. This is about failure. My failures. Of which there are many.

I wrote so many bad things this year that I couldn't just pick one, so I picked two. The first is an essay that I was asked to write on 2 Chainz and his new EP, Freebase. If I recall, I effectively had about 24 hours to turn it around because the publicist wouldn't give me a copy of the EP in advance and my deadline was the day after the EP dropped. I listened to it about 10 times in a row, and afterwards I was struck by how much I just did not give a shit about 2 Chainz. It's not that I think 2 Chainz is bad or does not deserve to exist; it's just that there are, to quote The Bard, a million-trillion things I'd rather fuckin' do than write about him. So, I poured myself a tall measure of my signature Content Generation beverage—a concoction consisting of Southern Comfort, water and ice that I call 'joke juice' and drink whenever I have something to write that I do not particularly want to write—and set to Content Generatin'. Halfway through, I gave up on actually writing about 2 Chainz and just wrote about Seinfeld, and how a life spent generating opinions on things you do not care about is a life spent devoid of meaning.

There is less of a story to the second one, which is, as its headline telegraphs to the reader, a poem I wrote using sentences I found in comments left on Noisey, the website I write for and help run. Instead, it is just the manifestation of an extremely bad idea, executed even in an even worse manner. In fact, me writing a poem using angry comments on Noisey actually led to... more angry comments on Noisey! This is because all comment sections are the web equivalent to mosh pits: aggressive people swinging wildly and without thinking, only instead of swinging at other people, they are swinging at a computer keyboard and hitting keys.

And so, Internet, celebrate my abject suckitude so that I may cease to suck no more."

KEVIN O'KEEFFE, entertainment writer for The Atlantic

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

Reasoning?

"Nothing good can come of complimenting Comic Sans. Or any of its variants, for that matter. For one brief tweet, I broke the cardinal rule of typography nerd culture/basic human decency: Comic Sans is the worst, and Comic Sans is the enemy. There may be takes or tweets or thoughts I regret from 2014, but they're in the past. I will never forget that I was once nice to Comic Sans, and that is the burden I will have to live with forever."

LUKE O'NEIL, freelance journalist for Bullett Media, Boston.com, Boston Globe and many others.

What the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

"Castles Made of Sand: The Collapse of Atlantic City's Casinos and the History of Sand-Sculpting" (Medium)

Reasoning?

"This is probably going to sound like I'm cheating the question, and don't get me wrong, this year I wrote dozens of garbage-assed blog posts that took me 60 seconds to complete, embedding and photo uploading included, but the worst thing I wrote this year, I guess objectively speaking, was something I really liked, and worked rather hard on. It was this piece about the history of sand-sculpting on the Boardwalk and Atlantic City's crumbling casino industry. Despite the fact I did multiple interviews, days of reading, and researching old legal documents, and it had a historic and unique perspective with a timely news hook, plus great images, I simply could not get any of the 10 or so editors I brought it to to publish it, which leads me to believe it must not have been any good. Either that or the content game is a con that prizes ephemera and hot takes over insight.

While the writing in this one from back in June when the reports of the North Korean regime 'attacking' Hollywood over the news of The Interview wasn't necessarily bad, the premise of the piece, that the dozens of sites writing about it as if it were news were idiots, was probably the wrongest thing I wrote all year! Hoo boy, did I get that one wrong."

JOEL PAVELSKI, director of programming, Mic News

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

"Kim Kardashian's Love for Blackberry Might Be Fake" (Page Six)

Reasoning?

"I crawled through 200 of Kim Kardashian's mind-numbing tweets to uncover the truth about which cell phone company she loves the most. Very important investigative journalism and somebody needed to blow it out of the water for the scandal that it is."

KEVIN ROOSE, senior editor, Fusion

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

"Aereo Is a Ridiculous Company. The Supreme Court Should Shut It Down" (Daily Intelligencer)

Reasoning?

"It was one of those posts that suffers both from author negligence (I was way out of my depth on copyright law, and ended up making an extended analogy that lots of lawyers pointed out was bad and dumb) and resource constraints. I still believe in my basic thesis about Aereo, but with a little more time and care spent calling people and understanding the issues at stake, the case could have been made much stronger."

ALEXANDRA SVOKOS, College and Education Fellow, The Huffington Post

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

Reasoning?

"For my worst of the year I'm going with a tweet. It was 6:20 a.m. and I was boarding a plane to end my final spring break. Over the course of the flight, the Glen Ridge High School baseball team found this tweet, and when I got off the plane they pointed and applauded—in addition to RTs, @s and so on. I was in a bad mood, but did I have to take it out on the kids? This was a solid reminder that: (1) the Internet is a public place (!!!!!) and (2) maybe I shouldn't be such a bitch to people I don't know. Both of these obvious lessons were themes of my writing mistakes in 2014, and this tweet summed all of my awfulness up in fewer than 140 characters. In any case, I'm glad the young gentlemen took my unwarranted hatred so well, and I'm kind of worried that by bringing this up they'll flood my notifications again."

MATT TAIBBI, reporter for Rolling Stone

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

"I love the idea, but the thing is, I barely wrote anything this year! I spent almost the whole year unsuccessfully building a website. I wrote like two features and a few blog posts all year. If pressed I would say the worst thing I wrote was my half of a series of tweets with some angry libertarian from Colorado about the Eric Garner case."

Reasoning?

"I spent like nine hours trying to convince the guy it didn't matter that Garner had a weight problem. People from all over were telling me I was making a fool of myself but I couldn't let it go. I was getting all Jack McCoy on the guy, it was absurd.

Social media is really dangerous. You know how they have those breathalyzer machines that they hook up to cars, where you have to prove you're sober before the ignition turns over? They should have something like that for Twitter, where you have to watch a rap video in between each tweet or something, to prove that you've actually thought about what you're about to say."

MATTHEW YGLESIAS, executive editor, Vox.com

What's the worst thing you wrote in 2014?

"The Midterms May Have Killed Bold Executive Action on Immigration' (Vox.com).

Reasoning?

"Well, this prediction doesn't look so good."

12 Writers Confess the Worst Thing They Wrote in 2014 | Culture
{{label}}
{{title}}
EDITOR'S PICK