Ryan O’Connell of Thought Catalog Speaks at FIT,
And He is Everything You Would Expect Him to Be
“Go get drunk at a house party. Or have a boyfriend. Go make stupid mistakes.”
This is the advice that Ryan O’Connell would like to give 19-year-old girls.
For those of you who don’t know him, he is the head writer at Thought Catalog, the blog that serves as an online collection of “thoughts” and short essays, ranging from “New Yorkers Have No Idea How To Prepare For A Hurricane” to “10 Things No One Tells You About Sex”.
O’Connell stopped by the Fashion Institute of Technology on Thursday evening for a small, intimate panel discussion, where he shared details about the foreignness of writing a book and how, besides writing, he “can’t do anything else.”
For those of you who are familiar with his writing, it is evident that O’Connell speaks in person the exact same way that he writes: explicit, witty, raw, and frequent use of the words “babe” and “fuck”.
O’Connell gives his two cents of what college students should really be doing, stressing the importance of actually living life, not thinking about it. “Live la vida loca,”says O’Connell. “You have plenty of time to force yourself to do things later on when you have a job.” O’Connell is presumably giving himself the same advice, something he does frequently in his Thought Catalog pieces.
A Ventura, California native, O’Connell was always passionate about writing, but the idea of pursuing a career as a writer didn’t manifest itself until his college years. “I studied abroad in Florence and left after nine days…it took me to go to fucking Italy to go ‘Oh, this isn’t what I want’.” Soon after, he moved to New York City at the age of 21.
After graduating college in 2009, O’Connell landed an internship in his ideal field. And then he moved on to another internship. And another. Until finally, he became involved with Thought Catalog, the popular blog that O’Connell relates to a “group therapy session”. At the Thought Catalog Brooklyn offices he writes two to three posts a day, one by noon, one by 2 p.m., and “almost a third” one by 5 p.m. He says that because his style of writing didn’t really seem to fit in anywhere else, it made him fit in at Thought Catalog so well. “Writing can mean so many things, and the Internet is really great for that,” he says. According to O’Connell, writing is, essentially, “all bullshit…if it resonates with you, it resonates with you.”
O’Connell’s writing is not only limited to the Internet, however. He recently signed a book deal with Simon and Schuster, a major publisher. But, don’t expect the usual “how to’s” or advice common in O’Connell’s Thought Catalog articles. The book is more of a memoir, and his book agent, to whom he makes references to as his “Erin Brockovich” and a “super bitch”, told him he needed to write more “personal”. Although it is something he says is “harder” than what he is used to writing, the book writing process has definitely helped him grow as a writer, as it has forced him to “create a cohesive narrative” and focus on one thought for more than a few paragraphs. “It’s completely me at the forefront, which is scary.” Due in late 2013 to early 2014, the book is titled “I’m Special”, which O’Connell says has a “double meaning.”
However, a published book isn’t the writer’s ultimate goal. So what is? “Writing for television,” he says. “I want to write sitcoms.”
O’Connell says he has come to the conclusion that writers simply “can’t do anything else”, which he realizes would inevitably include himself.
“Oh, fuck,” he says. “I guess I’m tethered to this thing.”
Taylor Giancarlo, November 2012