I sit here at my keyboard each day and hope, no pray, for some idea that will turn into something great, something entertaining. For people who don’t write it’s hard to understand why anyone would do this. I’m not looking for fame, money or anything tangible. If anything my search is for some kind of self-satisfaction. I continually go back to my past searching for a rational explanation of why this is the path I have chosen.
The year is 1999, skipping class I head to a computer lab and somehow end up reading an article about pro wrestling. I can’t remember the site I was on or the column but it was awful. Everything about it was so very mundane. The author (dare I even use that term) simply recapped the previous nights’ events, no exposition, no opinion. Somehow it offended me. Really, it shouldn’t have. Truth be told I wasn’t even that big of a wrestling fan at that point.
A few months earlier myself and two friends were playing basketball and they wouldn’t shut the hell up about wrestling. I hadn’t watched since I was about 12 and thought it was kid stuff. Under much duress and pressure I agreed to give it another chance. I found it entertaining enough to watch but it was so much better to discuss. My friends and I would speculate on character turns and plot twists. Something in me connecting with it’s soap opera-ish nature. Instead of just watching the who’s I wanted to know why. Why did one guy turn his back on another, why did someone join a faction, why were these guys mortal enemies?
The psychology behind what was happening in a stupid, fake sport amazed me and the writers behind it fascinated me. These auteurs had to construct these elaborate stories for adults (late 90’s, early 00’s wrestling was very adult) and take into consideration that one injury could derail an entire storyline. Scripts had to be fluid, plans had to change. This was before the internet was buzzing with news and spoilers weeks before things happen.
The nascent period of the internet and wrestling intertwining was dawning. Sites were popping up with people generally reporting what was happening. A few speculated, but very few opined. I wanted that, I wanted someone to tell me what they thought, but it wasn’t happening.
That day, that column awakened something inside me. I’d always liked writing but never really pursued it. I’d had terrible experiences with every writing-related activity I’d participated in. I took Newspaper my senior year of high school and it became one endless struggle with editors to get my columns published.
Everything had to be distilled, sanitized, neutered for the masses of high school students. I can’t tell you how many articles I wrote that just died on the teachers’ desk because they were “risque”. I wrote a column about gay marriage (and why I was pro) that wasn’t published because it was “too political” for a high school newspaper. I watched other people’s “Funny Yearbook Stories” get pushed ahead of my columns about legalizing prostitution and marijuana. Maybe 4 of my articles made it to press, I must have written 20.
I hated that class because it killed my desire to be a journalist. The rejection was one thing, but inferior work being promoted was where I drew the line. I was as insubordinate as I could be. I turned in everything at the absolute deadline in order to sneak things under the radar. When asked to review music I picked Wu-Tang Clan’s “Enter the 36 Chambers” and singled out my favorite song as “Shame on a N*gga”. I let the editors have fun figuring out how they were going to fill the space I promised. Later I turned in a piece about Eazy-E’s diagnosis and death from AIDS and his posthumous release “Eternal E”. Guess how much about the AIDS stuff made it in? Not much.
Did you know you can get an A 3 F? For those who an unfamiliar with grading systems in Florida high schools I’ll explain. The first number is based on your grade, the second is effort and the third for conduct. According to my teacher I was a great student who did well despite not giving a shit and was a pain in the ass. Not a direct quote but a damned accurate inference.
Immediately after that debacle I stopped writing for awhile. If I wasn’t going to do it for a career than why do it at all? I was now in college and I had to focus my efforts on something I wanted to do for the next 50 or so years. The problem was I couldn’t (and still can’t) figure out what that was/is). Despite a lot of personal shit I did very well my first year of college.
Things got a little weird when I took a creative writing course at the beginning of my sophomore year. We had to write short stories, my first was the previously posted “Desperation at Sunshine Motel”. I didn’t realize that we would have to read these things aloud and soundly refused, I’m a dreadfully shy person. After a few of us declined a designated reader was assigned. My paper was read by an ultra-conservative religious fanatic who stopped mid-story and refused to read any more of “this filth”. If you read the story it’s not really that dirty. I really think he had a problem with the character having sex. The professor made him finish and the guy did so begrudgingly with a scowl on his face and his laser-eyed stare rarely wavering from me.
This guy really ticked me off, I wanted to punish him. So my next story is the now lost-forever “Possession is Nine-Tenths”. The story was written in diary form from the point of view of a man who fears his wife is possessed by Satan. I knew that would get the Jesus-freak’s attention. I especially knew that lines such as “Fuck the Bible” and “Jesus is a fraud” might drive the point home not to cross me. At the end of the story you find out that the man had murdered his wife and written this diary as a way to get himself out of a murder charge, which works.
I thought it was clever and the blasphemy was a nice little garnish. Again, my awesome designated reader pal read my paper and immediately stopped in order to physically fight me. I laughed my ass off as he was held back and probably looked a little possessed myself. In the end I received an A, the professor told me he knew what I was doing and if I decided to continue “poking the bear” that I would be made to read my paper aloud. I can’t remember what my third paper was about but I toned it down and everything was right with the world.
It was at the end of this semester that I stopped going to school. My life was spiraling out of control and I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t behave rationally and everything went sideways. There are very few moments I regret more than those years because they have haunted me, controlled me ever since. So I found myself going to the university I was “supposedly” attending and just sleeping on the couches or using the internet.
So back to the wrestling shit. I figured I could do better than these lamebrains that were just regurgitating the goings-on. I could do that too, but add something. So I did. I wrote “The Robb Says” which despite it’s terrible title was fairly successful I wrote my opinions about what was going on, who I liked and where I thought things would go. It got boring after awhile though so I thought “If I’m writing about wrestling, why not borrow a page from their book?”. I turned myself evil (or heel in the wrasslin’ biz) and amped up my attitude to it’s highest level. Re-dubbing the column “Robb is WAR” I became much more popular and began whoring myself out to sites all over the internet.
I worked (for free) for two of the biggest wrestling sites at the time, DTAWrestling and ScotlandWWF. Every week like clockwork I would publish a new column. There were recurring features, characters and angles. I was writing as if I were writing an actual characters’ inner monologue from Raw or Nitro. I was good and I pissed people off. Hate mail flowed in, I found people really responded to the character I wrote. When I returned their email (and I always did) I wrote back as myself. I let them in on the gag, I liked revealing my tricks to the audience and asked them to keep the secret.
I formed a great staff for my own site, Raw Attitude. They were/are incredibly talented, amazing people whom I worked with for years. I tried hard to make our site successful and it was marginally so. Doing something for no compensation and little feedback is rarely a formula for hard work and loyalty but in the case our staff we did our best. The site paid off as I married my co-webmaster with a co-writer serving as a groomsman. I consider myself to be good friends with at least five of my fellow writers.
Raw Attitude lasted a few years but I grew bored of it all. So many other people had started writing about wrestling I was just another voice among the crowd. I turned the volume up, talked shit about other writers and even got threatened with a lawsuit for it. My time was up, I was writing (and not making a cent) out of a need to maintain continuity instead of enjoyment.
So I stopped. One ordinary Sunday (my usual publication day) I just stopped. Wrestling was in my past. I tried a few times to find the fire inside to make a comeback and occasionally would publish a new “Robb is WAR” but the regularity in which I prided myself was gone. Eventually I wanted to write again. Why limit myself to something I would eventually get bored of? Fill The Void was born.
In my mind the internet is this giant empty hole and no matter what you put into it you could never fill it up. I would try, I would write about literally anything to fill the void. Movies, TV, music, food, anything I could think of I wrote about. I invited my old co-workers from Raw Attitude to help me clog the internet’s arteries with nonsense and they gallantly tried.
Life has a funny way of helping people prioritize As the years went by people moved on. We always remained in touch but little by little every one of us stopped writing. Jobs, kids, school; life got in the way. It’s the natural order of things. After all writing about bullshit on the internet is a hobby.
I resigned myself to settling down, the creative side on my brain dimmed. I stopped writing but I hoarded ideas. I kept scraps of paper, napkins, post-its with ideas for columns, lists, articles. I found it difficult to not obsess over writing. When I saw a movie I was reviewing it in my head for an article I would never write. My brain became congested. As fucked up as it may sound the only time I’ve ever heard it put best is by serial killers when they say something just builds up and they need to release it. These creative ideas would build up and I pushed them down and the harder I tried the more I lapsed into depression and self-loathing.
Writing has always been a release valve. I never considered that I would or could write the great American novel. My technical skills are rudimentary, my punctuation decent at best. Ideas are where I always had the edge, it’s what made my 10th grade high school English teacher pull me aside and ask me if I ever thought of being an author. The way I see the world is not the way most do. I look outside and I see something I need to analyze and report. Sometimes it is at the expense of actually experiencing life.
I’m 35 years old, I’ve accomplished very little in my time on the Earth. My life has been exceedingly hard and painful. There have been some great moments though and I have a lot to be thankful for. Life is funny that way, one sentence can be about how horrible everything is and the next how great things are.
So what is the point of this whole thing? I don’t know. I just felt something welling up inside and I needed to get it out. Instead of talking to a therapist, punching something or exercising I chose to exorcise my demons on paper, well on a word document on a computer. This is how I release my pressure, how I express myself. What you read here is what I can’t possibly say aloud because in the space between my brain and my mouth things get lost. When I write the connection is clearer, certainly more wordy and pretentious but more “me”.
I’m going to continue to write until one day I can find another way to relate to the world at large. Either that or I’ll die, my head will probably slam down on the keyboarddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd. Just kidding, I’m still here. So here’s to social awkwardness, creativity and the drive for one anonymous internet dweller to entertain strangers for no single discernible reason.