Jonah Malin
Copywriter creating offbeat art & insight.

#03: fighting off the sleeping pills.

The night is quiet and black, with the pool five stories down adding an alien glow to the ground. A chandelier overhead keeps the room dim, though my face is lit by artificial laptop light.

With the speed of Muhammad Ali, a knockout punch hits me hard.
I stop to catch myself on the table. The sleeping pills have started to kick my teeth in, brain and all.

I steady my mind by staring at the blinking cursor on an almost-finished page. The words are blurred and blended, but logical.

With hands and eyelids growing heavy, I write one final line — the title.
“fighting off the sleeping pills.”


#02: hope, smash hits, hidden tattoos, and terrible writing.

Then I hit “publish.”

And sat on my hands until they turned into purple pins and needles.
Nobody tells you what happens after you write something for the first time and release it to the world.

Do the fans come immediately? Do they never come at all? Should I be happy? Content? Comforted? Anxious?

Will the instructor I mocked somehow find this article I’d published about my college experience, report it to the dean, revoke my diploma, and end my career?
In a moment of an I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-to-do, I opened up a fresh Google doc, cranked up the tunes, and began writing again.

I tell you this not to pat myself on the back. But because I remembered reading an interview with a famous musician (maybe Kid Cudi? Or Paul McCartney?) about life after a smash hit.

Basically, their advice was: you wake up the next day and write the next one. That’s hope in it’s purest form. The ability to show up day after day — regardless of smash hits or crickets.

Or, more eloquently said by my spirit animal Anne Lamott,

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

You wait. You watch. You work. You don’t give up.

Advice every writer should secretly get tattooed on a limb.

Writing has never been about having something to say. It’s never been about financial success or building an audience.

It’s a disease. 

The first time it hit me, I was sitting at the gym, scrolling through my phone in between bench press sets. Surrounded by sweat, heat, and metal, my finger stopped on an article from a student reflecting on his college experience.

Without hesitation, I packed my small duffle bag and drove home.

It was as if the sky had opened up and someone grabbed my soul with their fist, dragging me to the laptop in my room.

Then I sat down and wrote a terrible, cringy story about my days in college topped off by a clickbaity headline. Then another one on marketing. This went on day after day, month after month, topic after topic.

I started jotting down little vignettes on bits of scrap paper and notecards everywhere. It was a way to watch the world, remember, record, and share from my own perspective.

My new obsession turned me on to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Authors that showed me you could delicately walk the line between fiction and nonfiction by retelling stories to shape your truth.

By day, I’d work in a miserable little office surrounded by fluorescent lights and ego-obsessed salespeople.

By night, I’d write. Some people think it’s a romantic pursuit. That we sit in boutique shops sipping on lattes or drinking large quantities of wine until we’re struck by creativity. 

The truth is, it’s a complicated affair. There are critics. There’s not much money. Fleeting fame. Lots of failures. 

Even if something pops off, you’ve got to wake up the next day and do it all over again. But this is what separates hobbyists from professionals: a consistent, never-ending pursuit through the good and bad. 

If the act of writing isn’t enough for you, you’re destined to fail. I got my start writing because I couldn’t not do it. I couldn’t not find meaning in my life through words.

Years later, the drive is still there.