2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Jerard Fagerberg)

by Steven Spoerl

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Over the past few years, Jerard Fagerberg has staked out a place as one of my favorite writers currently working in the upper Midwest (there aren’t as many of us as some may think). We’ve crossed paths a few times in the metaphorical sense and only once in person. Virtually every time, Fagerberg has served as a reminder of the good portions of music journalism so it’s no surprise that’s what he’s chosen to turn his focus on in this piece, his second for A Year’s Worth of Memories. It’s a window into the life of a freelancer that does away with any overly eager romanticizing in favor of the situation’s harsher realities and its inevitable conclusion. It’s an exacting piece and something worth remembering for those of us living in that world of odd pleasures and exhausting punishment. Give it a read below.

The Work

Being a freelance writer is about testing your capacity for madness.

Research binges. Deadline anxiety. Marathon transcriptions. They’re the ugly antecedents to a finished, published piece, and they add up like a bar tab.

Running on coffee and cigarettes is addictive when the work of being a “writer” is so embroiled in your self-worth. If you’re not stretching your days to utter exasperation, you’re fucking up your vocation. You’ve sacrificed your identity. No one makes sure you pitch, write, and file other than yourself. If you don’t do it, you’re disappointing your most venomous critic.

I’ve been struggling with the “writer” identity for the past several years (I wrote about it here last year), but this was the first time I pursued it so destructively. I worked too hard. I couldn’t say no.

224 stories. 200,000 words. 365 days.

My personal life progressed tremendously in 2016. Gaal and I bought a house. I fell in love with my dog 1,000 times.  I got two new positions at my day job. I met scads of new people, including Steven, who I shared an immaculate PUP show with.

I’d never before let these things — the frankly unindustrious factors — define myself as a person. I have always been the sum total of my work, and it has never been enough.

I said goodbye to that mentality in December. After a week spent laboring over my keyboard, cranking out word after phrase after paragraph to the point of exhaustion, I decided that an identity isn’t worth it.

2017 is the year it’s enough. Though I’ll look at the tabulation of bylines and words and grimace next year, I’ll have more that isn’t so squarely calculated to remember.