Summer School with Emily Mueller: Totally Raw Thought


More summer school with Emily Mueller who muses on how to edit honesty, along with ramdom thoughts on nihilism and Disney porn.

I talk to myself all the time. When I was younger I was convinced people saw psychologists only because they were too embarrassed to talk themselves through their own problems. After years of talking to myself I like to think I know something about intelligent conversation.

“Are you a good person?” myself asks me.


“Why not?”

“Because I am lazy. I don’t pay attention to the things that are supposed to matter to me. I think I’m better than I am, and I don’t know how to connect to people.”

“What makes you think these are bad things?” myself asks, taking a stab at sounding wise and all knowing.

“These things aren’t morally ambiguous enough to justify that question.”

“You consider yourself a nihilist?” I think about this, and myself asks, “When you fancy that you belong to a school of philosophical thought, you consider yourself a nihilist?”


“Then you believe that nothing has any inherent morality.”

“Not inherently. My morality is completely perceived. I accept that. It doesn’t affect my views.”

“Perhaps you should think about these things more.”

“That is another reason I am a bad person.”

“But you don’t really consider yourself a bad person. You say that now only because you are depressed. In reality it is your feelings that are quote ‘bad in nature’ unquote, not you.”

“I wish I was dead.”

“You don’t.”

“I don’t know how else to phrase this state of mind. I don’t have the words.”

“Is this also on your list of grievances against yourself?”

“Don’t be a smartass.”

“I was serious.”

“In general I feel cock-blocked. The world and my lack of creativity is cock-blocking my abilities and passion. That’s how I feel all the time.”

“A better word, I feel, would be ‘impotent.’”

“Cock-blocked is funnier.”

“Self-depreciating humor does not automatically make you less pretentious. If you really are concerned with what you call your perceived morality, you should focus less on appearances.”

“What else do I have?”

“You barely have any interesting appearances as it is.”


“Don’t feel so sick. Do yourself a favor and come to this coffee house more often; the internet is terrible; that will help you focus on work.”

The French man and his compadre sitting in front of me leave. I keep staring at them, wondering if they’ll look back at me, and they never do, and I’m glad.

“Freshman year was such a waste,” I say.

“It was not. Perhaps you didn’t change in all the ways you wanted, and you didn’t do what you thought you would, but focusing on the romantic will only ever leave you feeling depressed.”

“To be depressed is in itself romantic.”

“You focus too much on appearances.”

“That’s because if you do it enough, it becomes your reality.”

“I’ve heard that. I don’t know if I believe it.”

“I’m going to go look at all the paintings. And maybe pee.”

The most important thing to keep in mind (for me) when writing nonfiction is to be honest. People like honesty to the point that shamelessly admitting you watch Disney porn will cancel out the disgust people feel when they learn you watch Disney porn. At least a little bit. With creative writing, you have to write how you think another person (who is no doubt based on you, but still) would think.

But this is hard to edit. It’s hard to edit total honesty. What makes one raw thought less genuine or worthy of publication than the next? Totally raw thought is confusing and random and not always justified, and sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it depends more on the reader than anything whether or not it works. So the editing process for me at this point is basically poking clumsily and despondently at my word order and choices until phrases like “I don’t think you know what this word means” and “Explain?” disappear from my teacher-edited papers.

In my nonfiction class, we read an essay thing by a famous creative writing teacher who said something to the effect of, “When you write, don’t write in order to come to a specific moral or theme. Write only for the passion of writing.

That sucks because almost everything I had written up to that point was written to flaunt a universal truth I had managed to stumble upon. My characters were like prostitutes, nameless and faceless, used only as sacrifices to the hopeless and cock-blocking reality that is average life. Looking back on these stories, I can see why the above advice was given. Even the opening and closing lines, which with their gut-wrenching honesty and blunt word choice I considered flawless, in hindsight look clumsy and deserving only of a “meh.” The excessively violent and rage filled rants I wrote during senior year of high school however, shamefully buried deep within my computer’s database, turned out to be the more interesting and worthwhile writings.

Based on this I could say that anything that inspires strong feelings in a person serves as good inspiration, whether that’s a fight you had with someone or something you read on Facebook. Inspiration usually comes late at night and unfairly makes you choose between sleeping and getting what you want down now when it still makes sense. Doing the latter I’ve found produces the better result.

Emily Mueller’s parents are paying for her education at the University of Iowa. She is not a particularly good student.

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