Nerdist = Obsession + Direction

Once upon a time Chris Hardwick was that funny guy on Singled Out, a show my friends and I watched religiously, mostly during slumber parties. His co-host was Jenny McCarthy. She was really pretty, but also so loud and rude that it almost seemed brave. Then there was Hardwick, who was like all the skater-guys in school except older. I think at some point he dated the love of my life, Jacinda Barrett from The Real World: London (1995).

Anyhow, now Hardwick’s written this thing for WIRED about being a nerd who tried to be cool and then became a loser and then realized he needed to just embrace his Nerdism and roll gamely forward — actually, he wrote it last month, but I just found it tonight and really liked it so much. I guess its an excerpt from his new book! Anyhow, go read it:

Whether it’s games, alcohol, painted figurines, film continuity, or conversations where we’re convinced someone doesn’t like us because of something we said, nerds obsess. We zealously deconstruct. We have that very active internal monologue. I think many of the things we undertake are, in part, attempts to drown out that monologue. We are hyper-self-aware. We have difficulty “chilling out.” We tend to suffer from depression and anxiety. Sometimes it can get really bad. If you’ve never had a panic attack, for example, I’ll describe it thusly: Imagine being fucked in the heart. In most of these cases, barring severe chemical imbalances, the raw material here is obsession, and with practice obsession is harnessable for good.

A “nerdist”—or creative nerd—shares all of these traits but controls them in a way that allows them to deconstruct an idea and map out a plan so the idea can come to life. A nerdist can learn to turn off that internal monologue and calm the mind, the better to think about getting to the next level and its advanced set of rewards and challenges. And while a nerdist will obsess and deconstruct, it’s all in an effort to reach a goal. It’s the nerd’s greatest weakness that is the nerdist’s greatest strength: a laserlike ability to focus on something.

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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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14 Comments

  1. This is a very intriguing premise, I identify strongly with some things he says, and yet not at all with others.

    Of particular interest is the “obsession” part of the equation. I remember when I was younger feeling that boys were a lot more prone to obsession than girls: a boy couldn’t just like music, he wanted to be a DJ; he couldn’t just like a comedy, he had to be able to quote every joke and punchline. Girls were encouraged to be generalists, boys more singularly focused.

    For a long time I thought it was a gender thing, but as I’m increasingly inclined to reject flimsy biological fallbacks, it strikes me that girls were encouraged to obsess, I just kind of side-stepped it. Taking a quick peek at mainstream media, I should have been very much obsessed – with boys and looking pretty. It rankles that being socialised to have such useless obsessions has the knock-on effect of fewer female nerdsters.

    I think the message I liked best was essentially Hardwick’s take on you do you – realise who you are and what you love, devoid of irony and notions of coolness, then love the fuck out of it.

  2. I’ve seriously listened to every Nerdist episode ever. I’m listening to the new one right now actually! It’s so bizarre to see one of my favorite internet fixtures acknowledge the other like this.

  3. That really hit home. I am an
    obsessive,
    depressive,
    anxious,
    addict and nerd.

    My life at 19 looks a lot like Chris Hardwick’s did at 30. Reading this both inspired me and filled me with a sense of doom. Do I really have to give up alcohol and video games to be happy?

    • Also I was OBSESSED with this song “Pi” by Hard ‘n Phirm when I was in ninth grade.

      I would sing it on late night walks with my bestie while we drank and smoked cigarettes and tried to find 30-60-90 triangles and regular polygons in the stars. I wrote the lyrics repeatedly in my notebook* when I was bored in math.
      And this song was written by Chris Hardwick and HIS bestie! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

      *my ninth grade math notebook was covered in pictures Snape, Bellatrix, Malfoy, and Voldemort with the words “evil wizards rock!!” written over them with a silver sharpie and also a drawing of the dark mark. As if that itself wasn’t embarrassing enough, my teacher made fun of it in front of the entire class.

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