Where I’m At

Quality vs. quantity, finding lost music, and projecting a positive future

Mason Stoutamire
5 min readMar 30, 2022
Picture I took in Balboa Park. Check it out if you ever get the chance. For real.

I wanna get better at this. With as many voices as I’ve written with, I’m already proud of the thoughts I’ve shared in writing. But I’m torn between wanting more bylines and getting more nuanced with my takes: quality versus quantity. If the goal is growing at the rate in which I (realistically) want to succeed, how do I do that? It feels so tight when I can list different projects I’ve written with. It feels even better to stand behind my own fleshed-out, articulated ideas when someone asks about what I love to do. When the article takes its own shape beyond me, it’s hit or miss. But deep down I know I want to be better in every way possible. There’s no better feeling than popping off by my own standards and saying, “This is way better than my last one!” I’m thankful to feel that feeling often enough. I’m thankful to get that self-validation.

So I’m trying to write as much as I can at my highest level. Ideally, I go 100% from the field. But unlike anything else I do, I’m not leaving a ton of room for mistakes; how much of a mistake can I make if I write exactly what I’m thinking/feeling? How do you get better at writing an introspective process? For now, going within and aligning myself with as much intention as possible is the only way I know how to improve my delivery.

Frank’s line in “Rushes” is the best way to describe it: “First, I was rushing for the wait / This time I’m waiting for a rush.” It can be pretty tiring. Consistency is necessary with any aspiration but when you’re aware of greatness, you wanna make as few mistakes as possible because you really believe that you can do it. Maybe I’m just impatient.

When someone else writes, I can read a certain confidence that comes from both consistency and intention. Their prowess isn’t accidental. Thinking about how young they (usually) are, I feel inspired beyond anything else; it doesn’t feel like I have a ton of time to waste. Quality, quantity, it matters less and less when I think about it. But however this writing thing goes, I’ll leave a long trail of intentional attempts at being the best writer I can be. (Saying this as someone who doesn’t think they’ll get over their imposter syndrome)

Video from YouTube. May be subject to copyright.

A few months ago, I bought this CD from a band I used to listen to. Between us both, they have horrible allegations and I probably shouldn’t have bought it in the first place. But I did. Each listen brought me back to the days when I enjoyed that band the most, I placed someone’s perception of me above that enjoyment when I decided to hide that album from sight.

How do you find music that you once lost? How much value did that album even have in the first place and why did I miss it once it left? How do you bring back a sound that once brought you joy once it leaves? I don’t really know, man. At some point, I didn’t even want to listen to it anymore, I just wondered where it could be. The album ended up appearing out of the blue while I was cleaning out my car. At that point, I filled that void with so much other stuff — more music — that the album didn’t carry that value anymore. It wasn’t exciting once I lived so much without it. I probably worked around 45 hours at my job, turned in 7 assignments for school, and spent 10 hours hanging out with my friends. And I probably didn’t go two days listening to the same thing.

Whether or not the album showed up underneath my car seat that day, I gained a whole lot when I accepted its release and focused on the (cosmically) immediate things. The collage of meanings found elsewhere trumps what I sought in the first place. Sorta like some scenes from Twin Peaks.

Clip from YouTube. May be subject to copyright.

On Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s “Milk and Honey,” there’s a 20-minute interview that closes out the album with their shared aspirations as artists: projecting a positive future for all with the same salience as a multitude of negative projections.

The footballers do it.
They pray, they meditate before the game.
They visualize themselves winning.

Do we want to go… our children to be out in space, or our grandchildren fighting — maybe not Russians — but Venusians in space?
You see?
If it works for a football player and a tennis player it can work for all of us.
We have to project a positive future.

I thought it was a really cool exercise considering the power of manifestation — I’m going to predict the rest of my career. This is definitely for me but once it comes to fruition, I’ll signal every eye I know to this very post to say “I was right.”


I’m 25 and I did it. I’m a writer in some city and I pay outside of my means for oat lattes and used vinyl. The publications I write for respect my career choices leading to our bond; it’s still work but I love what I do. I’ve written for Stereogum, CLASH, Pitchfork, Paste, GQ — all of the publications that I read when I was 20. On top of that, I have a side project that I find more pride in than any other gig. It’s my own space, my own thing. It’s freeing, collaborative, and permissive. It turns out that I still need the independence that I had in my Irvine days. I met the writers I came up reading and they gave me kudos (I hid how much validation this truly gave me when it happened). They motivate me as esteemed peers. They’ll never know how much I appreciate them for that but I try to tell them whenever I can. I’m secure in my positions all-around. There’s no feeling that I need to make a name for myself anymore, I’m professionally cruising with the intent of making good art.

In the event I still need one, I’m skilled enough at my day job to work mindlessly for hours on end. So skilled that it hardly feels like work (go figure, lol). The draining heartache I’d feel as a 20 year-old discovering their role in the American machine doesn’t hurt as bad anymore; subliminal jabs from strangers don’t tear into my ego like they used to. This isn’t the ideal condition but I’m able to keep any dissatisfaction in my heart’s periphery. I’ve gained so much personal value from hitting milestones and bucket-list-interviews that my assurance lets me work a job that isn’t my own. I don’t feel betrayed by the fact that I still require a day job in the first place. “So it goes,” I’ll say. I’ve flipped the idea of working a day job into productive time meant to sustain my life as a writer. I still choose the scenic route home to get through my album rotation. At the end of it all,

I still love music more than anything else.



Mason Stoutamire

UCI Literary Journalism Student, Big Brother, and Music Fan