Most Philadelphians know Nathanael Cabigting as one of the many talented skater who have worked at Nocturnal Skateshop. What a lot of skaters don't know is that Nate is a creative writer who recently earned a degree from Temple University with plans of finding new ways to helping others enjoy life. Even if that means posing in short shorts on Instagram.
SSL: What made you decide that storytelling was the best way to communicate with people?
NC: Storytelling for me is the easiest way to achieve what I want to accomplish with writing.
SSL: Did you attempt any other means of expression before finding your voice with writing?
NC: Prior to writing fiction, I used to be all over the place when I was figuring my creative outlet. I took up painting for a while which I really enjoyed, and music still continues to be a primary means of expression. My poetry phase came directly out of my music. I used to write melodies for songs and then write the lyrics, but when I tried the reverse I found it more difficult to write accompanying melodies. Eventually, I grew tired of trying to create instrumental melodies and so I focused more on the sounds of the lyrics I was writing and these ultimately became poems. I still occasionally create visual art, but it's more of a side project.
SSL: Who do you see as your audience when you're composing a story?
NC: In terms of an audience, the only people I'm really hoping to reach are people who need a laugh. Over my time writing my focus has changed drastically. Previously, I was hellbent on conveying intense emotion and all that poetry stereotypically presents. Now, I'm more hellbent on getting a laugh out of people or brightening their day.
SSL: Does that influence your choice of words?
NC: My word choice with fiction is still heavily influenced by my poetry writing and music writing. I find that reading fiction is far more enjoyable when there are teeny phrases that break up the monotony of typical prose. In addition, I hate hella proper prose. I've found that sometimes the general narrative of stories gets lost behind dense sentence structure and "classical" vernacular. Like when people read the classics and think that's what writing should sound like. It's incredibly frustrating to read stories that sound like they were written in the 20s in 2017. So now, my word choice resembles pretty common language, filled with improper slang. I've read a couple novels that I've enjoyed where the prose is insane, and filled to the brim with academic language, but those pieces are few and far between.
SSL: While reading your story Finding Peace in a Ramen Bath, I could feel your words trying to pull my responses in different directions, something that doesn't necessary occur when I speak to you in person. How does the voice used in your writing compare to your own?
NC: The voice in my writing is a combination of both my formal and conversational tone. In my poetry, the language tends to be more what I imagine poetry to look like. As a result, the tone and voice in those pieces seem more uptight and formal. In my prose, the voice is more conversational because it's more reflective of my general thought processes. I don't want to say that I put less effort into thinking prose lines, but there's definitely a lot more liberty that I take with those phrases that I nix with my poems. I always try to condense my poems, and stretch my prose.
SSL: It's funny that you mention your distain for writing styles from the past that come across as dense. Do you believe that contemporary readers need to be constantly entertained with significant events happening or lyrical language in stories to hold their attention?
NC: I don't really believe that contemporary readers "need" to be entertained by reflective events and happenings in stories. That's always a weird thing to notice in a story you're reading. I understand the merits of doing it, in that the story becomes more relatable, but personally for me it always puts me off. As far as language goes, I think it's one of the more important aspects in shaping stories. Tone and voice give the story its own unique character, and it works in either direction. A great story could become terrible with a terrible narrative voice, and a shitty story could be interesting if it's written in a great and unique voice. It doesn't necessarily have to be "lyrical" in the sense that it's poetic, or in the sense that it's musical. However, I do think that the tone and style of the language is what ultimately captures the reader. Would Harry Potter have been as successful as it is if it were written in the narrative voice of H.P Lovecraft? Would more people read Dostoyevsky if Crime and Punishment were written in the style of Hunter S. Thompson?
SSL: The success you speak of may just come down to timing. What makes a writer of the 21st century like J.K. Rowling successful could be linked to the appetite of her peers and readers. Many respected writers like Henry Mellville had minimal success during the publications of his works, but their popularity and respect has grown over time because of changes in the population. I know that my personal preferences for meticulous and painfully detailed writing makes it difficult to me to find contemporary writers, but I'm also aware that my preferences are not what drives sales anymore. Do you think there is a balance between the two styles?
NC: I think there's a definite balance between lyrical and conversational styles. One example that I can think of is Keith Buckley's lyrics. His lyrics I think exemplify this balance. One of my favorite pieces of his is "The Coin has a Say." The casualness of the lines plays well with the near rhymes, and they paint a whole portrait of this dulled man and it's exemplified in the last few phrases "Metallica without the drugs, a faith healer without the plant." Another example could be found in the lyrics of "Romeo A Go-Go." The same casualness that's found in "The Coin has a Say" is present, but the portrait is one of a physically savaged man who just wants to impress his presumed lover. As he describes himself "the Don Quixote of the ICU." In both instances, the casualness of delivery by the narrator describing his ruinous and deteriorating state work well with the lyrical near rhymes, and present a clear portrait of the characters in question.
SSL: Thanks for the Keith Buckley recommendation. I can understand why you would refer to him as an public and private styles merging. It does make me more aware of artists and performers in general becoming constructed personas that show their audience a performance with brief moments of self reflection. That seems to be what sells these days as the weight of reality is hard to market. How much of yourself are you willing to expose in your work?
NC: I have no issues with with exposing myself in my writing. It's cathartic and to a degree, therapeutic. I use writing in some ways to work through strife or figure solutions for a lot of my personal issues.
SSL: How do you see yourself moving forward in what could be interpreted as performance writing?
NC: Moving forward, I'm still trying to figure out the next subject for my next piece. I've been watching this show Ash vs the Evil Dead that's been refreshing in terms of satire horror writing which is where a lot of my interests lie. Maybe I'll write a short horror story next. I have a lot of ideas but none that are really fleshed out.
SSL: Aside from exposing yourself through your writing do you have any other projects in store for the near future?
NC: I've been really busy with my bands and writing music, but that's really it. Some of the lyrics for these new songs were poems that I reworked and I'm excited to release them.
SSL: Do you have any last words?
NC: A good daily reminder I've been telling myself is it could always be worse.