How to be a Writer

If you ever wish to have peace in life, do not do this.  This experiment is for fools, it is a lark and best dismissed as a symptom or possibly the result of a midlife crisis.

Specifically, don’t follow your dream to be a writer.

First, be honest with yourself.  It isn’t really your dream.  Understand that, being childless, you are trying to leave something that lasts.  They say to do something of importance, in the magnitude of greatness, you have three choices:  have a child, write a book, plant a tree.  How hard could it be to write a book?  At least if you fail, nothing will die on you.

Write about what you know.  Cats, teaching, family, life philosophy.  Write every little detail.  The cats were a Bengal/Savannah mix and they were embraced in their adopted home on December 27th of a very mild and disappointing winter.

Consider doing a study of something, then bag it.  If you chose to work for a summer at the Hopkins’ Dairy Farm, that experience would make for great writing.  No, cross that off the list.  It would take your whole summer and would be too many hours and you would smell like manure all the time.  You wouldn’t be able to wash the stink out of your hair.  People would see you at parties and as you approached would get a whiff of you and give you that face of stone that shows they are trying not to react to your stench.  When they release themselves from the Bell’s palsy grip, they make inappropriate expressions just to exercise their facial muscles to prove they didn’t freeze them on purpose.  “Really?” They’ll say with far too much surprise in their voices.  “You began drum lessons on Tuesday, hmmmm….” They’ll ponder biting their lower lips wondering how you could manage such an undertaking on a Tuesday and even more, how they will get out of the conversation politely.

Consider writing about something you already do.  Choose something mundane.  Cleaning toilets.  You have plenty of amusing thoughts you could plop right in your writing.  I deal with more shit teaching than I do cleaning toilets, you tell your coworkers on returning to school in September.  That’s some clever stuff.

Turn every experience into symbolism.  View every experience as some kind of metaphor for something greater in life.  That bug you are debating mopping over or moving out of the way, it could be your dying father.  It can’t help itself, shouldn’t someone in a better position help it?  Make these events existential.  If you free a bug from a spider web, were you being a champion among humanitarians or messing up the cycle of life? You freed the bug but fucked with the spider.  What about the Protestant work ethic?  That spider worked for that bug.  That bug was stupid to wander into the web.  What if the bug still has remnants on its little feet and will live a life compromised of quality and will stick to everything and never find a mate and possibly die a worse death than had the vampire spider sucked it dead?  What would Jesus do?  What would Darwin say?

Make New Year’s Resolutions that will force you to develop your writing.  Promise yourself you will write each night for at least 30 minutes.  No matter what, make time for it.  Tell yourself you are worth this time for reflection, to develop a talent, to indulge your creative side.

Start a blog with Word Press.  This will keep you on track and committed.  Don’t tell many people you know about the blog, as that will cripple your writing.  How can you complain about these people when you are inviting them to read your writing?  Celebrate the beauty of anonymous blogging.  It’s like you are invisible in a room and can observe and make comments but no one knows who or where you are.  First double check to make sure you are, indeed, not linked in any way to the blog.

Do your research.  Read the hundreds of thousands of other writers’ blogs and try not to feel inadequate.  Discover how they have so many followers.  How does Kelly Parker have over 7,000 followers?  Why does she continue to “like” your posts but never signs up as a follower?  Ask yourself if it’s a trick to get you to follow her blog.  Wonder if she even reads your posts.  Write one daring her to follow you.  Mutter, “Touché,” when she “likes” this post and still refuses to follow.

Solicit at least one of your literate friends to follow your blog and comment.  Sign up to follow hers.  Write comments that you tell yourself are insightful.  Continue to jerk each other off daily with comments like, “Favorite part…blah, blah, blah.   I can so picture the…    Loved, loved, LOVED the description of the waxy, papery…blah, blah, fucking blah.”

Try to imitate writing you admire.  Try to be true to your own voice at the same time.  Employ an avalanche of figurative language.

Convince yourself you are not a failure.  Especially if after 3 months you only have two followers and one is your friend.  Convince yourself that people have just not seen your blog.  Congratulate yourself for not stooping to the parlor tricks of others and “liked” unread and/or random posts of others just to guilt them into following you.  Do not allow yourself to wonder if you have disappointed your other follower, Geoff, who hails from London.

Do not give up.

Take a creative writing class.  Do not be intimidated.  Do not show up drunk like you did for swim lessons at twenty-three.  Do not beat yourself up for missing the second class after vowing not to miss any.  Try not to feel like an opportunist when you find yourself jotting notes into your Iphone as you sit by a dying man’s bedside.

Tell yourself that this will pay off.  Patiently explain that this is allowing you to live every moment to the fullest.  To actually experience life instead of rushing through it preoccupied.  Understand you are now a conscientious observer.  You notice things.  You are aware of your surroundings.  Because you are searching for words to describe these moments you are alive.  Accept that the process is as important as the end result.  Maybe more so.  Appreciate this.

Wrestle with the idea that you may never be published.  Ask yourself why you write.  Is it to be published?  Rich?  Famous?  Do you seek the accolades from others?  Do want to be seen as talented and wise?  Funny?  Is it that you simply seek a connection?  You hope that you will have a reader(ship) that say to themselves, “I get that.  I have been there.”  In turn you will not feel so alone, so isolated.  You will have shared an experience, a moment.

Destroy the delusion that you are an island and no one is like you.  Everyone is like you on any given day.

Understand that when your loved ones comment with, “Great voice,” what they are really saying is that you lack substance and organization and purpose but your bitterness is still evident and that maybe you really should talk to someone.

Envision your success.  You will be accepted into that unique, eccentric community you call writers and will make enough money to sit in the park, or at North Shores Beach or at Starbucks, documenting your important thoughts for all posterity with a five dollar mocha chino in your hand as a symbol your success.

Prepare yourself to be recognized on the streets and at local events like the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival and Camp Rehoboth’s Women’s Weekend.  Be humble when they ask you to teach a class or be a keynote speaker or even do an evening of stand up.  When you accept, be gracious and flattered and insist on doing it pro bono as it is for a good cause and really, you’re not that good.  Allow yourself to silently acquiesce as you redden when they insist you are.

Remind yourself that you can always plant a tree.

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9 thoughts on “How to be a Writer

  1. Pingback: Dear Reader – or Win-Win-Win | The Zombies Ate My Brains

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