Quit While You’re Behind: Why You Shouldn’t Be A Writer

A Surprise Treat Awaits You

Yesterday was just a warm-up. Think of that post as a kind of lube job. Just softening the passageway so I can more easily cram this wad of broken Christmas ornaments (all ceramic! shardalicious!) up there.

Yesterday, you were a volleyball. Soaring through the air. Sun behind you. Blue sky above. Today, I’m going to spike the volleyball into the nose of your mother.

Yesterday, I opened my arms for a hug. And today, as you come in to collect your love, I’m going to suckerpunch your junk.

Yesterday —

Ooh, sorry. I was getting into a groove there. Let’s just get right into it.

Reality check: you should quit this whole “writer” shit right now, mister or missy.

Seriously. Give it up. It’s just a bullshit pipe dream. Don’t believe me?

No, Seriously, You’re Probably Not That Good

It’s just you and me. We’re just talking. Like two pals. We’ll link arms and skip la-la-la down the meadow path, and as we do so, we’ll be frank and speak our minds, and so let me speak mine: you’re probably a mediocre writer. How do I know? Okay, I don’t. I’m not Kreskin over here. But if I had to put smart money down, that smart money would laugh and call you names.

I arrive at this because most people who think themselves writers, or who want to be writers, are basically shitty. Hell, just bop around the Internet. Oh, the waste of worlds and words! I’m being generous when I suggest that only 10% of it is actually good. With a wide margin of “mediocre” (40%?) and a wider margin of “on par with testicular cancer” (50%). Go, flit around the web for 20 minutes, see what kind of writing you turn up in the dank dark deep of the net. Commas rape periods. Run-on sentences pull a train on other run-on sentences. Good ideas are held down and forced to eat the scuzz-covered boots of bigger, badder, stupider ideas. Quality content dies crying in the dark while an army of moronity dances into the light, sans shirt, shoes, and any modicum of good sense.

Here’s the problem. Any asshole can think himself a writer. Not any asshole can think himself, say, a filmmaker, or an aerospace engineer. I mean, you can try that, but there exists a nice barrier to entry. “Oh, I don’t know how to operate this camera. Oh well!” or, “Now that I’m here, helping build the new space shuttle, I have to wonder — what the fuck am I doing? Is this a wrench? Is that math?” But any dickbrain with a pen and a piece of paper can scribble some squiggles and call himself a writer. “I wrote a poem!” That’s not a poem, it’s a miscarriage of language. Stick to postcards, Special Jack.

So, let’s just go ahead and safely assume that you fall somewhere in the “ball cancer” to “mediocre” range of writing. Which makes you and your career hopeless, if only because you are lost in a sea of other talentless shitbirds all squawking and complaining for a taste of fish. Which leads me to…

Oh, And You’re Making It Hard For The Real Writers

Time to run through a brief scenario.

An editor or agent has a pile on her desk. It is a query pile, or a slushpile, or whatever.

She has to go through this pile to find publishable or representable material. Most of this material is toxic garbage. Which makes this process the equivalent of picking apart a hunk of poop to look for a precious peanut or Froot Loop — your nasty nonsense has gummed up the process. It has clogged the pipes!

You’re literally standing in the way of better — “real” — writers. You’re shoulderblocking them and tripping them. Ironically, it doesn’t help you at all; it just hurts them. Your septic infection of a novel is a needless obstacle. It’s like you basically walked into a nice person’s home and upended a bunch of trash bags in front of her bedroom door. You accomplished nothing outside of keeping a good writer down.

You’re a speedbump! A greased-up doorknob.

You are bird-and-pig flu.

Oh, and thinking about it, you’re probably part of why books cost as much as they do. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Publishing houses have to hire people to actively sort out the steaming, stenchworthy effluence that is your writing. And, given that the large percentage of what they receive is exactly that, that’s a lot of paid hours. That’s money going toward a needless cause. As a result, book prices rise. So, not only are you hurting other writers, but you’re actively spitting in the eye of the book-buying public. You are such a jerk.

Plus, You Have A Better Chance Of Dying In An Accident Featuring Syphilitic Circus Elephants

I know. You’re a writer, not an aerospace engineer, but I think a little basic math is in order. Consider this:

Around 175,000 books are published every year in the United States. Sounds good, right?

Now consider that a publisher generally only publishes one to two percent of what’s submitted. That leaves roughly 98% of the work that goes unpublished.

That’s 3.5 million books.

That’s 3.5 million writers, and that’s only those writers that decided to submit this time around. A lot more are waiting in the wings.

Plus, you have to write the book, which takes months or years.

Plus, you have to worry about whether or not your book will sell.

Dude. Dude. The odds are stacked against you. I know my math is simplistic, but trust me, that math errs on the optimistic side. You got next to no shot. Never mind the fact you probably fall into the categories noted above (somewhere between “mediocre” and “cancerous”), which basically punches your odds in the back of the head and then drowns them in a scum-topped pond.

And I Bet You’re Equal Parts “Crazy” And “Delusional”

I’ll make this one short, but you’re probably like one of those guys who thinks he’s a superhero. “I’m bulletproof!” You’re not. You can’t fly. Get off that ledge. You’re no hero, you’re just a weird depressive lost to delusion. I mean, c’mon, a lot of the people who want to be writers are just bubbling and babbling for attention like squalling, colicky babies. You’re probably nuts. You’re probably in need of counseling. You’re probably delusional. The chances are good. Recognize this and climb out of the pool before you pee in it.

Besides, You Don’t Have The Stomach For This

Seriously, it’s just you and me talking now. Nobody else can hear us. I’ll even whisper.

This job sucks. You don’t want it. You might think, “Jeez, Chuck, but you’re doing it.” Yes, but I’ve been doing it for 11-ish years now, and only really saw meaningful success after a decade’s worth of attempts. That’s a third of my life thus far. That’s ludicrous. What was I thinking? Further, that’s me beating the odds. Your chances are slim — frankly, I took one of the spots in line, and now you’re going to have to find your own.

You don’t have the stomach for this. It’s not your fault. In fact, it’s perfectly normal.

First, it’s lonely. You sit here, all sad and pathetic in front of the PC, typing at nobody. You cry a little. You glumly play with yourself. You eat some pudding. You drink. You throw up the pudding. It’s a journey into the heart of alienation and isolation.

Second, the pay’s for shit. You’re not really able to support yourself. A first time novelist doesn’t even get paid a lot. Writers are all broke-ass delinquents. We have one pot to use for cooking soup and pissing in. Which means we’re eating pee-pee soup like, all the time. I have one pair of pants because I cannot afford another, and this pair of pants is unmercifully caked with my snot and tears (oh, and and dried scabs of pudding).

Third, writing is actual work. You have to have a solid work ethic to do this job in any meaningful way, and that’s not why you got into this. You got into writing because it’s fun and creative and whimsical and la-dee-dippity-dah. But this shit is hard. It is much easier to restock milk at Target, or deliver mail. Let’s be honest, your work ethic is probably dogshit. You thought you could get into writing because it wasn’t work. Ha-ha, I mock you for that. We all do. Which leads me to —

Fourth, you’ll get no respect. Nobody respects the writer. Everyone thinks you’re making a dipshit career choice because, drum roll please, you are. They look at you the same way they look at a 12-year-old boy who tries to eat a fistful of paint chips he peeled off the wall. You’re the dog who got his head stuck in between railing posts. You’re a keening lackwit and everybody knows it. Jesus, even other writers won’t respect you. Look at the way I’m talking to you right now. Does this sound like respect? If I could slap you in the face, I would, that’s how little I respect you. I would steal your things and seduce your mother if I had half-a-chance, and then I would take your unpublished manuscript and I’d eat it because that’s all its good for: fiber.

How’s that for respect?

You cannot hack this.

It’s Easier To Give Up And Give In

Be like Ned Beatty in Deliverance.

Hike your man-panties down, and squeal like the sow that you are, and get it over with. Give up. Give in. Stop resisting. Don’t move and it won’t hurt.

I give you permission to give up. Okay? There. You have it. You didn’t need it, but now you got it. It’s okay that this isn’t for you. Seriously. Not everybody gets to be what they want to be. Not everybody can be an astronaut or a cowboy. As the saying goes, the world needs its janitors, too. No shame in that. We’re all doing our part. It’s just that — well, “writer” really isn’t your part.

I think you’ll find a great deal of freedom in realizing this. It’ll be a grand epiphany. A sudden unburdening, as if you’ve lived beneath a suit made of live pigeons all your life. And now the pigeons are free, taking wing. You’re 50 pounds lighter, like Alton Brown. Plus, pigeons smell. Nasty creatures. Now they’re gone!

And now you’re liberated, free to find another path. A path more suitable.

I will not accept payment for this favor I’ve done you.

I do accept gifts, though. I really need new pants, for one. Also: I’d love an alpaca. Maybe a breeding pair, if you can manage it. I mean, I need to find something to help bolster my Sad Writing Pennies so I can pay my mortgage this month, and I figure — the alpaca pyramid scheme is the next big thing for me. Yay!

What? You Don’t Believe Me?

Wait, whuh? You think I’m joshing you? This ain’t no snowjob. I’m serious. You probably shouldn’t be a writer.

Unless.

Unless.

Did you read this, get angry, and silently (or even out loud!) tell me to go fuck myself?

Good for you.

That means one of two things.

One, you’re a stubborn shithead.

Two, you’re confident in your talents.

Either are good enough prerequisites to being a writer, so that’s a good sign for you. You’re probably going to be fine. Sure, you might just be an idiot, but if you’re so self-deluded, then even your most pathetic of effort will be scratched off in the giant “win column” that is your brain, so who cares? You’re bliss-tarded.

Still, be advised, don’t think I was kidding about those things above. I’m serious as a pulmonary embolism. But you’re probably going to get through it. Just hold the bucket tight to your head, and keep trying to bash that wall down.

Then again, did you hit one or two of those points and kind of half-shrug and say, “Well, that is true…?” Did you?

Were you beset by the Nibbling Wombats of Doubt?

Are you Sad Face?

Then maybe, just maybe, writing really isn’t for you. Out of all seriousness, that is okay. No harm, no foul. I’m not a cartoonist right now because I didn’t have what it took to be a cartoonist. Maybe you’re not a writer because you don’t have what it takes to be a writer. Find your path. Make a choice. Do what you should be doing.

It’s time to decide. I don’t envy your decision.