Beware Of Writer

The Snake That Bites His Own Tail: The Ouroboros

I’ve seen a meme bouncing around that reveals reasons why you shouldn’t ever date a writer. It’s true, to a point. But I think it goes even deeper than that. Frankly, you should probably get the hell away from us. Anybody. Not just the people we date. But everybody. See us in line at the grocery store? Run, don’t walk. Escape. Avoid. Awooga, awooga. On a good day, we’re eccentric troublemakers. On a bad day, we’re malevolent sociopaths. And with writers, it’s usually a bad day.

So. Here’s a little post to clarify why you should stay at least 50 feet away from us at all times, lest we sink our vampire teeth into your body and drain you of all the things that made you pure and good. See, the things that make us good writers?

They make us awful people.

Imagine a sign around our necks:

BEWARE OF WRITER.

The Glass Is Not Half-Empty, But Rather, Full Of Badger Piss

We are all pessimists, cynics, hypochondriacs and conspiracy theorists. In our fiction, the world must be broken. We must think of the worst. It’s what fuels the fire. Nobody wants to read a story about happy ponies sipping from the molasses pond and then they all dance and have all the hay they want and rainbows and bags of gold and leprechauns and *poop noise* — that’s just pap. Twee, waffling pap. Fiction demands that we go to the well and draw up the most stagnant water we can find, and so we look for the worst in the world around us. We get used to it. We accept it as the norm. We know the worst can happen. We know it because we write about it. Some dude will come up behind you on the park bench and saw your head off. Your plane? Gonna crash. That mole in your armpit? ARMPIT CANCER.

Please Ignore Our Forked Tongues

We are lying liars who lie. We have to be. Fiction is a lie. Non-fiction is, in its own way, a lie. When writing, deception is a skill. This, like so much of the thread that goes into our wretched quilt, trails into our real lives and ensures that the best writers make the most powerful liars. We can convince you of anything. We don’t mean to. It’s just — well, it’s like John Cusack’s character says in Grosse Pointe Blank:

Martin: You do it because you are trained to do it, you have the strength to do it and the courage to do it… and ultimately (pause) you get to like it. I know that sounds bad.

Debi: You’re a psychopath.

Martin: No, no, no. Psychopaths kill for no reason, I kill for money, it’s a job — that didn’t sound right.

For the record, if you don’t like that movie, you’re dead to me.

I lie to my wife all the time, by the way. Not in bad ways. I’ve learned to control my foul serpent’s tongue. Now I just see if I can convince her of truly egregious lies. Like, I once convinced her I was born with a tail? I know, horrible, right? But at least I’m not lying about, you know, real shit. That’s what I tell myself.

You Are Wrong About Everything, Even When You’re Not

We make shit up all day long, and then we must write about that made-up shit with utter authority. It is our job to write with abject confidence in the subject matter. You know in high school you’d write papers that were, as you might say, “bullshit?” And you could convince the teacher of it? Yeah. This is like that. Except we start to believe that our confidence in information extends beyond the written page.

And so we frequently believe ourselves to be right.

Like, beyond the pale.

“Yes,” you say, “I’m sure that the guy who played on the show, Frasier, is Lee Marvin’s son.”

“He’s not.”

“No, no, it’s true. I’m sure of it.”

“I really don’t think that’s right…”

“WELL YOU’RE STUPID AND YOUR HEAD IS STUPID. Remember how wrong you were about that thing seven weeks ago?” We like to do this. God forbid we’re actually ever right about something because dang will we hold onto that like a squirrel with a nut. “I’m right. I’m a writer. It’s even in the word. It used to be spelled R-I-G-H-T-E-R. It’s my job to know things.”

No, it’s your job to make shit up and pretend it’s true. But the lines? They blur.

Conflict And Misery Make For A Much Better Story!

In life, we avoid conflict. In fiction, we strive for it. Except, remember how I said something about the lines blurring? Mmm. Yeah. We get to a state where escalation and drama feel normal. We work to achieve those things so diligently that it’s hard to snap out of that mode. In a fight, we’re likelier to escalate beyond the point of rationality because — hey, whoever is up there in Never-Never-Land reading this Book Of Your Life is going to appreciate your attention to these details. “Yeah,” your imaginary cosmic reader says, “now break that plate! Do it! Kick the car door and put a dent in it! Conflict! Escalation! Drama!”

Of course, no such cosmic reader exists.

Our lives are not big books.

But don’t tell us that, or we’ll stab you in the thigh with a #2 pencil.

Ich Bin Ein Puppetmeister

We control our characters. Don’t believe the nonsense that we’re swept away the Muse and the characters control us. Pshhh. Naw. Nuh-uh. We’re the puppetmasters. And so in life, we get confused when we can’t control you and everyone else around us. Oh, I didn’t say we wouldn’t try, though.

The Writer Is A Creepy Loner

We do so well alone that we don’t always do so well with other people. If we were a dog, the warning on our kennel door would say, “Not Socialized.” Or, “Doesn’t Play Well With Others.” Or, “Will Stab You In The Thigh With A Pencil.” We don’t so much like being solitary. It’s just our natural state. So when you finally find us, we’re naked, covered in our own filth, picking bits of ham and apple pie crust out of our chest hairs. We are basically some genetic combination between “earthworm” and “Bigfoot.”

Bigworm. Or Earthfoot.

Snuggle Up With Mental Illness

When writing, a little dab of mental illness is a feature, not a bug. Our obsessions and neuroses drive us to the word count with the verve and tenacity of a crack-addled howler monkey. Our depressive tendencies, provided they allow us to get out of bed, show us a broken world, and as noted, a broken world is particularly good for our fiction. Our Narcissism and megalomania helps us get through the day by convincing us we’re actually really awesome at this, yeah, fuck yeah, woooo, and then those depressive tendencies kick in again and bring us back to earth and drive us to improve, improve, improve our shit-ass-crap-twat writing. We’re like addicts, pinballing back and forth between uppers and downers, smart drugs and hallucinogens. Thing is, when not writing, a little dab of mental illness is a big ol’ bug and not much of a feature (outside our ability to entertain others with our misery and melodrama).

Like A Photograph, We Will Steal Your Souls

Just as we are liars, we are also thieves. Your life is our fiction. Oh, no, we don’t steal it on purpose. As noted: we have compulsions. That whole write-what-you-know thing? It’s not advice. It’s a curse. Don’t worry. We won’t use your soul exactly as it has been taken. We’ll fuck with it first. Molest it with our greasy ham-hands. Of course, you’ll be reading something and say, “Is that me?”

And the writer will say, “No, no, of course not.”

Because the writer is a stinky poo-poo liar who fucking lies.

Our Writing Is A Temple: Do Not Defile It Lest You Rouse The Anger Of The Gods

We elevate our writing to sacred cosmic necessity. If you befoul the temple with your distraction — even if that distraction is, say, “Hey, I’m being eaten to death by mice over here, so if you could maybe kick a few of these guys off of me?” — you will earn our wrath. “No, I cannot help you with your bullshit flesh-eating mouse problem I TOLD YOU I WAS WRITING JESUS CHRIST YOU DON’T RESPECT ME.”

Last But Not Least, We’ll Try To Force You To Read Our Shit

“Here,” we’ll say, dropping a 50-lb. manuscript in your lap. “It’s my masterpiece.”

“Okay,” you’ll respond.

“Read it.”

“It’s awfully big.”

“Yeah, but read it anyway.”

“Okay. I have some things to take care of first like, say, getting these mice to stop boring holes in my flesh.”

“Sweet.”

Two days later, we return: “Did you read it?”

“OW THE MICE ARE IN MY BRAIN”

“I guess that’s a no.” <– insert disappointed pout.

“CHEWING MY SYNAPSES”

“Pshh. You don’t respect me and my work.”

Then we storm out.

(It’s Not All That Bad)

Okay, yeah, we’re sort of apeshit moonbat, but once we become aware of our, umm, danger signs, we can mitigate our worst behaviors. But still, let this serve as a warning. Writers sometimes seem brightly colored and fascinating, but really, those are just nature’s way of warning you off. We’re like tropical toads. Oh so pretty! Want to touch the toady! Except: poisonous skin that kills with one touch.

Beware of writer.

185 comments

  • I haven’t been able to stop laughing at your truths and observations of who a writer really is at their core. Thank you for spelling it out so clearly. While I am not a writer, my son was born to be either a fiction writer or a lawyer. I knew this to be true when he was five years old and spent a solid 4 hours convincing me with utter conviction and personal belief the sky was really green because it was his favorite color. I feel blessed that he has chosen to pursue creative writing and fiction writing rather than law, although in some cases the lines blur and it is hard to tell the difference.

  • Writers do not lie. They merely expose reality. The moment the written word appears on whatever media we use to chatter it becomes someone’s truth. I just lied because it was truth before I wrote. Life is similar to Quantum Theory when we view anything we change its reality. This would lead me to believe writers are creators of truth. Oh! I forgot we are not creators because the reality existed before we wrote.

  • Great article! As a writer I’d rather be alone than in a group any day simply because I’d start judging them and imagine myself some place else…perhaps I need new friends.

  • I ought to begin carrying this article around with me, perhaps a cardboard sign around my neck, a warning to anyone who does not know me.

    Honestly, dog or not, we writers often deserve to be locked in a kennel with a sign like the ones you mentioned. Of course, I didn’t really mean honest, because, really, honestly doesn’t work for writers, not even for an insignificant blog comment.

    However, I believe that there could be a section added to this in regards to a writer’s extreme self-hatred, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Any high school literature book will prove this fact with every page-long writer’s biographies.

    They were born here, they wrote this, they suffered with depression, they wrote this, they jumped into a river.

  • The only thing I didn’t relate to… chest hairs.

    Not today anyway. But when I was born, I popped out with a massive pile of chest hair. The doctor said she’d never seen anything like it. My mom cried, she thought I was an alien. That’s why she called me “Chewie”. But I changed it when I was five. Legally. I had to take my mom to court to do it. She suffered a heart attack from the stress. She almost died, but I gave her one of my kidneys. Did you know that dysfunctional kidneys are the reason for most heart attacks? I researched it. It’s true. She’s fine now. Thanks for asking. And reading.

  • At the end of the day, look out for the writer searching for a muse … the words “your next” should be tattooed on every writer’s forehead…

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