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

  • Oh the mouse parts had me rolling. I especially loved that last part with the synapses. 😛

    I think it’s our neurosis and quirks that help make our writing relatable to people. Superman is such a hard character to write for because he is such a paragon. Batman is considered more interesting because beneath his raw bad ass nature is a flawed individual whose very actions are both enviable and abhorrent.

  • Ah, Heinlein would be proud.

    Also, Grosse Pointe Blank is a fantastic movie. It and Zero Effect are movies I used to own and they have in common the fact that I nearly wept when I saw their VHS tapes were unplayable. I have yet to replace them.

  • And when we aren’t writing, we’re editing.

    LIke a few weeks back, I’m in the car with the wife. We’ve got a three-hour drive from Wichita to KC, and she’s dictating stuff for her job into her computer using her fancy-schmancy new Dragon Speak software. And I’m trying not to listen ’cause, well, it’s boring, frankly. But it’s a freakin’ car, right? I mean where am I going to do? And I’m hearning these sentences that are too long, or in passive voice or, well, that just offend my writerly sensibilities. So I start offering helpful suggestions, telling her what I’m sure she meant to say, or would have meant to say had her tongue, like mine, been dipped in the magic godly pool of tongue grease at birth.

    Eh, a little marital goodwill tip for any of you writer types tuning in. Don’t do that. Seriously.

    Dan

    • @Marty:

      Yes, this will definitely be a reason for the future post: Why You Should Totally Snuggle Up To Writers.

      Though, you might have to fight them for the Scotch.

      — c.

  • I find that we won’t shut up about new ideas, also. And we’ll talk about them to the point of causing the people in our life to discover their homicidal tendencies. I have a really good friend, David, that I used to constantly bounce ideas off of (usually while he was sitting at the computer, playing Mechwarrior or Morrowind). After a particularly long stint of me trying to flush my ideas in to his brain, he calmly turned off the computer, smiled at me, and hit me hard enough to knock me out of my chair. He then informed me how he needed some “him-time” and for me to write it and shut the hell up.

    Keep in mind, he was (and still is) a friend. He understood that if I trapped him into being my audience, I’d never get that shit written. And he was right.

    I also find that we tend to be poor listeners – not because we lack the ability, but because we are constantly one upping what someone else says. Again, that escalation thing.

  • “Language is a virus from outer space.” – William S. Burroughs

    It is my firm belief that writers are highly susceptible to the virus.,We are obsessed with manipulating and exploring language. We are also the primary vectors by which it propagates, evidenced by our mad drive to shove our virus-laden pages at other people.

    My brain is riddled with cosmic microbes and I must share them with you!

  • That’s funny. Those dangers are all the reasons my husband loves me (including the time I went for a regular check up and then convinced him I had uterine cancer. Man, he cried for like an hour!). One has to wonder what that says about him.

  • The Bigfoot thing is very true. Since I’ve started working from home, I decided to let my hair grow out. I have very shaggy hair, and it’s at that awkward stage where the sides seem the longest.

    This morning, the bedhead reflection in the mirror was a tangled thing defying the laws of nature. Even though I patted it down before taking out the garbage, I’m sure with the way I was looking over my shoulder for neighbors that I looked like the famous Bigfoot footage from the 60s to anybody who caught a glimpse.

    Walking back to the door, I scratched my ass and didn’t even care…

  • You had me at “GET THE FUCK FAR AWAY”.

    I’ll admit you lost me at “picking bits of ham and apple pie crust out of our chest hairs” (I mean, seriously, who eats ham anymore?), but by the time I got to Narcissism and megalomania, I was picturing your avatar tattooed on my slightly hairy-but-in-some-countries-guys-really-dig-that chest.

    Needless to say, this post will be the inspiration behind my next “Kitchen Utensil Sculptures” gallery.

    Musing you,
    Bschooled.

  • Shit. I write non-fiction. I can see now that there is no difference. I am an evil world manipulator, and everything you just described is the true essence of my charming personality.

  • Alas, so very, very true. Down to the casual lying and the scotch. I find that when I’m on th job, though, with a promise of pay and a deadline, that I’m *nicer* to my long-suffering wife. That’s what she says, anyway. I think I recognise the ‘fuck off, I’m working’ response in myself and over-compensate.

  • I rely on my partner because it is only after reading the latest bit over his shoulder that I catch all the TERRIBLE HORRIBLE MISTAKES and cringe that he notices them the way I should have… if I hadn’t been three months slogging in the word jungles, with a rotting thesaurus and letter-eating mites in my brain.

    “Mommy’s writing,” are probably two of the most feared words in the vocabulary of my children. I suspect one day I’ll catch my daughter with her dolls and she’ll be saying, “Mommy’s writing… mommy’s writing… mommy’s WRITING!” and it’ll be the scene from a slasher flick, except with less blood and more stuffing.

  • Beard!
    Uhm, honestly I know not what you’re talking about. I am perfectly NORMAL! *shifty*

    That bit about telling others lies and make them believe them? Must be a general creative type this. My husband, who has created a ton of worlds and plots and what have you (but can’t spell and can’t be bothered to write) has, and I really think, convince a friend he was an alien. He’s always trying to get them either riled up or to believe some totally off the wall thing. Heh. Maybe it’s just a guy thing! And I’M RIGHT AND YOU KNOW IT BECAUSE I AM A WRITER! HAH!

    Opps. Never mind…. Beard….

  • A couple of my friends recently said–nigh demanded–that if I ever write a book, they want to read it before it’s published.

    I don’t think they quite understand what they just got themselves into.

    Heh.

    Heh heh.

    Heh heh hehehheeeeAAAAH HA HA HA HA!

    *cough*

    Hi, there.

    *crawls back into hole*

  • “Us writer types”. Oh, that specific faux-self-loathing, typical of a writer.
    Come on. We love it that we’re manipulative, judgmental, prone to alter the truth and so on and so forth…
    hence – about 1,500 words on how oh-so-bad writers are, by a writer! Followed by a bunch of writers happily chipping in with examples of their own awful behavior.

    This is the bad bit – we love it. I love it. I wear my obnoxiousness like a badge of honor, because, you know, i’m a w-r-i-t-e-r. I’ll pick on your grammar.

    Yet the world loves us. Pets us on our two heads, kisses our four cheeks. Because really, if we do our job (on account of writing and being awful in person), we make life colorful.

  • This one was a series of amusing truths… but not all of them were truths. I suppose it varies from writer to writer, but personally, I get controlled by my characters quite often.

    Still, it was fun to read 🙂

  • -Morality.

    It’s not just lying. It’s the whole right/wrong thing. We spend our time writing from lots of different points of view, and writing people who can justtify just about anything. Pretty quickly you become the person at the party who will say, “yeah, look, i’m not a fan of donkey rape…but hey, them ancient greeks? See, things change, man. It might be allowed again in twenty minutes. (i have lube with me just in case)”

    -Conversation.

    I’m getting very bad at it. As with the morality thing, we spend so much time looking at different peoples points of view that having a simple conversation becomes like a wrestling match with the facts. “Yeah, i see what you’re saying, and on the whole i agree, but lets not forget this one time in 973 when….what? No, no, i’m agreeing with you on the whole, i’m just saying there was this one time…..yeah,okay, i’ll go away now.”

  • Jesus, this article and the comments section is like one huge middle-aged circle-jerk. You people and your pernicious overuse of the pronoun “we” (as though you’re referring to every amateur who self-declares themselves a “writer” as being a member of some big, pretentious, neurotic, obese family) seriously makes me ashamed to consider myself a writer. Is this really what “we” come off as to the rest of the world?? Ugh, time to go drink myself into a stupor and contemplate what I am doing with my life. Hate mail goes to: elmelquiades@gmail.com

  • How do I manage to embrace every trait of a writer’s personality yet suck at writing? I must be a psychopath then! Honestly I thought everybody was like that? For a paid liar you tell honest truths. Guess I better improve my writing or start killiin’ people, nothing worse then a fence sitter.

  • I thought I was alone in the world until I found this posting!

    You are brilliant, Chuck!

    Yes, I’m shiny, magical, and there’s a faint tinkling in the air surrounding me. But you better keep your hands off me! That’s no ink in my pen, it’s venom!

    Just read my fiction and all will be well….

  • See, this is how I know I’m meant to be a writer. I stabbed my friend in the thigh with a ballpoint pen (not a #2 pencil, but close enough) when she finished reading a portion of a story that I had labored very, very hard on, perhaps more than my future children (yeah, right), and asked me to remove my favorite part. “It just doesn’t seem to belong here, and I mean, it sounds kind of tacky.”

    Oh no bitch, oh no you did NOT.

  • Finally a coherent explanation of why I can’t be let out in public. You sir are like a god to me now. A god I will transform into an impotent, cloven-hoofed beast who bites his fingernails and never picks up a check. Sorry man, I’m a writer, I can’t help myself.

  • Ah, I thank my lucky stars I am a perfectly adjusted rogue scientist and writer. Thanks for posting this. I was beginning to think I might be a little, well, odd. Even my little son, Caligula, has been giving me funny looks but he’s probably just hungry. He usually is.

    So I’m normal after all. Everyone has a basement full of skeletons and a freezer full of social workers. What a relief.

    I hope there are enough social workers to go around.

  • Scary, a fairly good description of myself. Except perhaps the ham and apple pie part. Isn’t it weird how most writers become somewhat the same, or perhaps it is just that the same sort of strange, reclusive creeps all become writers? We may never really know.

    This was a charming read, thanks very much!

  • Of course, I recognized my fiction writer friends immediately.

    But we non-fic writers don’t have any of those nasty tendencies. Okay, enough of this Tom Foolery – this Goddamn book isn’t going to write itself, you know…

  • I like how that Name Chris guy ranted about all the affirmation you were getting, Chuck…and then, in his douchebaggery, left his email addy to hopefully receive his own self-back-patting slew of comments.

  • I once convinced a friend of mine that I had a robotic eye that only saw in black and white and had to be oiled twice a day.

    Why?

    Because she said “Whoa! Your eye looks WEIRD today.” And I couldn’t resist the temptation.

  • Haha holy shit. The whole time I read this I was thinking “oh that’s me. mmhmm that too. whadda fuck are ALL writers like me??” Awesome stuff. Before I read this, I thought about the fact that, hey, good writer’s make up good stories all the time when they write good fiction. Soooo a good writer must make up good stories when they LIEEE. And I also enjoy psychology… manipulating people and acting different every day or every week with only one teacher JUST to see how he acts around me. It’s kinda interesting/funny. Experimenting… with people’s minds…. heh. Fun stuff. Can’t wait to be a psychology teacher.
    I do all those white lies allll the time! I’ll stretch the truth or add something in just to make the story or fact or whatever more interesting to the person I’m talking to.
    Great post. Funny. Interesting. So true.

    *fist bumps*
    -Ericka

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