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, this part is so true!
    “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.”
    I plan days off to write and hubby decides to take the day off, too. I want to lock him out of the house in the cold! Seriously, gtfo and leave me alone! LOL

  • haha This is brilliant! And so true. I need to make my parents read this so they can understand that when I say I want to be left alone to write, it means, “Don’t even fucking breathe in the same room or I’ll feed your genitals to a baboon.” I get yelled at for being anti-social, but to be honest, I’d rather spend time writing about my own awesome fantasy world than going out and listening to other dickwads whining about the mundane traumas of their pointless existence.
    No, I don’t have many friends. But somehow, I just can’t see this as a bad thing 😀

  • I was laughing the entire time I was reading this, probably because I know it’s true.

    We turn everything into a story – my entire life, I’ve tried to script lives (like you said, we try to control people the same way we control characters) – when I was younger, I often told my little brother what he was “supposed to say” in any given situation.
    I also used to take things that happened in my life, and write a story about it in my head.

    Loved this!!
    <3 Kiersten

  • Forcing them to read my shit. Yep. Guilty. I use every psychological warfare tool, as well. Check ont he anti-social too, though my excuse is I work with people all day (I’m a therapist) so I don’t want to socialize during potential writing time (whenever I’m not working).

    I am, however, funny, charming, brilliant, goodlooking and emotionally healthy with a good assessment of myself.
    I would never fall prey to the majority of this list.
    *wink*

  • I stumbled upon this and when I saw it was about writers I could not turn away. I’ve been a big liar for years and thought it would be my downfall and I would die alone and hungry in my apartment. I now realize that I should be a writer and tell people I’m a starving artist, instead of poor and too lazy to finish college. 😀 My parents won’t know what hit them.

  • Chuck:
    You blocked me on twitter after I posted this tweet:

    @ChuckWendig if you love charlie sheen you will love http://marjorie-cartoons.blogspot.com; she’s da shiznit of the net!
    12:05 PM Mar 2nd via web in reply to ChuckWendig

    I totally own always trying to drive traffic to my blogs, but I guess it pissed you off. If I go to your twitter page and re-hit “follow,” I get a message that says:

    “This user has blocked you from following them.”

    • Marjorie:

      I’ve unblocked you on Twitter. That being said, it appears that the reason I did so is because many of your tweets are very close to being spam — meaning, you just spam people about your blog without actually contributing to any kind of conversation. That tweet you quoted above looks, like many of yours that day, to be a spam tweet, not a tweet from a real person.

      So, I might suggest looking at your Twitter behavior if you’re getting blocked with some frequency.

      — c.

  • I do not lie. I merely stretch the truth until it screams for mercy. Naturally, like any good torturer, I provide none.

    I stopped lying gratuitously when the excuse “the fairies did it!” stopped working on my parents. Might I add that this was only about three years ago and I’m twenty-five. Ironically that’s about the time I graduated college. I wonder if there’s a correlation there…

  • I couldn’t find one point to disagree with. As a writer, I’m offended by that. How dare you make it impossible to argue with you? I’m a writer dammit, I want to be heard!

    Will someone please pay attention to me?

  • LAME! I’m a painter, writer, and musician. Yes, creative folks are strange… but what I see here is the masturbatory, masochistic, B.S. all too common in artistic circles. The living hell is not the only creative font, misery is boring, and mental illness is played out, suffering of all kinds is pretentious pansy -assed social posturing.

    And the snake picture…. I’m pretty sure that’s a nonvenomous snake… just saying…

  • But you forgot one thing: the reason why *I* hang around all the beloved writers in my life is: they’re WORTH all that crap! 🙂

  • This, be it a mere “warning” to other people to stay the fuck away, is a masterpiece. You stripped down the layer of every writer possible and just got out those demons inside us. Almost everything you have said here I can relate to, and I’m just and amateur.
    Thank you for the good nervous laugh (because sadly it’s all true) 🙂

  • Oh my god. This is wonderful. THIS is your masterpiece. Being a writer, i found myself chuckling at all the points you were spot on about. Which was pretty much everything. I’d love to read some of the works you’ve actually written for publishing purposes. If they’re anywhere as well crafted as this, well then you’re a damn good writer my friend.

  • Let me first say, this was the most magnificent piece of work I’ve seen in a while. It takes quite a bit of bitter truth and humor to get me to literally laugh out loud. Congratulations, sir, you have made my day, week, month.
    As I am currently in the process of writing my “masterpiece,” SO many of these things are so devastatingly accurate, it’s a little scary. Most people make fun of me for my dramatic outbursts and endless torment of the characters I write about. Glad to see you understand my need for trouble.
    Cheers,
    Carly Havok

  • This is pretty much everything I’ve ever noticed about my brother… ever… He is an aspiring writer. Sounds like he’ll be successful…

  • You have some interesting things to say, but, as a writer, I can say that you are a bit extreme. Perhaps this is how you view the world, but I definitely do not. I find myself more optimistic the more I write, as if anything is possible.

    Just because bad situations make for an interesting story does not mean that I think that everything in my life is sure to go wrong.

    I write Fiction, but I am one of the most brutally honest people out there. I tell it like it is.

    I do not force others to read my work. Actually, I only let a handful of people read my stuff because only a few people will have anything constructive to say.

    I am not depressed, I am not a loner, and I am not miserable.

    So there is no need to group all of “us writers” into this depressing/negative category because we are not all depressed, hypochondriac, loners as you say. Perhaps you are…but maybe that is just you.

    : )

  • I sort of don’t want my boyfriend to see this…but it’s so fucking funny! Why is the truth always funnier than…um…stuff we make up? Or is that just me? Perhaps there’s a reason why I don’t write comedy. Now you have me thinking, which is never a good thing. *sigh*

  • Does the fact that I rarely write any more now mean I’m safe to be around?

    Wait! Wait! My story about the vampire going up against genetically modified black supremacists must be written!

    Never mind.

  • Its like you’ve stalked me to write this o_O; maybe that’s why I have a hard time making friends….I really only have 2 and they’re just as full of creative writing as me….

    (it also reminds me that I have to re-write my OWN masterpiece for the fourteenth thousand time….)

  • Crap. I just read this whole thing, and realize that it all applies to me. For some reason, my mind allowed me to think this was normal and okay.

  • I realized that I may not be a true writer, as much of this does not apply to me. But then it made me sad as I realized that I have a few select (very select – if you know what I mean) friends that you described. I’m now backing away slowly with the shotgun handy.

  • You seem to be describing the characteristics of the relationships of unsuccessful writers. Truly, I aver, a published and happily-employed writer can be the most wonderful person. I attest with my own life. Stray away from these sweeping generalizations. Writers are a divers bunch, as are bartenders or customer service representatives or humans as a bunch. Eh?

  • This is a bunch of writers or wannabes fapping about how well this matches them, and you know what it’s semi-true and so this writer wannabe (being that I am an unsucessful writer in my teen years) felt left out and felt like joining the “Oh yes this does describe me party” being that I have actually stabbed someone with a pen… but I’m sociable, for awhile at least. 🙂

  • I grew up used to everyone thinking (legitimately and honestly –>>>>>> high school nickname) that I was an alien, and I become so used to it that I subconsciously and automatically make sure EVERYONE ELSE I MEET KNOWS THAT I’M WEIRD AND NOT LIKE THEM. Except for the other writers. But we have fun messing with the minds of the outsiders and helping along the belief that we’re all neurotic — not that that was a lie in the first place.

  • loved this but one thing though some of us actually really have disorders etc where are charcters arent a lie…at least not in our minds..
    fun stuff though

  • “Our obsessions and neuroses drive us to the word count with the verve and tenacity of a crack-addled howler monkey.”
    I so got that. Awesome. Dead on accurate too. Yikes. Like lookin’ in a mirror. You rocked it.

  • I need that neck sign… 80% of this was true (if you believe that, I have a mountain cabin to sell you in the International Space Station). Now if only I could write more than a chapter into things before the depression sets in and ends it. I may have to dispose of my roommate first. Anyways, great article, I’ll think of you next time I create a horrible dystopia.

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