No, Seriously, I’m Not Fucking Around, You Really Don’t Want To Be A Writer

Danger Do Not Enter!

You don’t want to be a writer.

No, no, I know. You think it’s all kittens and rainbows. It’s one big wordgasm, an ejaculation of unbridled creativity. It’s nougat-filled. It’s pillows, marshmallows, parades. It’s a unicorn in a jaunty hat.

Oh, how sweet the illusion. My job, though, is to put my foot through your dreams with a high karate kick.

Consider this your reality check. You’ll note that I do this periodically: I’m here, standing at the edge of the broken bridge in the pouring rain, waving you off — it’s too late for me. My car’s already gone over the edge. I’ve already bought the magic beans. I’ve already bought into the fairy’s lie. I tried to pet the unicorn in its jaunty hat and it ran me through with its corkscrew horn, and now I am impaled.

See my hands? They’re shaking. They won’t stop. I’m like Tom Hanks in Shaving Ryan’s Privates.

I am too far gone.

You, on the other hand, may yet be saved. I see a lot of you out there. An army of writers. Glistening eyes. Lips dewy with the froth of hope. You’re all so fresh. So innocent. Unmolested by the truth.

And so it is time for my annual “Holy Crap The New Year Is Here And Now You Should Reevaluate Your Shit And Realize You’d Be Much Happier As An Accountant Or Botanist Or Some Fucking Thing” post.

More reasons you do not — awooga, awooga, caution, cuidado, verboten — want to be a writer:

It’s The Goddamned Publipocalypse And Now We’re All Doomed

The meteors are coming. Tides of fire are washing up on beaches. Writers are running scared. The publishing industry has heard the seven trumpets and it wails and gibbers.

It’s bad out there.

You know how many books you have to sell to get on the New York Times Bestseller List? Four. You sell four print copies of a book, whoo, dang, you’re like the next Stephen King. Heck, some authors are selling negative numbers. “How many books did you sell this week?” “Negative seven.” “I don’t understand.” “My books are like gremlins. You spill water on them and they multiply. And then pirates steal them and give them away for free. Hey, do you have a gun, because I’d like to eat it.”

Borders pissed the bed. Editors are out of work. Fewer authors are being signed and for less money up front. Jesus, you have a better shot of getting eaten by a bear and a shark at the same time.

And e-books. Pshhh. Don’t even get me started on e-books. Did you know that they eat real books? They eat them right up. That’s what the “e” stands for. “Eat Books.” I’m not messing with you, I have seen it happen. Plus, every time an e-book is born, a literary agent gets a tapeworm. True fact.

I’m cold and frightened. The rest of us writers, we’re going to build a bunker and hole up in it. Maybe form some kind of self-publishing cult and wait out the Pubpocalypse in our vault. We’ll all break down into weird little genre-specific tribes. Horror slashers, elf-fuckers, steampunk iron men, and space whores. But it’ll be the poets who will win. The poets with their brevity and their stanzas. And their bloody claws.

Eventually Editors And Agents Are All Going To Snap (And It’ll Be Our Fault)

It’s easier now than ever to submit to an agent or an editor. Used to be you had to jump through some hoops, maybe print some shit out, pay some cash to ship your big ol’ book out into the world. Now any diaper-rash with a copy of Wordperfect, an e-mail address and a dream can send his 10-book fantasy epic to a thousand agents with the push of a button.

Click! “Here, please consume this sewage as if it were a meal!”

This is your competition. Sure, you might be a real gem, a right jolly ol’ corker of a writer with skills and art and craft and a sexy smug author photo. But these wild-eyed crazy-heads are your competition.

Don’t think so? Peep this scenario:

Your manuscript arrives in the inbox of an agent with 450 unread messages just from that morning. At least 445 of those unread mails comprise a festering heap of word-dung, and that agent has to get through these and write some kind of “No, I don’t want to rep your book about a chosen one Messiah space pilot hermaphrodite ring-bearer wombat-trainer blacksmith” rejection letter. And she has to do it again and again. And again. And again. Times 400. Let’s be honest, by Piece Of Crap #225, that agent has basically lost her mind. Her brain is a treacly, yogurt-like substance that smells faintly of coffee and disappointment.

So, when she gets to your manuscript (#451), it’s late in the day. Sure, she might read it and be cowed by your brilliance — “Holy crap, it’s not crap!” — but realistically, she can’t even see straight. She hates everything. She wants to punch the life out of baby animals. Her madness and anger have been honed. It is a machete one could use to strike down God and prune his limbs.

That agent’s on a hair trigger.

Once she gets to yours, she reads that first sentence and doesn’t like that one comma and blammo, she’s firing off a rejection letter. And before too long she’ll be out on the ledge firing off a high-powered rifle.

You don’t want that kind of guilt on your head, do you?

Evidently, Society Still Requires “Money” To Procure Goods And Services

Few writers make enough money to earn a so-called “living wage.”

What is a living wage, you ask? It’s an annual wage that allows you to not perish. It allows you to not freeze to death, or not live in a dumpster where your extremities are eaten by opossum, or not die of starvation under an underpass. I mean, let’s be clear: most writers earn less than your average hobo. A hobo, he might earn ten bucks an hour. Sure, it goes toward booze or toward his raging Magic: The Gathering habit, but still, it’s more than you get paid to be a wordmonkey.

Okay, yeah, I earn a living wage, but you know how hard I have to work? I have to write like, 10,000 words per day. Backwards. While I provide sexual favors to industry insiders with my left hand (the sinister hand is the only hand appropriate for the tasks I give it to perform, be assured).

Since society still demands that we pay it money — and not, say, wampum or words or sexy dances — then trust me, it is not worth it being a writer. A writer, you’re basically just a homeless troglodyte.

Your Soul Remains Uncrushed, Your Mind Is Intact, And Your Orifices Unviolated

First comes the ceaseless parade of rejection. (Probably because you’re just not that good, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting, right?) You’re punched in the pink parts over and over again. It’d be comical if it were happening to anybody else, but it’s not. It’s happening to you.

Then, should you have the good fortune of getting published, you are now going to be dragged through a house of possible horrors. Seriously, you should hear the horror stories.

“My contract requires me to tithe a cup of blood every Tuesday morning. A man in a dark hat and a wine-colored cardigan shows up at my door, gives me a plastic cup, and then I have to blood-let into the cup. I don’t know what this has to do with my book, but I think it has something to do with my soul.”

“I found a stipulation in my contract that, should they be able to prove that I used a Barnes & Noble restroom, they could force me to pay back my advance. Also, they stole my shoes.”

“I did not get to approve my own cover art, and for some reason the cover of my paranormal thriller features an orangutan peeing into his own mouth. At least he’s wearing a monocle.”

“I must’ve mis-read. Here I thought they owed me 17% royalty on every e-book sold. Actually, I owe them a 17% royalty on every e-book sold. Mea culpa. Time to pay the piper. Literally. They sent a piper to my house and his pan-pipes play a discordant tune that drives cats mad.”

“Someone spent my marketing budget on cake and whores.”

After all that’s said and done, you have to go through it again with your second book. Which probably nobody will publish. Because they hate you.

Because The Fucking Snooki Book, That’s Why

At first I was like, “Eh, so what, Snooki got a book. Blah blah blah. We’ve seen trash celebrity books for years. Publisher’s gotta eat. Who cares? It’s not the end of the world.”

No, no, it’s definitely the end of the world.

Snooki shouldn’t even be allowed outside and amongst the public without a handler. She’s like a shapeshifting gonorrhea monster. That girl has more brain in her hair than she does in her actual head. And yet I know talented writers who are struggling, but Snooki — some kind of orange monkey-goblin — gets paid enough money to buy a house full of solid gold tanning beds. And, her book is apparently tanking. And, the Today Show chose to put her on instead of a literary icon like Jane Yolen.

That’s what it is to be a writer these days.

Snooki, who is by all reports the equivalent to a drunken, self-aware slime mold, is way, way higher up on the food chain than Jane Yolen. And Jane Yolen is way, way higher up on the food chain than you. Think about that. Think about just how screwed that makes you. It’s like a crazy house. It’s like an asylum where they let that guy who paints leprechaun porn in his own waste run the joint. And there are you and Jane Yolen, holed up in Room 313, the only sane ones in the whole zip code while an army of Snooki Zombies (their book deals flailing in their rotten, epileptic grip) tries to kill you. Or have sex with you.

*shudder*

You don’t want to be a writer.

Turn back now. Save yourself.

While you still can.

130 comments

  • … tkx. Chuck… have taken your advice… instead of writing myself into a corner and pleading insanity to the judge for having lost every asset and family member dear to me I’ve decided I’ll settle for Snooki’s next published bound bag of word-dung.

  • When reading this from the UK, I assumed ‘Snooki’ was a trope, a way of saying mindless celebrity. Then I checked and found she is a ‘real’ or possibly ‘reality’ person. Why are you all surprised by celebrity books? They exist. But so do good books. Yes, being a writer is difficult, but as one of your comments says, mindless corporate crap is much much much worse and more likely to lead to murder. good luck to all of you, be a writer. Go on, it can’t hurt. Just don’t expect it to be your only source of income.

  • Unfortunately I’ve already consumed several cases of alphabet soup and painted the ceramic bowl with twenty completed, low-fiber novels. Subsequently, as you predict with joyous jocularity, I fell victim to the subsistence existence prevalent among wordslingers. Still, there is something to be said for late-night raids in the farmers fields for foodstuffs. It builds character, helps maintain a svelte and lithesome figure, and prevents that evil slide into—contentment. HAR!

  • Even though the odds are against me. And I know the chances of getting an agent or a publisher are slim….

    I can’t give up writing, even if its just for myself. I love it, it’s my passion. No my obsession!!!

  • Jeebus Christie.

    I’m really sorry to be the bearer of bad, lunatic-frothed news, but Chuck, your brilliant and wholesome plea has had absolutely the opposite effect on me. Never before in my life have i found myself charged with such demented, psychotic energy to get published.

    Name your low. The thing you would, in your heart of squeamish and grimacing hearts, stoop to doing in order to land that sparkly publishing deal. NAME YOUR LOWEST LOW, i triple dare you. I will TOP THAT LOW, and i will DO IT IN HEELS.

  • Bwahahahaha…Wah! I’m sitting here with socks on my wrists so my sweaty flesh doesn’t stick to my laptop as I feverishly work on finishing edits that are due back to my publisher in a week. You made me laugh and cry and blubber into my socks so that I now have to run grab another pair. Thank you!

  • But I really want to try writing. I’m a starved soul. I can’t draw, paint, sing, play instrument, or even 70s break dance. I have no creative outlet, except maybe writing.. Yeah your write, best to be a wealthy automaton then an satisfied writer.

  • I am in the UK, and I’m a contractor. I have to pay my own taxes and the like, I get no benefits. None.

    I don’t get paid holiday.

    If I add up my pay after tax etc, I am just a smidge above minimum wage.

    So I’m already a sort of hobo. I may as well be enjoying it.

  • I agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, my characters didn’t give me a choice in the matter. I’m a writer, whether I want to be or not. I’m just one of those people that goes to my 9-5 job, takes my laptop along and writes like a fiend on my lunch break.

  • just because Snooki got on a talk show doesnt mean she’s “high up on the food chain” of being a writer. which determines a more successful writer, being on a talk show or getting good reviews of your books? As you said, her own book is tanking right now.
    she was on the talk show because her job is entertaining people. its not to be a writer.

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