See that guy over there? The one in the alleyway with no pants, his big beard braided with bird bones? The guy twitching like he’s covered in ants? The dude stabbing an invisible demon with an invisible knife?
Now, see this guy here? Ahh, the writer. Sitting at his desk. Typing away. Clickity-clack. Clackity-click. Coffee by his side. Hair slightly mussed. Writing about murders and lost love and space opera.
Let’s say you have a choice to cozy up to one of these two individuals. Hang out with them for a day.
The one you’d choose would seem obvious.
And that’s where you’re fucked.
Seriously. Choose the Charlie Manson-looking motherfucker every time. He wears his crazy on his sleeve, same way he wears his poop on the outside of his body. But the writer? The writer hides his crazy. It’s like a little secret present inside filled with bees. A Pandora’s Box deep in the writer’s troubled heart.
It is time, once again, to beware of writer.
Your Attention Is Our Creative Heroin
Newsflash: we are needy little goblins.
Makes sense when you think about it. Our work — and thus, our lives — becomes geared toward seeking the approval of others. We’ll kill a dude just for the chance to have an agent request a full manuscript. It’s not just editors, agents, publishers, and producers. It’s the audience. We tell you we write because we love it, but the dark reality is we write because we need you to love us.
If you don’t justify our existence, we will wither like a frost-bitten petunia. We are junkies for your love and appreciation. The other night, I had my wife sit in front of the computer and read something I’d wrote. Thirty seconds in, I said, “You didn’t laugh.”
“What?” she asked.
“That part there. It was supposed to be funny. You didn’t laugh. Means it’s not funny.”
“It was funny.”
Squint. Shift. Twitch. “But you didn’t laugh.”
“I smiled. I laughed inside.” She saw the tendons in my neck standing out. Wet eyes trembling like those of a sad Japanime samurai girl. “Listen, if I’m going to read this, you can’t stand there over my shoulder.”
“Okay,” I said, not actually moving.
She rolled her eyes. Kept reading. Finally, I couldn’t take it. I said, “I will give you fifty dollars and a foot massage if you just laugh sometime in the next 30 seconds. Let me sweeten the pot. If you don’t do it, I will know that you don’t love me, and more importantly, you don’t love my writing. My only response will be to run to the bathroom and drown myself in the toilet.”
The lady knows the drill. She accepted the deal. Twenty-eight seconds later, a convincing little laugh. I could’ve licked the computer screen that felt so good. Creative heroin, indeed.
We Bite When Cornered, And Also, When Not Cornered
We look harmless. But we’re like hooded cobras. Very angry humans, we writer-folk. Not sure why, exactly. Maybe all those words get caught up in the pipes and chutes of our brain-plumbing, causing something along the lines of a spiritual arterial blockage.
A whole dictionary full of profanity and rage gumming up our think-machine.
Doesn’t take much to set a writer off. You tell us, “You know, I don’t like pie as much as I used to,” and next thing you know you’re wiping a gob of spit from your eye. Gets worse if you try to talk to us about writerly things. “I don’t think writers should self-pub–” but before you finish that sentence, we’ve broken a laptop over your head and shanked you in the jugular with a fountain pen.
In your blood we shall ink our first bestseller.
You Can See Our Libraries From Space
We like books the way crackheads like crack rock.
We collect books. We hoard them. Anybody who has ever moved from house to house with a writer in tow learns a very unfortunate lesson, very fast: books are the heaviest substance known to man. You’ll be thankful you get to move a fire-safe filled with dumbbells after you move 50 boxes of our books. Many of which we’ve never even read. Or we didn’t even like. Go ahead. Try to take one of our books away. “You didn’t even like this book,” you’ll say. “You said you hated it. That you wanted to find the author and shove this book so far up his ass he could taste his own shit-shellacked prose.”
“But I might like it someday.”
“We’re getting rid of the book,” you’ll say, and you’ll reach for it.
“YOU CAN’T STEAL MY DREAMS,” you’ll cry, then tip over the bookshelf. When the cops drag you away, you’ll casually note how much those feet look like the Wicked Witch’s feet from beneath Dorothy’s house.
We’re Probably Drunk
That coffee cup next to the desk? That’s probably wine in there. Or whisky.
Or paint thinner.
You Shall Be Destroyed! (Uhh, In Our Heads)
Revenge is a dish best served to a character who is secretly you inside a book we’re writing and in that book the dish is actually a platter full of scorpions and then
you the character eats them and the scorpions sting your mouth and throat and they keep stinging you and your pants fall down and you slip screaming into a trough full of horseshit and all the townsfolk gather to laugh at you and throw Justin Bieber CDs at your head and finally the scorpions have babies inside your colon. The End.
Uhh. What I mean is, you know that disclaimer you read inside books? “Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental…?” That one? Coincidental, my left nut. We may not punish you in reality, but ye gods and little fishies, watch what we will do to you in our fiction.
“This character sounds like me. He looks like me.”
“I’m sure it’s just coincidence.”
“My name is Burt Smith. The character’s name is Bert Smythe.”
“Still. It’s a… common name?”
“He shows up in Chapter Seven, then is promptly beaten to death by a pack of housewives with double dildos. One of them says something about child support. Then they pee on his corpse.”
“Well, your ex-wife did write the book, Burt. Maybe you want to pay that money after all.”
Spoilery Spoil Heads Are We
“That guy did it,” we’ll say, pointing to some character on the TV. Or we’ll say, “She’s going to shoot him… right now.” Or, “No, you think she’s a hooker, but actually, she’s a he. And he‘s a space elf.”
Sadly, we’re usually right. We don’t mean to be. It’s not because we’re smart. It’s more because we’re obsessives. We watch a metric butt-ton of films. We consume gallons of television. We read a billion books and a trillion comic books. We play video games till our fingers look like rotten kielbasa. We write this shit. For a living. We know the tricks. We know structure. We know about Chekov’s gun and the bomb under the table and the act turns and the subtle-not-so-subtle clues. And we’ll blurt them out uncontrollably. Probably because we’re so goddamn needy.
We may be trying to impress you. Answer unclear, ask again later.
We won’t spoil things we’ve already seen. Well, not unless we didn’t like it.
“The unicorn killed her,” we’ll tell you.
You’ll punch us in the shoulder but we always feel justified. As if it’s not a spoiler if we think it sucks.
Man, we’re jerks.
As Writers, We’re Very Easily Distracte — Oooh Shiny!
When we’re supposed to be writing, we’re distracted by everything else: video games, the dogs, the vacuum cleaner, somebody else’s book, our genitals, a loaded handgun.
When we’re supposed to be doing something other than writing, we’re distracted by the writing.
“Honey, can you put the keyboard aside and stop typing for a minute?”
“Fine. Fine. What is it, you chirping harridan?”
“Well, you’ve been writing for the last fifteen minutes and I’d rather you be doing that thing you’re supposed to be doing? You know? Feeding the baby?” (Or, washing the clothes, driving the car, inserting the nuclear fuel rods into the containment unit, loading the handgun, etc.)
Our Stories Grow Like Viagra-Charged Erections
We are not only lying liars who lie, but we’re also wanton embellishers — the narrative equivalent of someone who cannot stop bedazzling an otherwise boring denim jacket.
When we’re telling a story, feign interest. Because that’s how you get the truth out of us. If you start to drift off — you start going through the mail, you stare off at a distant nowhere point, rivulets of drool begin creeping down your chin — we will crank the volume knob on the story louder and louder until we regain your interest. “I was at the post office today,” we’ll start. “Man, the line was crazy.”
“Nn-hnn,” you’ll say, paying only half attention.
Our eyes will narrow. We’re suspicious. Okay. Fine. Fine. You want to play it that way? Done. “The guy in front of me smelled.” This is true. This is part of the story. But then, we add: “He smelled like a corpse stuffed with a dozen Italian hoagies. He smelled like a dead guy exuding hoagie oil from his pores. I almost threw up.” Ah. Ah-ha. Yes. We’ve started to hook you. You’ll look up.
“Really?” you’ll ask.
“Oh yeah. And then he was mauled by a bear.”
“Yep. A Kodiak bear. Not a record-breaker or anything.”
(We don’t want to seem like we’re embellishing, after all.)
“And where did this bear come from?”
Pause. “Uhhh. A hang-glider.”
“He came down from a hang-glider.”
“I took it too far, didn’t I.”
Of course, on the other side…
We Have Judged Your Story, And We Have Found It… Lacking
We wish the rest of the world would embellish. Everybody tells stories. We’re just dicks about it because we think we’re the experts. We’re not. We’re just bloviating gas-bags. (But don’t tell us that.)
You’ll finish up your five minute story: “… and then Jenkins gave the boss a look like, whatever, and he went back into his office. Then we all went to lunch.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, that’s all you got? That’s the story?”
You frown. “What the hell were you expecting?”
“I give that story a D-plus. C’mon. It had no third act turn. The escalation was mostly a flat line from zero to zero, and I didn’t see a lick of character development. Jenkins didn’t have any kind of catharsis. God. Couldn’t you have thrown in a screaming porn star or a ninja or something?”
“You know, I don’t think that’s particularly fair –”
“A SCREAMING PORN STAR OR A NINJA OR YOU WILL GET THE HOSE.”
See? Beware of writer.
The first “Beware Of Writer” post can be found here. That post is this blog’s easily most popular, having gotten by now over 200,000 looky-loos by you, The Internet Public, and collecting 139 comments. Thanks, you crazy cats and kittens, for checking it out. If you like the post, spread the love.