I get a lot of e-mails these days.
No, not just the ELITE BONER PILLS or SWEET TIJUANA DONKEY PORN or DEPOSED ETHIOPIAN SPACE MARINE kind, but actual emails from actual readers of this site.
I like to hear from you folks. I really do. It’s nice to know you’re not only reading, but you’re absorbing and interacting and are brave enough to hit that contact button.
That said, some of those e-mails fall into a couple categories, and I see a lot of the same questions again and again. So, I thought I’d address four of those questions right here, right now. This then fulfills my “lazy” qualification and will let me just throw a link to this post in an email and say, “Ta-da!” And then I go about my day huffing glue and writing the stories that result from it.
Here, then, are the answers to commonly-asked questions.
I apologize in advance for being a dick in… well, pretty much this whole post.
Let us begin.
Q: “How Do I Be A Writer?”
This is by far one of the most common e-mails I get. It’s often a sort of vaguely-worded, tender-footed, well, how do I do it? The day-to-day, the word count, the storytelling, all of it. This weird gauzy miasma of possibility, this cloud of uncertainty, this unpindownable task with no margins and zero permutations. Sometimes it’s about creating a routine, other times it’s about commitment, occasionally it involves executing on an idea, sometimes it’s just a request to understand how the fuck I and other writers do it.
Let me answer this way, and I apologize if this answer comes across as particularly acidic or feels like a boot to your trachea, but it tends to be how I roll here at Jolly Olde Terriblemynds.
You’re looking for some kind of secret. You think that writers possess some kind of insider knowledge that you do not yet possess — a golden idol that, if stolen from the forbidden temple and inserted rectally, will infuse your body with the wisdom of the gods. You think, perhaps, that we’re holding back.
Here is the not-so-secret secret, a secret so not secret that I’ve said it countless times and, in fact, have written it on a hammer in masking tape and then proceeded to bludgeon you with said hammer:
You write by writing.
I’m sorry to say, but Nike’s marketing team pretty much nailed the shit out of this:
JUST DO IT. (swoosh.)
That’s your secret, right there. Usually the advice is, “Get off your ass and do it,” but here the advice is, “Get onto your ass by plopping it in front of a computer or notebook and just goddamn fucking holy shit do it.”
You could, instead, rephrase the question by imagining different scenarios of difficulty:
“My doorway is blocked by a chair. How do I get out of the room?”
Answer: move the chair.
“My hand appears to be immersed in some kind of… bucket of fire ants. How do I stop them from biting?”
Answer: remove your hand from the bucket.
“I’m hungry. What do I do?”
Answer: put food inside your body, preferably by way of your mouth.
People want to learn to write the way they want to learn to lose weight — as if there’s some secret, some trick, that goes beyond “put less food in body and move ass more frequently.”
If you’re looking for discipline, I can’t give that to you. Only you can give that to you. Yes, I can make a suggestion on how to create and maintain a routine — I’ve heard tell that if you do something 16 times in a row you create a routine out of it, which is probably a load of cock-syrup. Ah, but truth lurks there just the same in that, if you do something enough times it becomes rote. But even still the advice there remains fundamentally the same: do it. Just do it! Want to be a writer? Write. Yes, it’s work, but that’s the point, isn’t it? That’s what separates the real writers from those wearing the masks of writers: real writers know that to write they need to — gasp — actually perform the task.
So, there’s your non-advice advice.
Put words on paper.
Wanna be a writer, just write.
Q: “Will You Read My Thing?”
I will not read your thing.
I appreciate you asking. I do. I’ve been you. Really. Way back when, when I was a dumb-faced college student and e-mail suddenly existed where no such form of communication existed before, I would write writers — like, say, poor Christopher Moore, who was as nice about it as could be — and ask them to read something I wrote. Desperate for validation. Hungry for that kind of communication. Eager for an “in.”
It was nonsense, of course. But sometimes you just don’t know better.
So, let me say upfront: I am genuinely honored you have chosen me to read your work. I assume that means you think I’m a man of some talent and wisdom (I’m not), or that I have some kind of magic power and big-name-pull (from your lips to the Writer God’s ears, but sadly also not true). But just the same, I’m not going to read your story, novel, script, nascent blog post, or cult manifesto.
First, I don’t have time. Nothing personal, but I’m already juggling flaming chainsaws in terms of writing projects and family life. Time I take to read your work is time I can’t spend
masturbating doing other things.
Second, while likely not a problem, I don’t feel like running afoul of IP infringement. If I’ve got a novel about Hell-Clowns I’m writing and here you send me a short story about Hell-Clowns and I read it and then my book gets published and I get some kind of big movie deal (Hell Clowns II: Greasepaint Rodeo), then the last thing I need is you feeling like I ripped you off and made big bank with your IP.
Third, you should get hooked up with a writer’s community and make friends with other writer-folk. Those people will help you far more than I can, and that sense of community is valuable. I’ll probably just yell at you and crush your dreams. Speaking of dream-crushing, here it comes…
Fourth, if you need that kind of validation from me, you’re not yet ready for primetime. I wasn’t, at that point in my life, and you probably aren’t either. This isn’t a universal truth, and you may be close, but you need to find the kind of comfort in your heart that tells you when your work has merit, has potential. Don’t look to me to give that to you. Or other professional writers. We don’t know shit about shit. I’m just making this stuff up, same as you. Find your center. Write from a place of confidence. I remember that transition — the time when I went from “I don’t know if this is any good” to “I actually think this has a real shot.” It’s an important shift to look for in your work and self-esteem.
Q: “Will You Take No Money To Be A Part Of This Project?”
Again, I appreciate you asking. You obviously want me to be a part of your anthology or blog or whatever, and that’s nice. Really. I’m happy you want me and my work. It’s nice to be wanted, even if it’s based on the dubious suppositions that I a) have talent or b) have some kind of name-cred.
That being said, I’m going to have to say “no.”
I mean, unless there’s money on the table.
I get it. That’s a crass commercial sentiment. It’s not a sentiment everyone shares. But here’s the thing: I only have so many hours in my day and I also have bills to pay. Hours spent writing That Unpaid Thing are hours I really need to spend writing that other Totally Paid Thing so people from the government don’t try to take my house, my son, and my dog. (I don’t know why they’d want my dog, but she is awfully cute.)
I’m pretty much a big ol’ greasy-fingered word-whore. Unless there’s money on the nightstand when we’re done “sharing words,” then I don’t know if we have a deal.
Q: “Can I Repurpose Your Blog Post?”
A lot of people do this without asking, and I understand that my blog appears free for use given that it lives in the Digital Wild West that is the Internet, but sometimes someone actually asks. Which is nice.
But no. No you can’t. Or, at least, I’d prefer you didn’t. I’m unlikely to throw together a crack-shot legal team or anything, but I would really rather you not copy-paste my entire blog post into your own blog. To be fair, most times that people do this, they do still credit me and occasionally even link back here. And again, I appreciate that they dig the post. But it’s actually sort of silly to just copy/paste an entire post of mine when it already lives here. You’re just creating redundant content and bogging the Internet down with soggy diapers caught in the pipes. In fact, I blame you for why YouTube is always so slow. Stupid YouTube.
My preference then is that you take a part of my post and quote it there — say, no more than a third of the entire post, or the “highlight reel” — and then link back here so people can get the whole enchilada.
All This Is True, Unless
…unless I know you. If you and I have communicated in a meaningful way at some point, I will totally read your stuff, I will totally talk about your anthology, I will definitely blab about writing, I will absolutely give you a blog post. But to strangers, ehhh, not so much. Nothing personal. But you have my reasons.
So, there you have it.
Me dropping the dick-hammer.
Commence the throwing of overripe fruit at my cage.