Time for my annual, “Nope, you shouldn’t be writing, quit now, run away, go on, shoo” post. This time, in the form of the “25 things” lists that all you crazy cats and kittens seem to love so much.
1. It’s Really Hard
OMG YOU GUYS. Writing? It’s hard. It’s like, you have to sit there? And you have to make stuff up? For a living? And there’s all this… typing involved. You know what’s easier? Being an adult Baby Huey. Diaper-swaddled. Able to just pee where you sit. Your food liquified into a nutrient slurry and fed to you via a tube pushed through the grate of your giant human hamster cage. Okay, I kid, I kid. Writing actually is work. Intellectually and emotionally. You actually have to sit, day in and day out, and trudge through the mire of your own word count. Quit now. Save yourself from pulling a mental hammy.
2. You Probably Don’t Have Time
Writing takes time you do not possess. You’ve got that day job and those kids and, hey, let’s not forget your 37th replay of the entire Mass Effect series. Your time is all buttoned up in a starchy little shirt. Sure, Stephen King carved out his first novel one handwritten line at a time in between moments at his factory job, but if I recall, that didn’t pay off for him. (He should’ve just stayed working at that factory. Uh, hello, have you ever heard of medical benefits, Stevie? A pension? Lunch breaks? Duh.) Besides, eventually you’re just going to die anyway. Time won’t matter and it’s not like they’re gonna let you read your own books in hell. Better to quit now. Free up some time for drinking and masturbation. Er, I mean, “parenting.”
3. You May Have To Write A Whole Lot
Recently it came out that for writers to survive, they might have to buckle down and write more. Well, that’s just a cockamamie doo-doo bomb is what it is. That means writers might need to write — *checks some math, fiddles with an abacus, doodles a bunch of dongs in the margin* — more than 250 words a day?! Whoa. Whoa. Slow your roll, slave driver! I mean, it’s not like writing is fun. It’s an endless Sisyphean dick-punch is what it is. (See, Sisyphus carried an old CRT television up a dusty knoll, and when he got to the top, a faun punched him in the dick and knocked him back down the hill. That’s Greek history, son.) Write more? Eeeesh. Better to complain about it, instead. Or, better still: quit.
4. I Bet You’re Not That Good
I’ve seen your work. C’mon. C’mon. This is just between us, now. It’s not that good, is it? Lots of spelling errors. Commas breeding like ringworm in the petri dish that is a hobo’s crotch. All the structure of an upended bucket of donkey vomit. The last time an agent looked at your work, she sent it back wrapped around a hand grenade. So, you’ll do what so many other mediocre, untested, unwilling-to-work-to-improve writers have done: you self-publish, joining the throngs of the well-below-average with your ill-kerned Microsoft Paint cover and your 50,000 words of medical waste. Why do that to the world? Have mercy!
5. Hell, Maybe You’re Too Good
Alternately, you might be too talented. Your works are literary masterpieces, as if Raymond Carver, James Joyce and Don DeLillo contributed their authorial seed and poured it on the earth where it grew the tree that would one day be slaughtered to provide the paper for your magnum opus. And meanwhile, someone goes and writes porny Twilight fan-fiction and gets a billion-dollar book deal thanks to the tepid BDSM fantasies of housewives everywhere. You’re just too good for this. As you seem unwilling to write the S&M fan-fic version of The Hunger Games for a seven-figure-deal… well. This way to the great egress!
6. Ugh, Learning, Ptoo, Ptoo
“All you have to do to be a writer is read and write,” they said. Which seems true of anything, of course — “All you have to do to be a sculptor is look at sculptures and sculpt some stuff,” or, “All you have to do to be a nuclear physicist is read signs at a nuclear power plant and do a shitload of nuclear physics.” But then you went and read books and blogs and Playboy magazine articles and the backs of countless cereal boxes and then you tried writing and oh snap it turns out you still have more to learn. And learning is yucky. Ew, gross. Dirty, dirty learning. Not fun. Takes effort. Bleah.
7. Finish Him, Fatality
“I’m writing a novel,” you say. And they ask you, “Oh, is this the same one you were writing last year? And the year before that? And the year before that?” And you say, “No, those were different ones. I decided that–” And at this point you make up some excuse about publishing trends or writer’s block or The Muse, but it all adds up to the same thing: you’re not very good at finishing what you start. Your life is littered with the dessicated corpses of countless incomplete manuscripts, characters whose lives are woefully cut short by your +7 Axe of Apathy. You’re so good at not finishing, embrace this skill and quit.
8. Rejection Will Make You A Sad Koala
You will be buried in the heaps and mounds of rejection. And it’s never nice, never fun. Sometimes you’ll get the cold and dispassionate form rejection slips with a list of checkboxes. Sometimes you’ll get the really mean, really personal ones that stab for your heart with a sharpened toothbrush shiv (I once got a rejection slip early in my career from author and then-editor Thomas Monteleone that pretty much… savaged me rectally). Rejection will ruin your day. And, if you do get published, bad reviews will haunt you the same way. Did you know that every time I get a one-star review for Blackbirds, my eczema flairs up? I get all scaly and itchy and then I’m forced to fight Spider-Man as my supervillain persona, “The Rash-o-man.” (My comic book is told from multiple perspectives!) Anyway. Point is, rejections and reviews hurt. Don’t thrust your chin out so it can get punched. Hide in your attic and eat Cheetos, instead.
9. You Don’t Want It Bad Enough
You have to want this writing thing really bad. Sure, the saying goes that “everybody has a novel in them,” but thank fuck most of those people are too lazy to surgically extract said novel. I’ll just leave this one to the wisdom of Ron Swanson: “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
10. Writing Really Cuts Into Your Internet Addiction
The Internet is like a… delightful hole you fall into, a Wonderland of porn and memes and tweets and porn and hate and cats and porn. I’m always wishing I had more time to just drunkenly fumble around the Internet, feeling its greasy curves and exploring its hidden flesh-knolls, but all this damn writing keeps getting in the way. “Oh, god, if I didn’t have this stupid book to write I’d be tweeting scathing witticisms and scouring the web for free ‘people-dressed-up-as-trees-and-flowers-and-pollinating-one-another’ porn.” (If people who dress up as animals and do it are called “furries,” what are people who dress up like plants? “Leafies?” “Greenos?”) Anyway. Quit now. Free up your time.
11. Writing Isn’t Just Writing, Which Is Super-Bullshit
The title “writer” is the piss-pooriest description of the job I’ve ever heard. Total. False. Advertising. Man, writers have to like… edit, blog, market, learn good business practices, engage in public speaking, train on typewriter repair, cultivate liver constitution, and learn how to select and seduce mates based on the strength of said mate’s health care plan. That’s a bummer. A major bummer. Hell, it’s an ultra-bummer.
12. Rife With Indignities And Disrespect
Admitting to someone you’re a writer is like admitting to them you like to you’re a closet My Little Pony fan, or you’re a self-made eunuch, or you like to have sex with raccoons. Tell someone you’re a writer and she’ll nod, embarrassed for you, and then take a gentle step back so she doesn’t catch whatever cat-shit parasite made you crazy enough to want to be a writer in the first place.
13. Hullo, Mister Fatbody
Writing is a sedentary activity. You sit on your butt all day. The only parts that move are your flitting eyes as they follow the cursor and your fingers as they piston-pound out text. The rest of your body slides inevitably toward atrophy, layers of blubber and gristle slowly wreathing your frame in its salty slugabed deliciousness. You’ll probably get fat and then people will make fun of you and then you’ll die.
14. Back And Eye Problems
In addition to becoming a lumpy word-goblin, you also sit there all day in one chair staring at a freakishly bright square of light and the ant-like words and images that dance across it. Your back will become a quilt of twisted muscle, your eyes like grapes covered in a greasy film. Save your body. Quit now.
15. The Disintegrating Value Of Your Words
The professional pay rate for short fiction is now “a half-of-a-Dorito per word.” The average advance for a novel is a punch to the neck and a nuclear-fuchsia Snuggie. Analysts predict that most self-published works of fiction are trending toward an average price of $0.13 per 120,000-word novel. Which leads to…
16. The Average Salary Is $9000 A Year
The federal poverty level is at $11,170, and the average author annual salary is $9,000 a year. Homeless people earn better salaries. Seriously. If a homeless guy can beg thirty bucks a day, he’ll do better than you. You clearly cannot make a living writing. Studies show that only four writers alive make a living writing, and those jerks have the whole thing sewn up. They’re like the 1%-ers of authors, those dicks. Better to quit now before you find yourself on a ruined mattress under the overpass, eating bedbugs for sustenance.
17. Your Chances Ain’t Good, Hoss
Everybody and their ugly cousin wants to be a writer. You know how many query letter submissions the average agent gets per day? Enough to crush the skull of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. (In fact, that’s how the dinosaurs went extinct: they all wanted to be writers and starved to death. The meteors were just a cruel afterthought by an unmerciful god.) The chances of your work ever being seen — by an agent, then by a publisher, then by an audience — are about as good as the chances of you giving birth to a zebra riding a jet-ski. Which, admittedly, I have seen a few times. And it isn’t pretty. Oh, and don’t forget about…
18. The Septic Tide Of Self-Publishing
Now everybody and their ugly cousin can be writers! All it takes is a hasty lack of afterthought and a shameless willingness to click a PUBLISH button on the Internet. Abracadabra, your poorly-cobbled-together word-abortion is now available for anybody who cares to see it! Am I saying that good authors don’t self-publish? Hell no! Many great authors have self-published. Oh, but here’s the rub: discoverability on the Internet sucks. Trying to discover a new author on the Amazon or B&N marketplaces is about as effective as searching an above-ground pool full of dirty adult diapers for a half-eaten Snickers bar. Your work is just one more diaper on the pile. Or one more candy bar lost beneath the waste.
19. Gatekeepers? More Like Hatekeepers, Am I Right?
You know who’s preventing you from getting published? A buncha jerks. Editors and agents and publishers — all grumpy bouncers at the door of this SUPER-ELITE WRITER’S CLUB and any time you try to come on through they Taser you in the face and laugh as you flounder around in the gutter for an hour. The system is a Rube Goldberg machine that powers itself on your shame. Don’t let the bullies win. Better instead to take a nap and forget the whole thing.
20. Have You Been To A Bookstore Recently?
The bookpocalypse is upon us. All Barnes & Noble sells anymore is coffee and board games, except in the back where you can find a couple Franzen novels and 72 copies of a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am user manual. Indie bookstores appear haunted by the damned — it’s all trauma-bombed eyes and trembling gray shades, each of them willing to show you on the doll where Amazon touched them. I drove by a bookstore the other day and it was filled with feral cats. Caution. Cuidado. Verboten.
21. Publishing Is Now One Big-Ass City-Stomping Kaiju Battle
The Big Six publishers have formed into some kind of drunken papier mache Voltron in order to fight the tentacled galactic e-beast known as Amazon, and all us little writers are getting tromped by their stompy feet. Sure, try to show the world your novel: you’ll get lasered in the face. Better to hide in a bunker somewhere, wait out this monster battle. Your wordsmithy will just get you killed.
22. When The Great EMP Comes, All Our E-Books Will Be Destroyed
Print books are being hunted in the streets like stray dogs. E-books will soon be all books, but then eventually China’s going to attack us with an elecromagnetic pulse or Russia will invent an ion cannon like from Star Wars and then all of our books will evaporate in the data-blast. All your hard work will be lost — ephemeral information cinders on the wind. Why even try?
23. And If Not, The Future Will Be All Writer-Bots Anyway
It’s not going to be long before spam-bots figure out how to produce new content. The next wave of self-published books will be written — sorry, “written” — by a hive-mind colony of self-aware spam-bots. They’ll have titles like “The Girl Who Kicked Over The Cialis Machine” or “Ugg Boots Informational Article Post” or “Ituqxufssjcmfnjoet The Real Estate Computer Repair Warrior.” Don’t get in the spam-bots’ way.
24. You Just Don’t Like It Very Much
I don’t think you like writing very much. Mostly you just complain. Boo-hoo pee-pee-pants sobby-face wah-wah existential turmoil. Writing is hard, publishing is mean, my characters won’t listen to me, blah blah blah. I don’t get the sense you really enjoy this thing, so why don’t you take a load off? It’s not like the pay-off from writing is huge. If it’s just an endless gauntlet of miseries, maybe go find something else to do. I’m sure the nearest bank is hiring. Or, as we’ve discussed, hobos do pretty well for themselves. And hoboing is an unbridled delight! Ask any hobo and he’ll say, “At least I’m not a writer.”
25. Because Some Asshole On The Internet Said So
If you’re willing to listen to me, and my words have given you pause, then you really should quit writing. And there’s no shame in that. Most folks who want to do this thing honestly never will — and maybe it’s best to maximize your opportunity and find your bliss somewhere else. But, if you’re reading all this and all you feel is the repeated urge to come find my house and flat-punch me in the trachea, good for you. If your response is to kick and hiss and spit and assert your writerly rights and then push past me so you can plant your pooper down in the chair to write your aforementioned pooper clean off, then to that I give you a high-five, a chest-bump, and a sloppy open-mouthed kiss (here, have my gum). Because to want to do this thing, you need that kind of fuck you, I’mma do it anyway attitude. And the last thing you need to be doing is listening to some Internet Asshole telling you to give up. Shut up. Go write. Be awesome.
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