A Reminder Of What Makes A Real Writer

If you want to be a real writer, like, a really real writer, a writer who does it right, a writer who is officially official and who will earn the respect of the rest of the tribe —

You have to write longhand. Forget your phone. Put your phone away. Your phone is just beaming nonsense into your head — telecommunications chemtrails. Real writers write longhand, on notes stuffed into secret underwear pockets. If you don’t have secret underwear pockets, then you are not a Real Writer. That’s just fact. That’s just science. You write your first draft on notes stuffed into underwear pockets, then you write your second draft carved into a fundamental surface: driveway asphalt, a granite countertop, the stump of an ancient and magical tree. (Hemingway once famously carved THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA into the back of an impudent busboy.) When that’s done, eat some bees. Because writers, Real Writers, definitely eat bees. Writers also all have English degrees, or they all die. It’s like water to fish. We need it to swim.

Also, kill a goat. TRUE writers kill goats. But you gotta kill the goat in a real specific way. You have to get a goat, then yell into the goat’s ear the full text of your first rejection letter. You scream it into the goat’s ear at top volume, then as the goat is reeling from the disappointment borne of such rejection, you seize the moment and snap its neck. (Though Edith Wharton famously dispatched her goats with a blunderbuss full of dynamite.)

Of course, none of this is true.

Because all writing advice is bullshit (though bullshit fertilizes). I’m writing this thing because once in a while we are treated to missives from well-meaning expert writers who have come to believe that The Way They Write is the Only Way To Write, because their process has been tainted by the strong smell of Survivorship Bias. “I survived this way, and so you must, too.”

There exists no one way to write any one thing, and as long as your writing has a starting point and an ending point, I think whatever shenanigans go on in the middle serve you fine as a process as long as it gets you a finished book heavy with at least some small sense of satisfaction. If you’re not finishing your books, you need to re-examine your process. If you’re not at all satisfied with your work, then again: re-examine that process.

And that’s it.

Everything else is just picking out drapes.

If you need a handy flowchart reminder, here’s my ARE YOU A REAL WRITER chart, written by me and designed by Rebekah Turner. Feel free to share!