Six Signs It’s High Time To Give Up Writing


The saying goes, “be a fountain, not a drain.”

By which they mean, “be nice, not mean, be optimistic, not pessimistic, be a shining beacon of light and positivity, not a searing enema of shadow and negativity.”

Oh, I’ll be a fountain, all right. I’ll be a fountain of urine. In your eyeball. PSHHHH.

HA HA HA HA HA.

Sorry, a little punchy today. Sleep in this household has gone the way of the dodo, the yeti, the honest politician — it is extinct. Turns out, that only stokes the fire in my belly. It pokes the coals of madness.

And so I emerge, sleepless and enraged, full of battery acid and asparagus pee, ready to once more use your head like a football so that I may kick it through the goalposts of good clean penmonkey sense.

Everybody always wants to tell you how to be a writer. How to follow your dreams. How to follow your stinky bliss like a cracked-out beagle. Eh-eh. Nuh-uh. BZZT. Not here. Not today. Today I’m going to tell you how to quit following your dreams. How to abandon your writerly ambitions on the side of the road (like a broken freezer or a fat ugly baby) where they may very well belong. Think of me as the medical examiner, and we’re going to look over your hopes and wishes and determine how precisely to determine the time of death via lividity, morbidity, and poop stench.

Trust me, I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news. I hate to be the guy belching forth my septic tide, a tide that will thrash your tiny dream-boat against the black bleak rocks of reality. But, hey, fuck it, somebody has to. Last time I did a quick head count, the Internet is home to 45,691,213 writers. And you’re multiplying. It’s like a feral cat colony up in this motherfucker. You might be saying, “Chuck’s just trying to thin the herd.” Well, duh. I’m not just trying to get the dilettantes out of my way — I’m hoping maybe I get lucky and convince a few of you actually-talented-sumbitches to give up the ghost, too. C’mon. We can’t all be writers.

Anyway, let’s go through the signs. If any of them apply to you, please hold up the little yellow card I’m giving you — *hands out aforementioned yellow card* — and I’ll attend to you with this rifle. Thanks!

You’d Much Rather Talk About Writing Than Do Actual Writing

If the words you use to talk about writing outmatch the words you use in your actual writing by, say, 100:1, then you might be one of those types. The ones who would rather play pretend instead of actually wading into battle with a pistolero belt of fountain pens and ink phials forming an ‘X’ across their chests.

I mean, c’mon. You know if this is you. You know it. Someone — an aunt, your mother, your colonoscopy technician — asks you, “How’s the writing going?” and you can talk at length about all the things you plan on writing, but what you can’t talk about is all the things you’re really truly writing? Can you remember the last time you commented on a writer’s blog or wrote a post about writing advice but can’t remember the last time you sat down and wrote a goddamn story? This is not good. This is a bad sign.

You Spent Your Time Doing Everything But Putting Words On Paper

Let’s try a test.

Here’s a video game. You can play this, or you can write. No, no, let’s pretend it’s one or the other or I’ll shoot you in the face. I just picked “video game” out of a hat, but we could be talking about any activity, really, that you’d do for pleasure: watching TV, riding a dirtbike, dicking around on Twitter, reading blogs, planning your next roleplaying game session, hunting humans for their genital pelts, manually stimulating frost giants for their icy hoarfrost seed (used as a ritual component in various magical potions), etcetera.

If you always choose the fun thing over the writing thing, that’s a hash-mark. That’s a check-minus. That’s a Mr. Yuk sticker slapped across the face of your future. Note that I’m not saying you shouldn’t sometimes choose the activity of leisure — but if you spend more time with the “fun” than with the “writing,” then doesn’t that suggest that writing for you fails to be any fun?

Your Production Levels Are *Poop Noise*

Or, if you’d prefer — *sad trumpet*

Or — *lone coyote howling*

Or — *Pac Man dies*

Or — *wilting erection*

Sooo, uhh, what are you writing? Yeah? Nothing? What have you finished? Oooh. Also nothing? Really. So, all that’s left in your wake is a trail of manuscript corpses? Empty pages? Unfinished stories? Nothing done? Did you write anything today? Yesterday? Last week? No, no, and no? Oooh. Zoinks. This isn’t looking good.

You have heard the old chestnut that writers write, right? You wouldn’t say, “I’m a mountain climber” without ever actually climbing a mountain? The thing you are presumes a sense of action, of presently doing. Not “never done” or “haven’t done in a long-ass time.”

“I’m a porn star.”

“Wow. Wow! Really? Dude. I figured you were a bit old, but hey, whatever makes somebody’s grapefruit squirt. Good for you. Good for you. What was your last movie?”

The Nine Throbbing Fists of Adonis.”

“I… have not heard of that. Is it out on Blu-Ray?”

“No. Super-8.”

“…when did you make that movie?”

“1971.”

Yeah, see? No longer a porn star. Writers write. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

That Teetering Tower Of Rejections Threatens To Crush You And Your Cats

You know by now if you’re at least a little bit good. You know because someone’s told you. Or because you got an acceptance on a short story or even a nice rejection. Or because in your heart you’ve cast aside the fog and seen into the truth of the matter: “I’m not great, but I’m good, and I can damn sure get better.”

Then again, maybe you look over at the end of your desk and you see it. The rejections. All 9,000 of them. Not a single acceptance nestled in there, like a glittering brooch inside the nest of a foul diarrhea-having bird. You’ve sent your work to the far flung corners of the literary world — editors, agents, lit mags, Field & Stream — and it always returns with a big red stamp across it that reads, FUCK NO.

By now, just by dint of taking so many shots at the hoop one of them should have gone through the little hole. If you’re having no luck, it might be time to set aside childish whims.

You Got The Wrong Idea About Writing

You think, “I really love books.” Great. So go read some. I love cookies and porn, you don’t see me starting up a career as “The Masturbating Pastry Chef” on PBS, do you?

You think, “Gosh, I really want to work-from-home.” So stuff some envelopes. Writing isn’t some pyramid scheme. You don’t just come home and poop out a bestseller because you’re tired of the cubicle farm.

You think, “I want to be famous someday.” Writers aren’t fame junkies. You want fame, go make a YouTube video where you get rammed in the balls by a charging donkey.

You think, “I want to be rich.” Hahahaha. Heheheh. Ooooh. Oh. Woo. Yeah. No.

Writing is about writing. It’s about telling stories. That’s why you do it.

Writing Is An Endless Sisyphean Misery

If you don’t like writing, stop writing.

Good goddamn I am amazed, astounded, astonished at how often I see writers bitching about writing. I don’t mean bitching like, “Oh, shucks, I had a bad day,” or, “Man, this story’s a lot harder to write than I anticipated.” But bitching like, an endless stream of complaining about the very act of putting words on paper, as if it strains them, as if it’s a ceaseless misery, as if it’s a colon full of fire ants.

If you hate to write, what the hell are you doing?

It’s not like writing offers some myriad reward, some treasure trove of benefits. Like, you could hate working on Wall Street yet love the buckets of money that come pouring over your head. Fine. Writing ain’t like that. Writing offers you one chief benefit: writing. If that is not a task you enjoy, if it’s not a task that offers you a sense of long-term satisfaction (even if you don’t feel immediate daily satisfaction), then nobody would judge you for not writing. It’s a thankless career. Don’t do it if you hate it. Why would you do that? Just be direct and eat a fistful of broken glass or something. The pain is faster and the blood is brighter.

“Hell No, We Won’t Go!”

If you’re over there, nodding along, saying, “Yeah, you know what? Maybe I’m not cut out for this,” then good for you. Quit now. Other better dreams await you. The world needs more zookeepers, botanists, janitors, space janitors, snipers, professional video game players, cat ladies, drug mules, and porn stars. Go be one of those with a Longaberger basket full of my blessings.

If you’re over there, your butthole clenching so tight it could break a broomstick, and you’re growling, “You go to hell, Wendig, you go straight to Hell on the goddamn Disney monorail system,” then good for you. Don’t quit. Continue on this path. Be a writer. Embrace it, enjoy it, claim it as your own. You got rejected? So what? We all get rejected. Countless times. You hate writing today? You might love it tomorrow.

A writer’s gotta go through this time and again. He’s gotta walk through a series of gates over the course of his career and it’s like a grabby TSA screening: sometimes they’re going to lift your junk and check all your holes just to make sure you are who you say you are and that you want to continue forward to the next checkpoint. I’ve gone through this. You think I haven’t? How can you not? Writing is a career that offers a tireless parade of moments emblazoned with self-doubt and uncertainty where you’re forced to ever reevaluate who you are and why you do this. You’ll often have to hold up your dream and examine it in the harsh light of day just to see how substantial it really is.

You have to look and say, “How far am I willing to go with this?”

Don’t worry about what some asshole on the Internet — ahem, me — says. You know the truth of your dream. You know whether or not you have the stones to carry it forward.

You want to be a writer? Then commit. You want to keep riding this dream pony? Then buckle the fuck up. Because writing is about patience and perseverance and above all else, writing through the nonsense.

Because writing takes more than wanting to be a writer. Writing isn’t about making money or reading writing blogs or seeing your name in print. Those things will come, but they’re side effects.

Writing is about writing.

Tautological enough for you?

Stop talking about writing and write. Stop reading about writing and write. Stop dicking around with your Xbox, with Netflix, with Facebook, your penis, and write. See where I’m going with this?

Go forth. Put down 100 words. A 1000. Whatever. Write something. Finish something.

The other stuff will follow. For now, embrace the purity of the dream you’ve chosen and do the thing it demands that you do. Put words on paper. Tell some stories. Be awesome.

And for fuck’s sake, don’t stop once you start.

* * *

If you dig on the apeshit crazy-face no-holds-barred profanity-soaked writing advice found here at terribleminds, then you may want to take a wee bitty gander-peek at: CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY, which is available now! Buy for Kindle (US), Kindle (UK), Nook, or PDF.


87 responses to “Six Signs It’s High Time To Give Up Writing”

  1. You know, these seem like common sense, especially the idea that a writer must actually write something in some form in some medium, yet there are even writer’s sites out there that will continue to pat the backs of “talkers” and decry those who tell them to write as being unhelpful.

    And for the love all that’s grammatical, please stop thinking that being able to hold a pen or attach a keyboard to your iPad makes you a writer.

  2. Chuck,

    As I am wrapping up the loose ends on my very first book, this post could not have been more timely. I am going through each of your points and keep repeating, “That’s not me.”… “That’s not me.”

    I used to not like reading. Now I love reading.

    I used to not like writing. Now I love writing.

    But there is some still small voice in the back of my head from my near-illiterate days that keeps nagging at me that I won’t cut it as a writer. Fortunately, it is the encouragement of people I trust who kept pushing me to keep writing until it became a discipline and a love.

    Most of all, it was your blog here that serve as the biggest encouragement. For every blog you posted, I found myself positively reacting to it and harken back to the days of the Obama 2008 Campaign with the slogan, “Yes I Can!”

    Thanks, Chuck. Now back to the wordsmithing. (Yes, not a verb. Meh.)

  3. You made me really grumpy about the rejection pile part, but then I got to the end and felt a little better. I am mired in sci-fi novel rewrite hell at the moment and it always makes me cranky to think about the rejection pile my first novel built up. I am determined to make this one better.

    I should have a rejection pile twice that high, dammit.

    Part of me wonders if I should just stop with the queries altogether for the first novel. It’s too derivative, too boring, too “not what we’re looking for”, it doesn’t grab them by the nuts in the first five pages, blah blah blah.

    I think doing this new project is either a needed break, a way to avoid getting more rejections, or just a chance to do something better. Maybe a little of all three, who knows.

    So yeah, the rejection pile thing rubbed me the wrong way, but by the end, I was no longer cranky.

    Good post.

    • @Marlan:

      Apologies if the rejection part rubbed you wrong — I totally grok that. The point is (ideally) by the end the reader realizes that you have to keep on keeping on if you really want to do this thing, that you have to be patient (or embrace patience’s cranky twin, stubbornness), that you have to do the work, that you don’t have to put down the dream so much as remove it from that realm and make it a reality.

      Rejections don’t constitute a reason to quit — everybody gets them. I’ve had endless rejections, and they made me think about giving up.

      I’ll tell you what — if you want me to look at your query, feel free to send it along. chuckwendig [at] terribleminds [dot] com.

      — c.

  4. Hi Chuck,

    Another fine article! Truer words never spoke, etc.

    Man, I’ve had it up to *here* (a very high place indeed) with non-writing writers! To put it crudely, they should either poo or get off the pot. Or find their own feckin’ internet and leave this one for those of us who – successfully or not – actually produce work.

    I wrote my own article on this very subject some years back (http://www.michaelowencarroll.com/misc003.htm), and I regularly direct would-be writers to it. But now I think I’ll just send them here instead.

    Anyway, enough from me – my self-allocated tiny period of non-writing is almost up… I could spend the rest of the day browsing the web, but that ain’t gonna get me any closer to “The End.”

    Cheers,
    Mike

  5. I will be sure to credit you when I talk to a group of young teachers and say “Buckle the fuck up on your dream pony. Because [teach]ing is about patience and perseverance and above all else, [teach]ing through the nonsense.”

    Excellent, profane, motivational stuff, Señor Wendigo.

  6. I think that advice like this is needed sometimes. If nothing else as a check yourself. Writing is one of those things that just seems wonky to some people. So “anyone can do it” that some people don’t realize that it is a commitment. I know this is what I’ve been finding out since school ended and I’ve tried to actually dedicate myself to it while looking for work. Some days it is damn hard to get that 3-4k word count out. Especially when you can hear other people in the house playing video games and having their bits of short term fun.

    On the other hand, I am generally not as happy a person when I don’t hit my word count goal for the day, so maybe there is something to this and me after all. In the end, this post (like many of your posts) has me itching to pull out the WIP and get cranking again. Which means I’ll need to re-read it after bringing a hosuemate to their appointment.

    It also reminds me that I need to stop avoiding it, stop waiting on someone else to give their feedback, and start fixing/editing those short stories for submission. So, thanks!

  7. You forgot one:

    You’d much rather research your way into red-rimmed eyeballs and a ratty bathrobe than actually write

    Yes, the siren call of Wikipedia has you enthralled and you jump link to link until you realize that instead of researching the mating habits of otters, you have somehow moved on to Lebanese dancers of the 1950s and your “Oh, just one hour ought to do it” has turned into an entire month. Meanwhile, your browser research tab now has 10,243 uncategorized links, your notebook has doodles that the FBI might find interesting, and you’ve not written a single word.

    Not that I’m saying I do that.

  8. Rejection forms are the only gray area here. I’m still hoping to collect enough to paper my office with them. I even have one from the first lady at this point, and you’d be amazed at how many write back on lovely letterhead! Nice! After a while, though, one has to wonder what is causing all of the rejections… why is one’s work so unacceptable to so many.

    The other comments are spot on. I know too many writers who whine incessantly about how torturous it is to spend time writing. Or they’ve had the same WIP for the last ten (twenty, thirty, fifty) years, but they never seem to be actively working on it. At writing groups they pull up the blue mimeographed sheets of a short story they wrote back in 8th grade. Really?

    • To put a finer point on the rejection thing —

      I’ve found that generally, even rejections can tell you how well you’re doing. If all you’re getting is, without variation, a series of either harsh rejections or stock rejections — and we’re not talking a handful but dozens, hundreds, a teetering tower — then while I don’t seriously suggest quitting (again, the post has other intentions as noted by the last several paragraphs), you might want to take a good long look at what you’re submitting.

      But if you look through your rejections and you have a couple — hell, even one — “nice” rejection, then I’d say that’s a good sign to keep banging your bucketed head against the wall. You might get a personal note, you might get a, “good but not for us,” whatever. Rejections can at times be as telling (if not more so, because here you need the telling) as an acceptance.

      So, no, I don’t seriously suggest to use them as the single metric by which to determine your entire career, but I do think they’re something you need to think about in a serious way.

      — c.

  9. Thanks. This was just the kick in the tender place that I needed this AM. Despite not having a dick, I have in fact been dicking around and your article makes me all squirmy and uncomfortable and aware that yes, I need to get the hell writing instead of making my Sims into perverts.

    Again, thanks.

  10. The agonies of self-doubt – not a subject people talk about enough in relation to writing, in my opinion. It’s good to know that it’s normal to have to stop and question everything you are doing every five minutes, and even better when you come up with the same answer each time- “Yes, I still want to do this.”

    Beard The Fuck On, dude, Beard The Fuck ON.

  11. A few months back, I had a conversation with a friend. I was discussing something I was writing at the time. She said, “Man, I WANT to write. I just don’t have the time.”

    I shook my head and smiled, because I knew that she was full of it. No one HAS the time. You make the time for the important things. You churn out a paragraph right before bed. You turn off the television. You write on your lunch break. Or when no one at work is looking.

    Long story short, this resonated with me. Thanks.

  12. You blew it, right at the end.

    There must have been a few who were about to give up and then you went and gave them a little encouragement…

    …the odds are the same as before, I guess. : )

  13. That certainly hit the mark.

    As someone mentioned above, my weakness is dashing all over the web, reading this and that. It can give me ideas, but is mostly nonproductive.

    Time to get back to work on the next books to be released.

  14. I can’t give up writing. It’s the only reason my friends and family accept my energy drink addiction.
    Seriously though, this post is awesome. I did a writing diploma, and there were so many people in that course who complained about how much they hated having to write and bring work in to critique every week, and they refused to listen to any feedback. It made me wonder what the hell they were doing there to begin with.
    Actually, that could be another sign that you should give up writing: You are unable to accept constructive feedback because your work is PERFECT and anyone who says otherwise is an idiot.

  15. You’re either not writing, or you’re not writing enough.

    Either way, quitting’s easier. Saves you the heartbreak, heartache and heartburn.

    Though the cheesesteaks might have something to do with that last one.

  16. Kind of hot for you right now. Which is wildly inappropriate–but it’s hot for you in a ‘his…logic is HUUUUGE’ kind of way.

    Going to go back to writing now. FTR, first blog comment in months. So, yeah, a mark of your vitriol siren-calling me in.

  17. Heh, after a less-than-encouraging convo yesterday with my agent, I growled for hours about her advice to write what makes me happy. The *act* of writing makes me happy, not the kind of book I’m writing. To not write would fry the vast darkness of my mind where characters take up the bulk of the room. Fry it dead.

    I’ve always liked to have a target for my work so that the act made some kind of sense every day. But to work on projects only because they make me happy? Nope.

    Your message today has put me back in the saddle, so thanks. Could be my target will be elsewhere, but targeted I shall be.

    It is the act of writing that engages me…the challenge of every project. Not the project itself.

    Nice to finally understand myself. Thanks for clearing that up.

  18. You are beautiful like a rainbow, Chuck. I loved every word of this rant.

    I’m still in for the long haul. Alas. It’s too bad because I’d be a helluva drug mule.

  19. Sure, sure, writing’s going to kick you in the man parts and only the fierce will endure. That’s all true and well said. And motivational, I might add. (Any other writers find inspiration in spite?)

    But one thing worries me … yetis are extinct?

  20. Another depressing noise for the production levels: http://sadtrombone.com

    This is such a rockin’ post. It gets so inspiring there at the end, haha.

    People who don’t enjoy writing MYSTIFY me. I’m like, welllll, if you don’t like doing it… WHY ARE YOU WASTING YOUR TIME?! It’s not like there’s some writing demon that’s lashing your back with a wet noodle, forcing you to pen words. (Or a crazy fan who’s torturing you until you write a novel about them, a la Stephen King’s “Misery”.)

  21. At one point 18 months ago I fell into all of the above categories. Some rejections but mostly no replies. Had one positive but then the agent never returned. I knew what I was sitting on. I self published back on December 2010 and have not regretted doing it. I am enjoying moderate success in just six months time and the numbers get greater every month. I enjoyed the laughter I exerted from reading this. Every point you made are the same that I scolded myself with. Love ya’ man.

  22. I love this post! This was the perfect thing to read after just hitting the “send” button, catapulting my newly revised novel toward my agent’s inbox. I agree. If you want to be a writer, do it. If you don’t, get off the pot!

  23. Well crap. Here I come, waltzing along to read like I’ve forgotten entirely how the bearded one likes to make his readers want to gouge their own eyes out before whacking them across the knees. Fear and misery started leaking out of my very pores (oh wait, that’s sweat). I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting the writing police to take me away to the special cell, padded with manuscripts I would forever be forced to revise.

    …And then I got to the end. And I took a moment to breathe and read the comments. And somehow, the dread and despair had lifted (unlike the heat).

    What I realized that, despite my brain trying to ooze out of my ears unless I’ve recently been in a cold shower, I have indeed gotten back in the saddle, and been consistent about it (though not terribly prolific). Maybe I haven’t graduated to the awe-inspiring vision of *writerness* that accompanies famed (and not so famed) authors, and perhaps I don’t ever plan on paying the bills with writing, but this I know is true: I can still call myself writer if I set my mind and fingers to it, and I have the rest of my life to enjoy doing so.

  24. As Josh Olson once said, “If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you’re not a writer.”

    DAMN FREAKIN’ SKIPPY.

    I used to think that if I wasn’t writing ALL THE TIME, like “scribbling in a notebook at red lights” all the time, I wasn’t a writer.

    I used to think that if I wasn’t submitting anything because I have a crippling reaction to the possibility of rejection (it’s being dealt with), I wasn’t a writer.

    I used to think (thanks to a snotty instructor in college) that if all I wrote was genre fiction, I wasn’t a writer.

    All those things kept me from writing because, you know, what’s the point?

    And then I realized that I like writing genre fiction, even if I’m the only one who will ever read it, and eventually I’ll get something to send out and dammit, I’m not half bad at this whole thing anyway. And I relaxed. And now I write for fun, and for me, and I’m enjoying myself, and HOT DAMN LOOK AT ME, I’m a writer. Lots of painters don’t ever get their work in galleries. Doesn’t seem to slow them down much.

    That prof can suck it.

  25. Sorry, Beard, you’re not getting rid of me that easily. Sure, while the kid’s been home my writing time has been at a premium, but it’s still there and I lament when I don’t get it. I become angry. You know what happens when Mom gets angry? The same thing that happens when a toad gets struck by lighting, biznitch! I love nothing more than making people squirm and think by writing a few thousand words. Seriously, I just made you cry by telling you about my imaginary friend? You realize this person isn’t real? That’s hilarious. I cackle at your pain and suffering.

    It’s too late for me to quit. It’s in my blood and I’m addicted to the screams of my readers. I crave it.

    But you can run if you want to. There may still be time for you.

  26. Great post…I made the cut. Also, I enjoyed the reference to a “wilting erection* sound effect. I come here for the learnin’ and stay for the fun.

  27. Reminds me of Lawrence Block, describing his meetings with everyone at every cocktail party ever. “Oh, I’d like to write. But I don’t have the time.”
    His response was in essence, fuck you; no one ever says that to a baseball star or a bridge builder who works his ass off.
    Writing is talent and work. More of the latter than the former. You have to want it. If you whine instead of doing the work, you’re just playing at it so you can say you’re a writer. Which is less dangerous than lying that you’re a Navy SEAL, but equally lame, because people will actually believe you.

  28. I realize that it may not be your intention, but I’ve found that several of your posts are as applicable to technical writing as they are to the creative variety. My “real” job is science, meaning that I have to do science type things which lead to science type manuscripts. Though this doesn’t necessarily exercise the half of my brain that I’d like, the very act of writing makes me far happier than any of the experiments leading up to it. So much so that I wrote my 190 page thesis in two weeks.

    And if you thought technical writing was a rejection-free process I can assure you that you are sadly mistaken.

    I may never get my novel published and never have another short story accepted but I still consider myself to be a true writer because the act of putting words on the page is the most satisfying experience I can imagine.

  29. Well, if this article wasn’t written for me last year, I don’t know who it was written for. I even moved to LA to be a writer, all the while knowing I hardly ever wrote. That was certainly a wake–up call.

    I’m back from LA now, and it’s seemingly been a great decision for my writing. I made a New Years resolution to write every single day of 2011, and 5 months and 8 days in, I’m going strong. It’s freeing, finally actually living what I know I’m supposed to do.

    I still have those doubts though. In my case, they’re mainly “if I want to be a screenwriter, shouldn’t I be in LA?” I don’t know what to do about them. I can’t figure out how to shake them. So I just write anyway.

    Maybe someday this feature film I’m a third of the way through will be produced. Maybe it won’t. I think the idea’s solid and my execution is strong. Maybe I’m wrong. I have absolutely no way of knowing.

    Either way, my pen’s to the paper daily. The Muses won’t have it any other way.

    • @Michael:

      Believe me when I say, you do not need to be in LA to be a screenwriter. You’ll need to GO there from time to time, but you don’t need to LIVE there.

      — c.

  30. If you’re over there, your butthole clenching so tight it could break a broomstick, and you’re growling, “You go to hell, Wendig, you go straight to Hell on the goddamn Disney monorail system,” then good for you.

    ^THIS.

    But, I can say that now because I just put the effing bow on a short-story (4,200 hard-fought words) that will meet its deadline. Before that, I was definitely talking about writing more than doing it. The Soul-Sucking Day Job, School, The Kids (just wait until your little poop maker has school activities and wants to play hockey 30 miles away every day) were all blocking me from doing what I wanted, loved and should…WRITE.

    But I buckled the fuck up on my dream pony and rode that sucker hard and put her away wet.

    BTFO!

    Now I’m on deadline for an article about wine, which I’m racing myself to see if I can finish it before the bottle.

  31. So here I am thinking, “Okay, I’m good but not great, I’m getting my 1k a day in on the old word processor, I have a handful of encouraging personalized rejections on the shorts, some requests for partials and fulls on the novel, and a couple of acceptances from non-paying, but competitive zines mixed in with my mountain of rejection slips. Maybe I don’t need to quit.”

    But then you have to go and throw down the Masturbating Pastry Chef career option. Fuck, dude, I am so quitting writing and doing that!

  32. @Chuck

    Thanks for the encouragement. It’s nice to hear that from someone, because I’m pretty confident I’m writing the hell out of this script right now. Then again, I’ll probably go back and read it and hate every last word…

    But for now, it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.

  33. Wonderful post. And let me know if you ever do get that “Masturbating Pastry Chef” show greenlit. It might not survive a season, but that would be one hilarious season regardless.

  34. Trust me, PBS doesn’t want to produce The Masturbating Pastry Chef. Or maybe they just hated the way my ghost-white thunder thighs appeared on camera. Those soul-sucking, dream-crushing jerks.

  35. I love your way with words. If I could take them and place them on my carpet, I would roll atop them like a happy kitten with catnip. As it stands, I’m neither printing your blog, nor rolling on top of my computer monitor (CRT, yo), so I will gladly fawn over them in your blogocomments. You’re awesome. You’re amazing. You are an entertainer. Please don’t stop writing. 😀

    ~Ashlee
    http://www.ashleesch.com
    http://theDragonsHoard.bigcartel.com

  36. Ah, that was a refreshingly brutal post. So many people love to be thought of as “writers”: they love the romance of it, the imagined lifestyle, the supposed glamour, but they just don’t really enjoy that business of stringing words together. Or worse, they love writing, but they suck at it.

    A couple of months ago, I wrote my own rant on how to tell if writing just isn’t your calling. Some of the signs: You’re not so good at grammar or spelling… or sentence construction, or paragraphs, or scene-building. You require cute writing prompts to get started because you don’t have your own original ideas to work with. You prefer to read self-help writing guides more than you do actually writing…

    Each of those 45,691,213 would-be writers online and off believes he’s the next Dostoevsky–even though the majority of them are working on yet another shitty Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling rip-off. But how many of them really have writing chops?

    Check out “Tough Love for Would-Be Writers”: http://behopkins.com/2011/04/21/tough-love-for-would-be-writers/ We might each have a book inside us waiting to get out, but honestly I hope some of us have the decency to leave it right where it is.

  37. I’m sure you can here it – my maniacal laughter. Thanks for the pee-inducing laugh. It’s okay I changed before I started writing my response.

    I heard a great story (no frigging clue where. I read too many blogs) of a woman who took a class from a professor who was published and a total dick about it. The entire class hated him. He constantly told them that their writing was day-after-drinking-binge crap – you know the REALLY smelly kind.

    On the last day, he told the class that he was no better a writer than any of them. The only difference was that he NEVER gave up.

    Thanks for the reminder to ingore the white noise.

  38. Some days I hate the process of writing. Then I sit down and read what I wrote, and fall in love with it all over again. After I finished my first novel I hated it. Then I revised it and I loved it even more. The pile of rejections is there, but I’ve gotten enough “hey this is actually pretty good even if we can’t use it” from editors that I haven’t given up hope yet. I know I’m a good writer. I just need to kill the distractions – some of my best writing has come from airports waiting for delayed flights, because there was nothing else for me to do at the time but give voice to the characters in my head.

  39. A hundred times YES.

    And, to “If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you’re not a writer” I would add: “And, if the only reason they couldn’t talk you out of it is because you want (NEED!) to prove wrong the naysayers, or because you really really really enjoy thinking of yourself as a writer, you’re not a writer.”

  40. Damn! Don’t sugar-coat it, give it to me straight. OF COURSE I’m going to keep writing. It’s either that or go completely insane.

    Oh, wait…

    Thanks for the kick in the ass. Onward!

  41. I write. Sometimes it’s easy. Mostly it’s a lot of work.
    What I take from the above, is that if you are a writer, write. And everything will eventually follow from that. If nothing else, I get the satisfaction, fun and excitement of a story I have imagined and written.
    Maybe I’m more of a story teller, than a writer, because I love that part, but actually getting the full story down is hard work. I don’t mind the rewriting so much.
    So I’m off to finish a story
    Thanks, Chuck.

  42. Fucking awesome post. Hilarious and very true. Very, very true. This may be the best criteria I’ve seen yet for deciding whether to quit or not. Thanks.

  43. “Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done–so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.” –Hemingway to Ivan kashkin, 1935

    “The hardest thing in the world to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings. First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write. Both take a lifetime to learn.” –Hemingway, By-Line

  44. I started writing at the age of eight, for absolutely no reason at all. I don’t know what in God’s name made me start writing that first story, but I remember clearly that it was a rip off of an old Lassie episode I’d seen on tv. I read it to my grandmother and she explained the ramifications of plagarism to me. From then on I wrote my own original stories, some good and some not so much. My point is, I don’t believe real writers ever quit writing. Since we really don’t know why we do it in the first place, we can’t very well find the off switch.

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