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?”
“…when did you make that movie?”
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.
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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.