How To Be A Real Writer

I’ve wanted to be a real writer since I was six years old. It was just after the movie E.T. came out in 1982, so I decided to retell the entire movie on paper, illustrating the most important parts (i.e., Reese’s Pieces) and binding the book with cardboard covers and red electrical tape to make it official. It was a smashing success throughout the first grade. My teacher, Mrs. Tracy, even invited me to go on tour (erm, perform a reading at the school library)!

But after the tour, when I asked Mom to find me a publisher, she crushed my dreams of commercial success with some lame story about copyright infringement. Way to be supportive, mom!

I stayed away from screenplays after that, moving into poetry with my masterpiece, “I Smashed a Big Flea that Almost Ate Me, It Was So Very Bad, It Looked Like My Dad.” Next was fiction, with a story called “The Crazy Mixed-Up Candy Cane Machine” published in the elementary school newspaper.

There are lots more, and they’re still floating around Mom’s attic in a box. I’m hoping someone picks them up one day when I’m published and turns them into a collection, my early years, kinda like Kerouac’s Atop an Underwood. Only mine would be more like Atop a Texas Instrument. I’m dating myself here, huh?

Way back then, I didn’t get a lot of guidance on writing. I mean, we had to use the card catalogue for the love of God. Have you guys ever heard of a microfiche? Crazy, I know! Looking for guidance and inspiration was way too much work for a six-year-old. But now that we have the Internet (thanks to Al Gore), I can be a source of learning and inspiration for other new writers… maybe even YOU!

Top 10 Tips To Help You Become A Real Writer

10. Make sure you have a crappy day job that you hate and can complain about loudly to anyone in the room (but can still use for important writerly things like printing your novel, free postage, copies, a permanent address and long-distance calls to your agent).

9. Make a list of all the people you’ve ever dated. Then, call them all one by one (assuming there is more than one) and ask for a detailed critical analysis of your performance(s) and what you could have done differently to make the experience more enjoyable for all involved. This exercise will prepare you for dealing with writing critiques.

8. There will always be writers who write better than you. Learn from them. There will always be writers who don’t write as well as you do. Learn from them, too. The important thing is that you develop your own style and voice. But while you’re developing your own style and voice, it helps if you aren’t a total moron. Spelleng and grammer errurs, are not exceptible.

7. If you don’t already have a pair of heavy black-rimmed glasses, get some. It’s the only way you’ll be taken seriously in the literary community. Seriously.

6. Real writers use Macs. Okay, that’s just my personal thing. I don’t mean to be a snob or anything. But when you’re sitting in Starbucks with your Dell laptop, you look like you’re working on a spreadsheet or something.

5. Don’t trash-talk a form of writing with a writer whom you’ve just met. It can be real awkward when you finally stop talking and learn that the form of writing you just trashed is the sole reason the other writer gets out of bed in the morning.

4. Whatever you’re writing should keep you up at night. All night. Drinking coffee. Too much of it. Coffee is a real writerly thing to have.

3. If you don’t thrive on pain, lonelinesss and constant rejection, writing is not for you (nor is dating my brother).

2. It helps if you’ve had a crappy, traumatic childhood. If you haven’t, fear not – it’s not too late. Call up mom or dad and tell them about something you did when you were younger that they never found out about. Then later, after all the yelling, you can all have a good laugh about it, just like in the Mentos commercials.

1. And finally, the number one thing you can do to become a real writer is… write! Yes, write. What were you expecting, some big secret revealed? Some mystery solved? Sorry to disappoint you, but if you want to be a real writer, you have to actually write. It’s not rocket surgery, folks.

You’d think after fancying myself a writer since I was six years old that I’d already know all there is to know about succeeding in the publishing world, right? But over the decades I’ve learned that there’s a lot more to being a successful writer than simply copying someone else’s idea into a book bound with red electrical tape.

It’s work, people. Hard work. Who knew?