How Not to Be a Writer

I was thrilled, after a very scary year of unemployment, to be hired as a part-time writing tutor at a local community college.  The job was a perfect fit for me, and I felt right at home. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to manage my time and deal with this new commitment  on top of my old responsibilities or switch my brain back an forth between working and writing mode. My creative output ground to a halt. I could not understand how I could be so responsible and efficient at work, yet so inefficient and unprolific at home. This simply did not compute. Other writers seemed to manage. I have read about those super writers who rise at 4:00a.m. to squeeze in a couple of hours of work before the day begins. 4:00a.m.??? I can barely get out of bed at all in the morning let alone rise at 4:00a.m.! In order to exorcise this demon that was blocking my so-called muse, I decided to create some guidelines for my current inefficacious state. Since there is so much material written across the media regarding how to be a writer and that wasn’t working for me, maybe a little reverse psychology would. So, without further ado, here are my guidelines for how not to be a writer:

  • Be sure to have a monumental stack of bills on your desk. The stack will serve as a constant reminder that you don’t have two nickels to rub against one another and visions of homelessness will be so distracting you won’t be able to string a sentence together.
  • Have a teenaged daughter close at hand who requires a great deal of chauffeuring with extra driving required for soccer practice, Green Club, chorus rehearsal, chemistry projects, football and basketball games, and other social events such as movies and birthday parties. If you don’t already have one of these young human deterrents handy, I am quite sure that there is a parent out there who would be more than happy to supply one or more for a nominal fee.
  • Take on all household responsibilities such as making phone calls, (two hours on hold with the IRS last week!!!!), scheduling home repair people, running errands, grocery shopping, taking the dog to the vet, doing laundry and cleaning the house. You must be enough of a control freak to firmly believe that no one can do these things as well as you and you must never accept any offer of assistance with any of these chores.
  • Randomly determine that making Snickerdoodles is absolutely the most important thing on your to-do list; so important, in fact, you must drop everything to make them.
  • Spend inordinate amount of time researching MFA degrees because surely spending another $40,000.00 on your education will propel you to writing stardom even though your existing degrees and huge student loan haven’t brought you even remotely close to stardom thus far!
  • Spend equally inordinate amounts of time investigating mundane things on the internet like why the orchid has withered since its repotting, a deliberate ruse regularly employed by you to avoid writing when things aren’t going well.
  • Waste lots of time dreaming of winning the lottery and moving to Bora Bora.
  • Last, but not least, make sure you immediately retreat into a black hole of despair the minute any submission is rejected. Eat lots of chocolate while ensconced and  refuse  to come out thereby, yet again, successfully avoiding the laptop.

So, there you have them! Follow this regimen closely and I can pretty much guarantee that you will not succeed as a writer. However, should you decide to create your own How not to be a Writer guidelines, search carefully amongst the words, punctuation, and clauses. You just might find your errant muse hiding behind that orchid, mischievously eating chocolate, and patiently waiting until your back is turned before making a break for it to Bora Bora.


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  • Laura,

    You article is so true. When I had my photography business–I lived it 24/7. It took discipline, perseverance, and work to be bring in the jobs. I would run across people–mainly men–that when they found out I was a photographer they were all talk. They would ramble on for at least 15 minutes about how they were thinking about starting a photography business but had all these things going on in their lives that were keeping them from doing it. I would finally say, “Hey if you were serious about it–we would not be having this conversation. Just do it”.

    Then I would make an excuse to get away from the rhetorical negativity.

    That is why you are spot on that in order to be a successful writer–we have to decide if we are going to let every distraction of life overtake us–or have the discipline to stay on task. We have to learn to delegate and be good time managers in order to succeed. Plus we have to let go of the F.U.D.–fear, doubt and anxiety about rejection and have the perseverance to keep going.

    And I have to agree with you that throwing more money at obtaining a higher degree will not bring success. I don’t have a masters in English, journalism, or literature–but I know how to write and tell a story. I will spend 12 to 14 hours a day writing and then more hours promoting. That is how I got four books written and for sale on Amazon.

    And the other thing I have that is also necessary for my books to sell–is my spiritual faith in my asking my dear angels to help me be successful. Because I believe when you work hard to promote your writing–you need that spiritual backing to help make it all happen.

    Because when you promote, promote and promote some more–you have to let the angels open the door to let your books soar into the hands of buyers.

    • Hi Laura!

      Writing is definitely a labor of love. Sometimes the process makes me crazy, and other times I think it’s the only thing that makes any sense! Thank you for your thoughtful and kind response. Hearing from successful writers who are also empathetic is particularly motivating! 🙂 L.