Lately, I’ve had a slew of “aspiring writers” ask for guidance in their writing endeavors. So, as a writer, I’ve decided to jot down my eight favorite writing rules with the hope that somehow, some way, someone might get a small bit of inspiration from my dubious opinion.
1. THERE ARE NO ASPIRING WRITERS: It took me a long time to accept this, but you will accept it RIGHT NOW! There are two types of people, those that write and those that don’t write. If you write, you my friend are a writer. CONGRATULATIONS! Say it proud, often and openly. After all, you have to believe you’re a writer before anyone else will. You can always aspire to be a better writer or a New York Times bestselling author. Heck, you can aspire to be a naked mole rat if you really want to, but you can never aspire to be a writer. Either you is or you ain’t! End o’ story.
2. ACTION = WORDS: Do you really want to be a writer? Well, so does Bob and Jane and your football coach, and your doctor and dog, and grandma, and him and her and them! You will swim through an ocean of wishful word slingers and future storytellers. Distinguish yourself. How? By doing instead of saying. As a writer, action comes in no other form than words — written words. So get to it.
3. CLAIM A PATH: You might think you have to follow a particular path to become a professional writer but you don’t. So, you want to get your master’s degree from Johns Hopkins like Wolf Blitzer. That’s cool, but don’t do it just because he did. Walking someone else’s pathway is no guarantee of success. There are plenty of ‘professional writers’ out there that are now professional plumbers and waitresses. Coincidentally, there are a few plumbers and waitresses who are now professional writers. HA! Either way, whatever path you take, make sure it’s yours. Own it! Walk it with shoulders back and head high.
4. LEARN ‘EM, BREAK ‘EM: Writing is a technical sport so learn the rules. Now that I’ve said it — toss it out the flippin’ window! Okay, just dangle it out the window for a minute. Put it this way, to get published, you don’t need an education. Nobody gives a flying fig about your curriculum vitae, they just want to be entertained. Yet, education may help you become a better writer. However you get your writing “know how,” get some. Know your stuff so that you can break the rules correctly. Keep in mind that there comes a time when you have to stop learning to write and just get out there and write.
5. HUNGER SUCKS: But, get used to it. You’re probably going to starve a bit as a writer. At least at first. Heck, I’m still starving so don’t quit your day job until Oprah’s standing at your door with a check. Those “Overnight Success” stories are pure pig pucky! Those authors were bustin’ their butts long before we ever heard of them. Hard work is a must. Roll up your sleeves and get sweating.
6. EITHER DUCK OR TAKE IT LIKE A MAN: You know that guy from the Fantastic Four who was transformed by radiation into that weird rock thing? Yeah that guy — you need to be him. Prepare for battle, it’s brutal out there. To survive being a writer, you must hide your piteous, gooey, bleeding heart interior behind a rock hard, critic deflecting exoskeleton that would make Schwarzenegger jealous. Don’t hate the game or the player, just let it bounce off and keep it moving.
7. LOVE IT: Do you love writing? Do you eat it, breathe it and feel it to the very depths of your ink spotted soul? Bravo, that’s all you need! Give unto it your whole heart. But, my dear friends expect nothing in return. For Bob’s sake don’t use writing to get that Pulitzer Prize, a visit from the Queen (Rue Paul) or that coveted guest spot on Fallon. Do it for the pure joy of it or you will fail. Love is the answer.
8. WRITE: Did you hear me? I said write, word whisperer, WRITE! If you’re an “aspiring” writer, you’ll get waylaid by tragedy. You’ll stumble over self-doubt, trip over haters, doubters and posers. And you’ll hide under a rock the first time a critic calls you an illiterate, thumb-less baboon. An “aspiring” writer will let anything prevent them from picking up the proverbial pen. Nothing can stop a true writer. NOTHING! So go out there and make ‘em eat your ink stains little buddy!
So, this is my humble advice. Remember, it is merely advice. No one, especially including me (cough—cough—sputter), has all the answers. One more thing, stuff will probably go wrong. Bad days are part of the writer gig and a big part of life in general but keep writing anyway. Never give up, never surrender!
To you with love always,
Your friendly neighborhood pencil monkey
Upcoming writing workshops in the Berkshires for teens:
Saturday, Oct. 12, 2-5 p.m.: Dialogue Arts Project: Youth Writing Workshop, DAP’s leading-edge workshops use the arts as a shared entry point into critical discourses around identity to increase awareness of self and social diversity. By combining performance, participant art creation, interactive exercises and highly structured dialogue, DAP seeks to reinvent the current “diversity training” experience. FREE. Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Ave., Pittsfield. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to sign up.
Saturday, Oct. 12, 6 p.m.: Youth Open Mic, where local youth can celebrate poetry and the spoken word by reading their own piece or another that has inspired them, or simply just listen. FREE. Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, 28 Renne Ave., Pittsfield.
Saturday, Oct. 12, 8 p.m.:WordXWord Open Mic, where locals can celebrate poetry and the spoken word by reading their own piece or another that has inspired them, or simply just listen. FREE. yBar, 391 North St., Pittsfield.