All your romantic delusions ain’t helping.
Well, folks, Andrés Cruciani of Toho Publishing here once again, and today I come at with you with 9 ways NOT to be a writer.
Now, this post has been stewing for a while, frothing really (i.e., I’m foaming at the mouth as I write), so let’s get straight to it before my head bursts from the sheer force of what I need to tell you.
RULE #1: Don’t let your head get too big.
That’s right. I said it. A lot of writers think they’re smarter than everyone else. I know because I was one of those people. I thought that the incredible literature I read — Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and Rand (yes, her too) and Morrison and McCarthy (Suttree, in specific) — made me somehow better than all the lowlifes who not only read but ENJOYED E.L. James’ travesty of a book Fifty Shades of Grey.*
* I actually read Fifty Shades of Crap and wrote my MFA thesis on it. I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about and how on Earth Mrs. James could’ve made so much freaking money from a book about S&M. What I discovered was that I still have no effin’ idea except that it must have just hit some tipping point (a la Malcom Gladwell) and then our collective social psyche did the rest. But as to the book’s quality, the main character (whose name I presently refuse to look up) had a “lump (a hitch?) in my throat” like 6,000 times. And there were a whole lot of butterflies in her belly. Like in every other scene. Ugh.
The truth is, however, I’m not better than anyone else (even though Fifty Shades really sucked). And neither are you.
And the way I know you’re not smarter than others for being a writer and voracious reader is very simple and provable by the following question: if you’re so damn smart, why are you spending all your time reading books?
That’s right. You — yes and I too — are the knuckleheads. Descartes supposedly stopped reading novels because they make you believe in the impossible. Now, a lot of writers think believing in the impossible is some kind of amazing feat of literature. Some kind of testament to its power. Everywhere on this internet I see the quote (intentionally garbled here): “You only live but the one life, but I who READ live a thousand.”
Sitting in your chair all day with nose-to-book doesn’t make you superior — or more worldly. In fact, one could easily argue the opposite—that because your life is short and we’re spinning on a globe hurtling through the universe and there are a plethora of things you will never actually see or smell or taste or touch or DO because you’re spending all your time reading damn books, that you (yes, and I), dear touter of the intellect and champion of the literary classics, are the actual morons. There. I said it.
RULE #2: Don’t get an MFA.
Alright, this one comes with both a caveat and a disclaimer.
First, the disclaimer: I have an MFA.
Second, the caveat: it really depends on what your goals are. If your goal is to get better at writing, then by all means go get an MFA. Because in all truth, I DEFINITELY got better pursuing my MFA. Lots better. Lots.
BUT, if you suffer from the delusion that you’re going to get your MFA and then write your masterpiece and publishers will be lining up at your door with million dollar checks, clambering to shove their money down your throat, then please reconsider. (I wrote about this here.)
Sure, some people will come out of MFA programs with book deals. Some with lucrative book deals (especially those whose writing or persona happens to be topical/trendy). But the bulk of MFA recipients (Hi, I’m Andrés) will not get those big-buck book deals. There are ~250 writing MFA programs in the US. 3,000 MFA grads EVERY YEAR. Ask yourself: Where are all these MFA grads going? Are they all getting incredible book deals? Are they all making a living by writing fiction?
The answer to that last question is obvious, and I’ll answer it with another question:
Did you read 3,000 books by first-time novelists last year?
Which tells us that all