“Hey, Dad. I can’t see too good. Is that Bill Shakespeare over there?”
If I were to list the five occupations no one should ever attempt to pursue, they would be a crime scene cleaner, anything having to do with sewage/sanitation, a taxi driver, dressing up as a clown for kids’ birthday parties, and then finally, a writer. Don’t get me wrong–I love being a writer. I have a huge outlet to let my voice be heard all across the world. However, the road to getting here was long, cruel, full of detours, and it damn near ran off a cliff several times.
I get at least four or five emails a week from people asking me how to get into writing. I tell them the same thing every time. First I say, “don’t become a writer.” Then I go into my spiel, which consists of five basic principles.
1. Do you suck at writing?
Have you ever been told by anyone (ANYONE) that you’re a good writer? Then congrats, you qualify. Don’t care if it was a teacher, your best friend, or your mother. Has anyone ever called you a “talented” writer? You’re in even better shape. Being a “talented” writer is different than being a “good” writer or a “strong” writer. Being a “good” or “strong” writer simply means that you have a basic grasp of writing a thesis and being grammatically sound. Being a “talented” writer is different. This means you can probably tell a story, insert humor into your writing, and grab people’s attention.
If no one has ever said anything resembling the above remarks to you, you probably shouldn’t be a fucking writer. Be a gym teacher. Go work in investment banking. Work in PR. Become an accountant. Chop down trees. JUST GO AWAY AND NEVER COME BACK.
2. Tell anyone who tells you that you can’t to fuck off.
Remember when I told you not to become a writer? Well, I’m just the first of literally dozens of people who will try to dissuade you from doing it. If I had quit writing when people told me that I was chasing something that was unattainable, then I wouldn’t be here. Now, I’m here with hundreds (maybe thousands–I’m a writer, not some smarmy mathematician) of published works in print and on the internet that have reached millions of people.
3. Hone your terrible voice into a tolerable voice.
First off, start your own blog. Easy enough. It’s free. Want a fancy domain name to call your own? Those are cheap, too. Bill Simmons, Arianna Huffington, Perez Hilton: they all started out as bloggers. Also, no one is born a great writer. Your voice needs to be rock solid and unwavering. Are you funny? Be funny. Are you smart? Like, at least 10 percent as smart as Neil deGrasse Tyson? Be smart. Do you know a lot about stuff? Let people know how much you know about stuff. You’ll find out pretty quickly what people think about you. Put your shit out there and see what happens. You never know who will read your mediocre drivel on any given day. Don’t forget to READ other people’s stuff, too. Emulate your favorites, but don’t copy styles and for the love of all that is holy, never, ever, ever plagiarize.
4. Be a social media attention whore, but don’t suck.
Building a social media presence is–oh my God, I’m sorry. I just used so many fucking buzzwords there and I don’t know what happened. But seriously, you have to possess at least above average narcissism to be a sound writer, and there’s no better way to sharpen that narcissism than with your Twitter account. That first double digit RT is going to be like your first sip of alcohol. That first RT to crack 100 is like doing your first line of cocaine. If you ever crack four digits, my God, it’s like you just climbed Mount Everest and conquered the internet. Supplement your voice outside of your writing by creating a persona online that’s a small fragment of your personality that you can expand upon.
5. It will crush your soul.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something, clicked save and immediately thought, “This is it! This is my masterpiece” only to see it get loaded up with 20 hate filled comments.
Everyone’s a critic. Everyone thinks he or she can do a better job. When the dust settles, you still created something. No matter how shitty is was, it’s still your creation. You came up with it in your brain and turned it into a real, tangible thing. Fuck them.
Do you want to write for us? Send me some samples: firstname.lastname@example.org (not “.com”) or just submit your stuff HERE. If it’s funny, good, and original, we’ll publish it.
Image via Tumblr