"Good writers write. They don't always write well, but they must write!" I read that today while researching good writing habits on the Internet. There're a gazillion essays, blog posts and books offering advice on how to be successful with your writing, but they all seem to say the same thing: You must write!
Well, duh. If you're a plumber you must plumb! A baker? He must bake! That's a glaringly obvious fact, not a system of guidelines. The problem is, writers are cagey fuckers that guard their disciplines almost as jealously as they hide their ideas. If they know anything about writing, they know to keep their mouth shut.
I know; I'm a writer. I write because I must. I've met with writers in the past, writers I read and respect, and no amount of groveling could squeeze even the smallest nugget of wisdom out of them. They just recommended that I write.
So I did write, and now, with somewhere in the vicinity of 200 interviews and at least 5 actual published pieces of prose under my belt, I offer you, fledgling scribe, my top seven tips on how to write and write well. Let the pontification begin.
1. Don't write unless you're being paid to write
Why would anyone sit down at their desk and bruise their fingertips for free? If you are going to write, make sure you are being paid to write. Don't even write in a diary unless you've negotiated an equitable fee with yourself. I think we all did enough complimentary penmanship at school, don't you? Are you still at school or are you a big grown up who writes for a job? Practice? Practice is for the ungifted. Don't put down a single letter until you know you'll be remunerated for your efforts. Writing is work, not charity.
All the great writers drank like fish: Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ethan Hawke, etc. There's no point trying to write a single word sober, you'll only disappoint yourself and your family. Start the workday with a six-pack, and then work your way up to a bottle of Johnny Walker Black; that's when the magic happens. If anyone dare tell you that you drink too much and it's effecting your output, man or woman, smote them immediately.
3. Dispose of Sexual Tension
Nothing slows down the creative process faster than sexual tension. The average male thinks about sex once every 15 seconds, so how is the Great American Novel going to flow through his fingertips when boobs and blowjobs are aswirl in his mind? I suggest that the novice writer masturbate before he even opens his first beer of the day. It's the only way to ensure the single-mindedness needed to practice the great craft of writing. In fact, the more sexual tension you can rid your mind and body of the better. Stephen King himself recommends 5-6 wank breaks per day, and he wrote Pet Sematery. PET SEMaTARY!
4. Lie about your progress
Always exaggerate when discussing your progress as a writer. If you have no projects on the go, say you had dinner with Graydon (Carter) at the Waverly last night to discuss future projects. Then say that none of his proposed ideas jumped out at you, so you'll just wait and see what happens. Under no circumstances should a writer divulge the truth about his pathetic output, ennui, or suicidal thoughts- not even to other writers. Telling other writers you're struggling is like leaping into shark-infested waters wearing a suit made of ham. Don't do it. They'll only gossip about your shortcomings to make themselves look and feel better. Always, always, always lie about your progress. Even if you won a Pulitzer Prize, say you won three.
All good writers read because they know that reading will learn them new words and stuff. An osmotic process goes to work when you read: it's called 'learning.' The more you read, the more you learn, and not just about what the girl with dragon tattoo did after she kicked the hornet's nest (spoiler: she defecated in the oatmeal), but about the function of sentence structure and rhythm and all that egg-headed horse shit. The second and most important reason you should read is so you can discover other writer's mistakes and sneer at them. You can't imagine the joy you'll experience when you discover Steinbeck used "get" three times in the same saw-toothed sentence. What an idiot!
6. Don't eat
Eating, as we all now, is cheating. Don't let yourself be distracted by nagging hunger: light a cigarette. Don't smoke? Have a cigarette anyway. A) It'll suppress your irksome craving for sustenance, and B) You'll look cool as shit. Do a Google image search of Charles Bukowski; the guy may have looked like a fat chunk of over-done bacon wearing a wig, but he was rarely seen without a cigarette: cool.
7. Don't bother with rewrites
You've written it; it's there on the page, see? Job done. Now why in the name of heck would you do it again? To make it better? Don't be stupid. Ever heard of a little thing called, 'First thought, best thought'? I think it was Kerouac who said that, and he knew that no one was going to re-skin his bongos for him while he 're-wrote' some shit he already wrote. You may as well 're-read' something while you're at it. Why not 're-eat' your lunch, too? Stupid. Just look at this thing you just read- I wrote it once and then walked away; I didn't even read it! I just stood up, kicked my chair over and walked away. Done.