Rules for Writing: #3

Here I am getting fucking sick of rules.  You’re clever, attractive, know how to do a few things, and have conquered the opposite sex in a way that did not result in a fat lip or a prison sentence; this makes you above average.  You’ve got something to share, and people should listen; they should in fact pay you to listen.  But they won’t, unless you teach at a college, and they have no choice…

Rule #3:  Writing does not make people money.  Don’t think that typing is going to make you rich, comfortable, or even capable of living above roach motel status.  Like all heinous diseases, writing is good for saving money on shrinks, creating hardcore drinking habits, and a bad work history, but it’s no good for money.  Good luck is good for money; writing is good for not getting laid.  Nobody gives a shit about things that must be read.

There are very few “successful” authors out there who’ve made Ferrari-level money.  Don’t make these people your targets; in the same way a budding actor should not decide to become Tom Cruise (fake name, by the way), you should not decide to be James Patterson.  He’s him, not you; he was essentially chosen and convenient for the scuzz in New York; you will not be him.  There’s simply not room; keep your soul, and save it for a nice Ducati or KTM.

Don’t be jealous of Zadie Smith.  People who get big publishers while they’re virgins don’t tend to get far in life (or make money)–they’re frequently published as losses (gifts to the boss’s nephew or shit like that).  While I’m still waiting for word on Donna Tartt, for some reason, I do not envy her; her second book was a long-awaited turd.  Her third, well, I haven’t looked at it yet, but third rhymes with…

Granted, you could be an Anthony Swofford or a Josh Bazell; refer to the Tom Cruise thing above.  Get lucky first.

To put things in a cliche (nutshell), if you stick with it for 20 or 30 years, you might get somewhere (whatever that means).  Don’t think that divine inspiration, character, or general human sickness will get you there (refer to rules 2 and 1).  You’ve got to bust your ass, and realize that sweat just means you’re alive.

If you manage to not quit, and eventually become a competent novelist (no, not an eHow machine), you might decide to study marketing, and make a buck on your own (thank you, Internet!).  You’re better off with some other skills, however…


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