Warnings to Aspiring Authors

You know, the life of a writer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It isn’t waking up in the morning, your head bursting full of lovely ideas that will fit together just PERFECTLY, grabbing your very own laptop computer and writing an inspired 20,000 words or so in an hour whilst sipping coffee and listening to music that enhances the mood, then skipping off to read plenty of books, gather more ideas, jot down ideas, and then blithely typing out at least 10,000 more words before snuggling back in bed to repeat another blissful day.

Oh, no. If you have this idea in your head and are wishing to become a writer – then I suggest you cease thinking about it immediately and become an architect. Or something.

Because really, writers look more like this –

Or this…

And this…

Like I said before, being a writer is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, here are several things that will undoubtedly happen to you, should you choose to become a writer.

1. The characters can be annoying. I mean, really, really, really annoying. They won’t leave you alone. They pester you in the middle of the night. They bug you during school hours. They sit down, cross their arms and refuse to co-operate or do anything. They run off with the story and leave you there with your mouth open wondering ‘…what just happened!?’

2. People view you as odd, weird, and/or strange. You may be ostracized from society merely for saying things like “Should I have X murdered in his sleep, or should he fall off a cliff?”

3. Sleepeless nights. As if you didn’t already have enough of these, ideas will spring into your head at the most unlikely moments and leave you, dazed and wide-eyed, staring up at your ceiling, musing as to the possible outcome of seven different plotlines.

According to Lemony Snicket, there are several others reasons why not to be a writer.

“For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies – what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop…

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one’s entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient – the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste…

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor’s waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your n ovel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.”

And I myself agree with Mr. Snicket – I will, sometime in the next hundred years, stop writing. But please bury me with a pen and paper. Just in case.


7 thoughts on “Warnings to Aspiring Authors

  1. Oh, yes. The characters are most certainly annoying. (Don’t tell mine I said that. They might take their vengeance in some cunning way.)

    The first time I saw Nim’s Island I laughed so hard. I totally sympathize with Alexandra. That is SOOOO what a writer’s life is like.

    “I created you! You’re supposed to do what I say, not…not the other way around!”

    …yeah. Right. Keep deluding yourself. It never happens that way. 😉

    “What’re you doin’?”
    “Having a nervous breakdown!”

    I, too, plan to stop writing sometime in the next hundred years. 🙂


  2. I totally identify with all three things you mention at the beginning. Annoying characters? Check! Strange looks from normal people? Check! Midnight plot ideas? Check, check, and check!

    And no, most people don’t write that many thousands of words in a single day. Unless you’re crazy. I once wrote 16,448 words in 24 hours. That was during the week I wrote 50,000 words in 4 days. I don’t recommend it. It’s very bad for the eyes, fingers, arms, and, um, rump.

  3. Love this post Mirriam, I loved the picture/captions, I’m still trying to suppress my giggles over the last one – IT’S SO TRUE!
    Hat tip to ya’

  4. Nice post – nice sense of humor. All great artists of every kind have to have both a sense of humor and, as you showed here, a sense of honesty. Otherwise, as you said above, quit. 🙂

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