My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Monday, April 7, 2014

30 Ways for Writers to Be (and Stay) Miserable (Part 1)

Everyone knows that your tragic artistic sensibilities can only be fueled by suffering and pain. No book has ever been written by someone who wasn't drowning in misery and self-loathing.


Don't bother checking that statistic. It's right.  Anyone who says otherwise is lying. It's tortured artist, not happy artist amirite?

That's why I'm here to provide you with a list of how to be absolutely miserable as a writer (but also as a person). With these few habits under your belt, your entire life will be a miasma of pain and suffering.

"But Ima," you say, "that 'suffering artist' tragic bohemian ideals crap has been debunked, and not every artist is a miserable drunk these days--or even ever actually was."

Sure. If you want to half ass it, go ahead. But if you want to make yourself extra miserable, and really torture yourself, you need to follow my advice.

1- Spend time with miserable people.  You've heard that misery loves company, right? So this is a no brainer. Now that company is you. Steer clear of hard working writers–they will just encourage you. And for god's sake be careful of optimists. You need that like you need a baboon butt on your left cheek. You want a group of people who sit around being cranky that they aren't already rich and famous. Preferably you want someone in the group who wraps up a read of every single book with: "Ppppfffffft. I could have written better than that!" Pick people with generally hostile levels of discontent, but also people who are reluctant to stick by you in moments of actual need. The less these people actually value you, the more miserable you will be. The best kind will discourage you if you try to really do anything productive. Bonus points if they use the word "uppity."

2- Run away from writing! You're not going to stay miserable if you keep fulfilling goals. That shit is like acid on misery's face. Think about what you want to get out of writing, and what kind of writing you want to be doing. Now do the exact opposite. If you want to be a novelist, spend a lot of time writing non-fiction articles. If you have a great idea for a high fantasy trilogy, don't write it–write other things instead. Work on side projects. Keep yourself too busy. Keep your dream at bay.

3- Focus on what you haven't achieved. If you start thinking about how far you've come, you'll just make yourself feel accomplished. If you keep at it, you might even end up feeling optimistic how much progress you can make if you keep working hard. That's focusing on entirely the wrong aspects of your life to stay miserable. Focus on what you haven't achieved, how far you have to go, and how impossible it seems.

4- Focus your fears...but only the nebulous ones. If you start getting all optimistic about what might happen if you take a chance, you might end up fettered to hope and enthusiasm. Keep yourself fearful of the negative consequences of failure. But be careful not to think too rationally about these fears or you might realize that when compared to venomous snakes or bears on steroids with shoulder mounted buzz saw launchers...or spiders, the idea of having to do another rewrite or that some people might not like you will seem kind of tame.

5- Live in your fantasies...but only the outrageous ones. If you're the type who has trouble focusing on your fears, why not go the other direction? Steer clear of reasonable goals or the kinds of ambitions that are achievable. Instead go right to the most outrageous, fame, fortune, talk show circuit, groupie threesome fantasies you can possibly conjure up. Compare your life to your fantasies a lot. Focus on that disparity.

6- Worry about pleasing everyone. There are fewer ways to stay miserable than to focus on the people who don't like your work or don't agree with you. Operate under the assumption that every successful writer was always loved by anyone who read them. Don't be okay that you have an audience or some people like what you do. Let those who don't like you get under your skin like a mosquito bite that you can't NOT scratch. Next stop: misery junction.

7- Abdicate all responsibility. It's the publishing industry's fault for not taking chances anymore. It's all those self-publishers out there ruining things for real writers like you. It's all the NaNoWriMo manuscripts out there gunking up the works for legit people who want agents. It's J.K. Rowling and her fucking detective novel screwing things up for young upstarts. What ever it is, it is important that you remember it's not how you respond to things you can't control that is important, but that you actually blame them for your failure.

8- Be a perfectionist. Never be done. Go back and tool that draft one more time (and if you really want some traction, do it in the name of artistic integrity or some shit that sounds legitimate). Don't actually finish anything. Never submit. There's always one more polish you could put on something. Fester. Stagnate. Wallow. Misery will be yours. If you focus on your fears of making a mistake, you can really take this one to the next level.

9- Rush. If being a perfectionist is not your style, you can always swing around to the other side and rush. It takes a little longer to reach the misery, but in the end it's just as effective. Self publishing has made this so easy that you don't even need to get a gatekeeper's nod anymore to get your steaming turd of a draft out into the world. Just fire it off like you're a 5th grader equating quantity with quality and triumphantly turning in a fifty page book report.  Spill the sewage of your prose as fast as it sluices out of your fingers. Then as feedback comes in on what is essentially a rough draft, even your mom stops reading you, and you realize that you can't even actually be proud of what you squatted and birthed into the world on a personal level, the misery will come crashing in beautiful tidal waves of self doubt and loathing.

10- Complain. A lot.  The great thing about complaining is that you can do it about practically anything. You can complain about the publishing industry not taking chances or the person you couldn't please or how far you are from reaching your fantasies. You can complain about your fears. Pretty much anything that isn't perfect in your life, you can use to make you miserable by griping and grousing about it ad nauseum. Don't fix it. Don't work around. Don't accept it. Just continuously complain about it on and on and on.  You'll be miserable in no time!

Continue to Part 2