Letter To A Young Writer

Thank you Bryan for this, a cynical diatribe from what is I guess a moderately successful writer targeted to an amatuer.

She makes some good points. She also comes across as a real queen douche, and a fairly uninspired one at that.

Who hasn’t heard the salty, foreboding warnings of the writer who has been “hardened” by their work and who thinks journalism school is for “fuckwits” (my word, not hers)? If I was at the Chicago Printer’s Row book fair with a sockfull of batteries, I probably couldn’t walk two feet without clubbing one of these “aged and learned” writers to death.

Let’s start with her first point: Journalism school is for losers.

Confession: I went ot journalism school. Is it for losers? I wouldn’t say that. That’s a generalization. I’d say it’s for those that want to be writers but have the smarts to know that being an English major truly is for losers or for disillusioned do-gooders who think journalism is still the bastion for truth, justice and the American way. I fit into the former. It’s probably why I’m not a journalist anymore. Many people I knew were the latter. They all have jobs at papers and make decent livings. Don’t get me wrong. The journalism industry is going down faster than a Thai hooker on Blowjob Day. But journalism school isn’t all bad. It’s a great way to get a piece of paper that is kind of worth having. And it totally beat having to learn all that stuff political science majors have to learn. That’s actual, useful information.

2. She was asked if she could support herself solely on blogging and writing, to which she replied she has a writing/editing position that helps her out. There really wasn’t anything I disagreed with here, except the keep your day job comment. I left mine as an editor to become independent. It’s a great way to live. No boss. No office. Just me, my desk, my unclothed body and a ham sandwich. I’m joking. I don’t eat ham.

3. She was asked what her “break” was. Once again, I think she had a reasonable response stating that there is no “break,” although she used the turn of phrase as an excuse to once again attack the journalism industry. I mean seriously, who cares? I stopped caring so long ago, I see no reason to waste my breath talking about its downfall. Grandpa died, sister. Get over it! He’s not coming back, and all your grave dancing is doing is showing how much you really do care. Well you shouldn’t. Cause it’s stupid. So let’s go out there and make something better than the old model. All hail the new flesh. Anywho, there really aren’t any breaks. It’s just life. You live it, and your career will develop. And if all you want is to write for something that is well known or to be on t.v. as a commentator, well then you should probably tear off your own head because that’s a stupid goal to aim for. Your big break could very well be the first time you have some nothing magazine say, “We’ll pay you an amazingly shit ton of money to write about something stupidly droll.” That is most often a writer’s big break.

4. She was asked for advice from someone who has years of experience writing for small magazines. Her response is fine. No issues here. I especially agree with the part about not giving advice to wanna-be writers because, at best, they are just possible competition. Because they are. And that scares me. Luckily I got something they don’t. An understanding that it isn’t about finding that great topic. Life doesn’t happen in the maginificent. It is found in the everyday. And if you can make tying your shoes sound like the virgin birth, than you got a career. It’s all about style and voice. Know yours and you rule the writing world. It’s just so hard to develop because you’ve been taught all your life what “good” writing is and you’ve read “good” writers, so you have all these preconceived notions. Fuck that. Discover the way you enjoy writing, don’t fall into cliche (even cliche that is considered good cliche. You want to know what good cliche is? It’s writing that sounds interesting and artistic, but is really just derivative crap. Like starting a story about the Iraq War with a lead that talks about a little Iraqi girl washing her hands in a crater created by an artillery shell. Has someone written this? Fuck if I know. But it’s stupid. Because even if it is real, I don’t care. I don’t know who this little girl is. You’re just appealing to the standard notions we’ve assigned to little girls and war, and we see this juxtaposition and our hearts sink because they’ve been trained to do so. This little girl could have eaten someone’s face. We don’t know. Stop playing with our hearts.) A better way to start such a story? Talk about the moon. Or mustard. Or something you overheard on the bus. It’s more interesting for me because you’re not using some tired cliche. But really. Just write about what you know and write it in a way that feels honest to you. It’s harder than you think, but once you get there, it’s pretty easy.

End rant.

(Note: I don’t give a shit if I have improper punctuation or misspellings in these posts. I don’t have time to proofread. Just deal.)


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