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5 Things I Hate About Being a Writer (and How I Live With Them)

October 14, 2010

If I could do something else and be reasonably successful at it I wouldn’t be a writer. At least once a week I toy with the idea of being a nurse. All the nurses I know (including La Mommie) have extremely nice whips and love the profession. I don’t talk to nurses with janky whips or who bitch about nursing. Those aren’t real nurses. But alas I don’t like people at all and blood even less. Although Milos Forman did make the profession look attractive and Oscar-winning in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (which Michael Douglas – pictured above – produced) I don’t think I could do it. So I’m stuck being a writer, which brings me to my list.

Let’s see how many Milos Forman references I can shoehorn into this entry. Ooh, run and tell it, Nell Carter!

1. Dealing With Editors – In the last six months I’ve had two experiences involving my blackness being questioned. The first involved a NWL editor attempting to dance around the fact she didn’t think I was writing black enough as it related to the topic I was examining. Each email seemed to say, “Can you write BLACKER?” with examples of dry academic stuffs female blacademics have said about female blackness as though them bitches pay my fucking bills or gave birth to me. For the record, nothing cheeses me more than white feminist citing black feminist writings as though it would be the first time I ever came across that shit. I done did the legwork on that, sister and got the shot glasses. The black feminists wrote that noise for y’all not me. Finally when I was like, “Well, clearly you know what you want, why don’t YOU write the article?” I was met with a typical NWL response (when caught being silly) “Oh I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing about experiences that aren’t my own.” Well then shut the fuck up trying to tell me how to write experiences that are my own. If you want writer who writes “black” in a specific way, hire someone who does that. Don’t be hiring the black chick who throws down on some Milos Forman and some Sid Haig and get mad cause she won’t write black the way you define it. Besides, who died and made you Stokely Carmichael?

Conversely, another NWL editor said I was writing too black! Now I wasn’t writing about getting my hair did or even Luther Vandross; I was writing about a new line of ugly ass Vera Bradley stationery sold exclusively at Barnes & Noble. Though perhaps it was a tad too black to suggest a pencil looked as though Patti Labelle’s makeup kit threw up on one of Jackson Pollack’s wet canvases. It’s not that either of these situations broke my stride – if I can be so Matthew Wilder for a second – but they wasted my fucking time. Money can be made; time cannot. So for my own sanity, I have a dollar amount threshold. I don’t even read emails or accept jobs for lower than this arbitrary pay amount and it’s amazing how pleasant and easy going my relationship with editors has become. These editors have – gasp – actually read my work and get that I have my own voice. They don’t hire me when they don’t in fact want my voice and they certainly don’t say, “We love your voice, but can you like, write like our boring cadre of writers who are indistinguishable from each other or bad knock offs of bell hooks?” – okay, they don’t actually say that, but that’s what I heard whenever some feminist type outfit hits me up to write for them. It’s like those Charlie Brown trumpets. I’ve also noticed that the more an editor is paying for my work the more realistic their expectations tend to be. Only the low paying jobs involved three or four drafts of ONE freaking article. My higher paying jobs are nearly always TWO DRAFTS MAX and the editor, um, edits the piece and I never have to see or hear about it again. Every time I have to revise a one-off piece for a magazine it’s like tasting the meal as you hork it into the toilet. Or maybe I just have a terrible attitude.

Wait, was this song used for an adult diaper commercial? I see you, Marilyn McCoo and your mom shimmy. Do all moms dance like that? If I ever become a mom I’m gonna dance myself in and out of rooms like Marilyn McCoo. That said, I could have used a little keytar.

2. Other Writers – There are two kinds of writers who get on my fucking nerves: The “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” kind and the freaking “Just One More Thing…” Colombo kind. The former group tend to be writers I encounter who assume if I can do something, surely they can do it too and far better than I can. Never mind, I never said I could do it better than them in the first place or see myself as some kind of literary measuring stick. Still, these god damn irritants are the ones who assume whatever is omitted from a piece is due to ignorance rather than choice or seek to devalue whatever craft you’ve developed by assuming if you’re doing something it can’t be that hard. 9/10 those in the former group flame out because it turns out it is pretty hard to be a better version of me. It requires a lot more work, sacrifice and patience than that group is accustom to.

Who’s gonna make it? We’ll find out in the long run…It seems odd the least raggedy looking member of the band is tucked behind a drum kit and he’s not even that good looking. Hey that one dude shooting Don Henley the side eye played Rod Tidwell’s snarky coach in Jerry Maguire! Lulz1

The latter group – the Colombos – are lot more frustrating and painful since often times they attempt to use my goddamn back as a bridge and short cut to their own success. These are the motherfuckers are relentless in their attempts to get you to do their legwork for them. Is the word Google etched across my forehead? I don’t have a problem with writers building communities to uplift each other, but I do have a huge problem with lazy, selfish writers who aren’t willing do the work themselves wasting my damn time with their endless straw polls and interrogations. Let’s not talk about the fact that often times these people soliciting advice are ones who think writers who follow a more tradition path are just privileged suckers who don’t know how to game the system. Nobody told me how to be a writer. Nobody handed me anything. I didn’t even have support at an early age for my writing. I had to struggle, fail, abandon my dreams, sacrifice and fight for my space at the table. I had to do it with all my other -ism shit going on and often under less than ideal circumstances. To combat these sappers of time and nerves, I give lots of ambiguous, “hope this helps” kind of advice and find that eventually, they stop asking or if they don’t I start charging cashmoney, which gets 99% of the tedious motherfuckers out of my face.

3. Time suckers and unsolicited unhelpful advice – Because I tend to be really organized it’s easy for me to trick myself into believing I have “extra time” to waste engaged in fatuous activities like: writing character bios, researching esoteric detail that might result in one throw away line in a story or reading/writing about writing. Turns out I don’t have any extra time, since my day on comes with the standard 24 hours. If I engage in the above mentioned activities I do so with full awareness that it is not writing. Not that it makes it any better, but at least I’m being honest with myself. In contrast, however, I never know what to do with unsolicited, unhelpful advice. I’m not talking about people not liking my writing or my ideas, which oddly enough doesn’t bother me. I’m talking about advice from other writers or even non-writers whose lives appear to be in shambles (a fact which seems to elude them) who then have the cheek to pass along some unhelpful tidbit to me. Yeah, cause that’s working out so well for them. Most of the advice is centered around what topics I ought be covering as opposed to the ones I actually cover. Usually it’s couched in some kind of seemingly encouraging reminder of my potential. You wanna help me out? Tell me how I can keep my white socks with patterns from getting dingy. I’ve tried vinegar and everything else google suggests and it hasn’t worked.

This is like soul music for those sensitive white people on Thirtysomething. Omg, I’m almost out of episodes on Netflix. Oh that show makes me laugh more than it’s supposed to. It’s like Mad Men with uglier clothes; except Hamm makes a better Ken Olin than Ken Olin does. Sometimes writers should stay behind the scenes lest they end up dancing dorkily in a bad 80s video while singing one of their own songs.

4. Waiting – I suppose I am an impatient person. Okay, fine, I can be impatient, which often spells disaster when combined with a writing career. Writing is all about regularly scheduled bouts of waiting. Waiting to be accepted. Waiting to be rejected. Waiting for someone to liberate your slush from the slush pile. Waiting to get that piece of crap writing returned unopened. Waiting for the liquid muse to finish brewing. Waiting for the Benadryl to wear off so you can feel your brain again. Waiting for people to pay you. Waiting for people to stiff you. Waiting, waiting, waiting. The only way I know to mitigate the insatiable itch of waiting is to keep busy; for me that means writing.

5. Following through on Bad ideas – I hate this, but unfortunately, you just won’t know some hot mess of prose you’ve written is bad until you’ve committed yourself to it. In the past I’d be mad at myself for not putting my time and effort to good use elsewhere, but have since come to realize it’s not always a terrible thing to come the long way round. Sometimes you get even closer…well, I’ll let Basia elaborate on that idea. I could tell you, but she set it to a better beat.

1 let’s see what asshat will be the first to tell me it’s Glenn Frey as though I wouldn’t know that. I’ve sung “The Heat is On” at karaoke, mofos.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2010 7:47 am

    Don’t start none: there won’t be none.

  2. October 14, 2010 12:25 pm

    “Patti Labelle’s makeup kit threw up on one of Jackson Pollack’s wet canvases.”

    Brilliant. Your writing rocks my socks. (Okay, tights today, but rocks my tights sounds weird.)

  3. October 14, 2010 5:19 pm

    I love the writing posts. They make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

  4. Elizabeth permalink
    October 14, 2010 5:52 pm

    Bless your heart. My life is a total shambles, so we all know I won’t be dishing out any advice, and this: “I had to struggle, fail, abandon my dreams, sacrifice and fight for my space at the table. I had to do it with all my other -ism shit going on and often under less than ideal circumstances” rings true as a bell. Hell yeah.

  5. hsofia permalink
    October 14, 2010 9:06 pm

    Everyone on the planet should be reading this post.

  6. Valerian permalink
    October 15, 2010 3:37 pm

    Great post, moderately disturbing mental image (makeup & Pollock)! No thoughts on socks here, sadly.

  7. AnthroK8 permalink
    October 29, 2010 2:04 pm

    If you ever find the answer to the patterns-on-white dinginess problem, let me know. I hate gazing at the white ground colored pattern whatever-it-is knowing soon it will be grey-ground-colored-pattern.

    And cold wash… doesn’t get stuff clean all the time. Oxyclean… I can never tell the difference.

    Also… “who died and made you Stokely Carmichael?” is to die for. Especially since I thought Juan Williams has already made Michelle Obama Stokely Carmichael, so I think the position is filled. Assuming Juan Williams is in HR now, and not a self appointed namer with no actual naming powers.

    This article is so good.

  8. October 30, 2010 6:05 pm

    Also… “who died and made you Stokely Carmichael?” is to die for. Especially since I thought Juan Williams has already made Michelle Obama Stokely Carmichael, so I think the position is filled. Assuming Juan Williams is in HR now, and not a self appointed namer with no actual naming powers.

    I spit coffee all inside my Darth Vader mask! LOL.

  9. October 31, 2010 5:47 pm

    I made Snarky’s Machine laugh! I can retire from blog commenting now!!!

  10. November 1, 2010 3:38 pm

    Oh no! I need more laughs!!! You can’t retire yet. Don’t make me go Sarkozy on you! 🙂

  11. November 3, 2010 10:49 am

    Hah! Well, since I have more urgent things to organize a student/worker strike over than my blog-comment retirement age (such as… WTF Minnesota voters), I think you’re safe for at least a year or two!

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