Five Reasons You Should Quit Writing

I love writing. It’s as if you’re staring at an empty pan, only to realize you know how to cook, and you have bacon on hand. Thus, creation and consumption are born.

Not everyone who writes loves writing. Ask a technical writer. And not everyone who loves writing writes. Ask a reader.

Then you have that not-rare-enough breed, those who love writing more than they love to write

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What do I need to do to make my writing as good as the writers I interact with online (Facebook, Twitter)? What kinds of questions or things should I talk about with them, so I have some more productive conversations?
—Jameson Cory, Pembroke Pines, Florida. 

Unless you have some existing, established creative outlet of your own, this is why I don’t recommend befriending writers. (And because I’m crotchety and mean, so there.) Writers write. They talk about writing. They joke about writing. They tell others how they can write better. They write about people reading their writing.

So if you’re not writing, what do you feel guilted into doing? Writing. 

Here’s five warning signs you might want to quit writing.

You love reading.

You read one book a day, minimum. The pleasures and machinations of the written word fulfill your soul. To you, the epitome of eros is that evening where you cozy up to the fireplace and snuggle with a good book. You’re the type who will eat dinner out without bothering to care to cook. You don’t need to write if reading makes you happy. Writers need readers.

You love fun.

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the “fun ban” for writers? Let’s put it this way: if you’re big on travel, clubbing, filling the void with parties, friends, alcohol, cruises, and material pleasures, then you live a fun life. Writing is insular. You can’t do it at all the fancy restaurants you Instagram. Livetweeting your awesome third European vacation isn’t considered flash fiction. Face it, you live for the thrills for consumption. Read a book on one of your expensive cruises, and we’ll call it even.

You love the myth.

There’s some idiosyncratic appeal to the tortured artists, the pre-hipster hipster who labored over each stroke of the typewriter, every nuance of the pen. The feverish all-nighters, the race to slip under the descending portcullis of deadlines, and the dashing esteem these artisans acclaim. Quit you’re writing while you can keep that myth intact.

You love company.

Nothing wrong with people. Ok, there’s plenty wrong with people, but that notwithstanding, people take time. Effort. Money. Let’s say you’re given the option to spend the night out with friends. And they’re paying. Most everyone says ‘Yes’ to that. Every time. Unless you’re a writer. There’s always something to be written. Sure, there’s the occasional luau here and there, but there’s always the writing now and now.

You love writers.

Most writers/bloggers/content creators can’t get away with being Henry James. There’s a modicum of humor, verve, and interaction they’re obligated to deliver. It’s their job to draw you into their personality and their persona. That’s how they get their prose to sing. It’s nice that you like these folks, but if you like writers for their works and personality, you’re a fan. And not every fan needs to be a writer. Sitting in a garage won’t make you a car. Neither will keeping company with writers make you a writer as well.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Gifts for Writers

Writing. Holidays. Good luck.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What gifts do you recommend giving writers for Christmas?
—Leonard Ankeny, Marquette, Iowa. 

Great question! Folks, you have it easy when shopping for most writers. Most of us plan ahead, think forward, keep things unsuspenseful in general. There are works to be written. Christmastime isn’t a guessing game. Just ask; they’ll tell you. And hey, you’ll be right on the money with what you get for that brooding writer in your life. Isn’t that easy?

1) Notebooks

Boring, but by golly-geeze, they’re effective. It’s a little rude to whip out one’s smartphone or portable and start writing in the middle of something. “Hey, this is church! You should be listening!” But a notebook? Elegant. Sly. It’s gotten me out of the forefront of a few awkward social gatherings. I recommend the products at Moleskine.

2) Restaurant gift cards

Writing and cooking. They’re great, but they’re mutually exclusive. Anytime you hand that writer a potential “Get out of the Kitchen Free” card, you’ve bestowed freedom. Doesn’t freedom taste awesome? Plenty to find at Restaurant.com

3) Caffeine

Since I can’t quite recommend a bevy of intoxicants and hallucinogens, I’ll recommend legal stimulants. There’s always that person who’s going to run a writer ragged with “real-world” issues, chores, and whatnot. Give back by offering goodies that’ll recharge and supercharge that writing mind. Thinkgeek has some awesome novelties in the caffeine arena, and if you’re looking for excellent caffeine supply by way of coffee, Writing All Wrong chooses Camano Island Coffee Roasters.

4) Software

Really? Why not the ol’ parchment and quill? If you want to write for the market of 1612, be my guest. If you want to write for the market of today, perhaps you should ping that writer in your life, see what his keystrokes are going to. Scrivener has a good following, with a decent feature set that aids the planning and organizing as much as it does writing. If you’re into more minimal tools, I’ve found my writing doing most of its work in Pages (Mac-only, which you should be).

5) Time

Talk about the one thing we could all use more of. In writing, time is a premium. Why not cut your writer friend/spouse/significant other some slack? Maybe they can take the night off of Christmas card writing, extraneous partying, and other such things they’re too polite to decline. Anything you can do that gets time back in a writer’s day: that’s a gift indeed.

Plenty of options: go to. It’s what writers want. And writers, feel free to add to the wish list as you see fit.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

10 Questions Writers Must Ask Themselves

Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do and die.

Yes, you will die if you don’t ask “why.” Or something.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

I had a question I was going to ask you about writing, but I forgot! You tell me, what should I ask?

—Mark Cedeno, Tucson, Ariz.

I’m feeling quick and dirty. Let’s dive in. Here’s what you should be asking yourself as a writer:

1. Why am I doing this?

Money? Fame? Class project? A dare? Depressed? Bored? Trying to come off as intelligent? I’m not going to give the answer. If you don’t have one, then stop now. Try dancing. Then you’ll have an answer to why you took up dancing: “Because I didn’t know why I was writing.” Work your way from that.

2. Who am I trying to impress?

In our social media age, we are driven on a quest for relevance, whether conscious or subconscious. You could say that you have a potential audience. You may not. Unless you are an artist with a soul purer than Jesus, then you crave an inkling of recognition. Maybe it’s just ‘you’ you’re trying to impress. Find whoever it is. Stop schmoozing up. Write.

3. Can I explain this in three sentences?

If you cannot summarize the story, start over until you can. You’re only writing yourself into a painful circle. Unless you just need writing practice, then fine.

4. Who would want to read this?

Draw up a profile of your reader. If it’s someone who’s easily led, likes mass-market paperback, reads to say “they read,” then CONGRATS! That’s almost everyone! SF/fantasy fans who like everything you do and have already friended you on the internet? Even better! They won’t care about promoting your work, because you’re everyone’s friend! Win win win.

5. How will this contribute to the way readers view life?

Ooooh, breaking out the philosophical. Bring something worth bringing to the table. We already have salt, napkins, plates. If you’re bringing ‘potato salad,’ the trashbin is that way. If you bring ‘tuna casserole,’ then you need plant your face in it until it suffocates you to death. If you bring a combo of ‘polenta,’ ‘arugula,’ ‘aioli,’ ‘quinoa,’ and ‘edamame,’ then you’re just trying to be “trendy” without substance. (Yes, yes you are.) Contribute something worthwhile.

6. Am I friends with a bunch of other writers?

If the answer is ‘Yes,’ then write away. Your work won’t matter. You have your reward. If ‘No,’ then write away. Friends won’t matter. Your writing will speak for itself. You will have those who appreciate art, even if they’re not your besties.

7. What have I had for influence lately?

If this list can either 1) be found at a local liquor dealer, or 2) get you arrested, then I’m not liable, ok? Know what it is that feeds your soul, for out of it comes your art. Unless you’re a sexy, soulless teenage vampire.

8. What would happen to me if I stopped?

This should be something really bad. If not, then go ahead and stop. Ballet is waiting.

9. What kind of recognition am I hoping for?

Set this bar wherever you want. Local book-signing at a thrift store. #1,095,367 in Books on Amazon. Seeing your book on a bookstore shelf—because you brought a copy with you, placed it there, and Tweeted it anyway. Wherever. That’s all you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

10. Is there something else I should be doing?

Hey, fair question. If your pregnant husband or wife has been dogging your lazy end about overdue bills, mustard stains on tank-tops, not bothering to clean the dishes from last week, the kid strung from your cheap light fixture by a pair of cheap, sodden underdrawers, then maybe the “undead urban fiction” can wait. Or if you have some ungodly talent in another field, play that field instead. Michael Jordan didn’t choose writing because he wasn’t a skilled craftsman, you know. He had greater-than-greatness in the basketball arena. Who knows? Your sandwich making at the Sub Shack® might serve you better.

What kinds of questions would you think to ask yourself?

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).