1. Call yourself a writer.
If you don’t, no one will. If people ask you what you “do,” tell them, “I work in real estate…that is, when I’m not writing.” Being a writer makes you a more intriguing person, so do not be surprised when people try to manipulate you into sharing your interesting thoughts with them. When faced with this situation, you must tell them you don’t like to talk about your work. The more snobbishly you use this line the less likely it is you will have to deal with this bother again.
2. Find your muse.
Fitzgerald wrote, “You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you have something to say.” Ernest Hemingway, for example, wrote about opening cans. If opening cans can lead to The Old Man and the Sea, imagine what ratty, old books or fountain pens or bits of ribbon or fingernail clippings can do for you!
3. Embrace your individuality.
Writers are individuals. Each has a distinct presence. You too must develop something unique about your personality. It is important that this trait be as unusual as possible to prevent you from blending in with every other wannabe writer. The easiest way to distinguish yourself is by accessorizing your wardrobe. For example, you should wear an unusually large and ornate hat.
4. Find a place where you work best.
To be a writer, you must have a place to write. This place will be reflected in your writing so choose it carefully. If you write in your bedroom, your writing will become romantic like a Jane Austen novel. If you write outdoors, your writing will be raw and natural like the poetry of Robert Frost. If you write in the bathroom, your writing will be…
5. Set aside time to work.
Serious writers spend at least one hour every day writing. This writing can be easily turned into published work. Write all your childhood memories and begin compiling a memoir. Describing the ladybug crawling across your desk can become an entire collection of poems. Jotting down your feelings about the current presidential administration is a technique that can be published in any genre. If none of these work, this tried-and-true method is guaranteed to get you published: write down whatever you are thinking. For references, see the work of William Faulkner or Virginia Woolf.
6. Remember that writer’s block happens.
Though most famous writers are extremely prolific and suffer from only minor bouts of writer’s block, do not be discouraged if your blockage is more frequent. Real writers use their writer’s block properly. Marilynne Robinson, for example, published her second book twenty-three years after her first and won the Pulitzer Prize. It is important that you too take advantage of your writer’s block by using that time to compose an award-winning piece.
7. Immerse yourself in writerly material.
It is imperative that you purchase every book about writing at the bookstore. The following books may be particularly helpful: How to Write Your First Novel, How to Write a Popular Novel, Writing the Great American Novel, and The Complete Handbook to Novel Writing. These should be shelved wherever you do most of your writing. This will make you feel more like a writer and prove your writer’s status to others. Also, you’ll need to invest seven dollars in a word-of-the-day calendar. Having a superfluous vocabulary makes you sound more like a writer.
8. Find critics.
No good writer writes alone. Therefore, it is important that you find a writing group to meet with in prominent writerly locations such as bookstore cafes or coffeehouses. You will need to find a way to distinguish yourselves in order to prevent the intrusion of the public. One easy way to do this is by purchasing a uniform accessory — perhaps matching tote bags or brightly-colored bows for your hair.
9. Learn to market your work.
Popular magazines always list confidence as one of the sexiest attributes in a person. Think of the editor as the object of your seduction. Printing your cover letter on colored paper or spraying it with a rich perfume is guaranteed to pull you out of the slush pile. It is also important that you establish a personal relationship with the editors looking at your manuscripts. Call them frequently to answer any questions they have about your piece, or, if you have their home address, stop by for dinner.
10. Learn to respond to rejection.
A good deal of the average writer’s life is spent facing rejection. However, if you are rejected, clearly you have not followed this program properly. So, you must return to step one and begin the process anew. Develop a trait more unusual than the cliche one you have likely been using, force yourself to write down at least twenty childhood memories every day, get your writing out of the bathroom, call the editor again, and, in the meantime, to save everyone from embarrassment, adopt the “starving artist” title — it makes you sound like a martyr.
**Published: Dialogue. October 2006.