Thursday, November 20, 2008

We might just make it after all

This is an entry for the blogathong, which I heard about from Scary Scary Quite Contrary. I don't know many details about it other than people are expected to write a blog a day; today is the last day. I'm taking the rest of the week off and resuming my regular schedule on Monday.

Send all complaint letters to

The best ideas are the ones that start simple.

Things should only get complicated in the later stages, when you’re working out the details.

A plan’s ability to work is inversely proportional to the distance, in time and space, between where and when the plan was created and where and when it will be executed.

The more complex the plan, in its initial stages, the greater the likelihood that it will be an unwieldy disaster when finally put in motion.

So, when you sit down to write, don’t worry about where things will end up and never think about themes; when you do things like that, they stand out like radical, conservative monkeys at an all ape gangbang.

Everybody has themes to which they naturally gravitate, and the first thing a writer should do is identify those themes. Not the themes you think you would like to write, but the ones you do well.

For years, I tried to write drama, and it came out so brilliantly awful, it was as though I were deliberately trying to be as melodramatic as possible.

Eventually, I came crawling back to comedy and telling people how and what they should think about things.

They say you should write what you know.

I don’t know exactly what that means, because I know a lot of things, but most of them are just useless pieces of trivia that I learned over the years from various cereal boxes, beverage container caps, and flavored, instant oatmeal packets… and most of them aren’t even true.

Writing what you know is only good if you want to make stories like Carwash, Caddyshack, or every novel Steven King has ever written where a writer from Maine encounters something supernatural. There’s a reason why so many writers end up killing themselves, going insane, or drinking to death and it’s not because they’re tortured souls but because they wish they were better at writing something other than what they’re paid to write.

I heard that Jack Kerouac drank himself to death when his terrible prose and even crappier poetry was published before his series of Time Life carpentry instruction manuals.

Write what you write well.

The reason that there’s so much abysmal literature in the world is that writing is one of those arts where most people possess the basic skills necessary to create: imagination and the ability to put words into sentences. People are much more easily dissuaded from tangible arts like painting and sculpture, because it’s much simpler to realize that you’re not any good when you recreate the roof of the Sistine Chapel, everyone compliments you on what a nice pony you drew, and even you realize that people are not supposed to have more than a dozen fingers on each hand.

At that point, people either get discouraged enough to quit, or serious enough to take a class, keep practicing, and find a talented artist whose entourage needs a new member.

Writing is different in that you never actually have to show it to anyone, most people won’t read what you’ve written, and, even if they do, they’ll be kind enough to tell you that it’s good no matter how terrible it is.

Just like any other art form, writing takes a lot of practice.

Sure, there are people who are naturally good writers, but you’re not one of them, neither am I. You stand a better chance of winning the lottery and having your children eaten by one your close relatives than you do of ever meeting a naturally good writer.

For the rest of us, we have to work at it.

Even if you’re a naturally good writer, you still have to work at it, so it’s better to practice, just in case.

That’s why I don’t understand when people are afraid to write anything, because they don’t think it will be any good; you rarely hear anyone talk that way about tangible arts like figure skating, or bull fighting. Of course you’re not going to be good the first time out, in fact, you’re probably going to suck, but don’t let that dissuade you. Right now there’s at least one woman and one man sitting in a bar somewhere who are absolutely sure they are going to get laid tonight, no matter how many times they’ve gotten drunk and woken up in a barn next to a sexually satisfied farm animal. If their inadequacies don’t stop them, then there’s no reason why you should let yours stop you; after all, you’ll eventually become a better writer with practice, but pig fuckers get branded for life.

Write what you write well. You might not like it as much as what you know, or what you would like to write, but you’ll be good at it, and, if you’re lucky, you might end up making a few folks happy just to have read what you put on a page, or, in this case, a computer screen.

Just keep it simple.

Sex Mahoney for President

Currently listening to:

Somewhere in the Between
by Streetlight Manifesto

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