Monday, March 10, 2014

3 Keys to Failing As a Writer

NOTE: Although written for writers, this piece applies to any worthwhile life objective.

If you’re going to fail as a writer, then you might as well get it over with now.  Then you can focus on your day job and watch television all night.  The following 3 keys are guaranteed to unlock the door to instant failure and free you to flop like a floundering fish on the cold floor of life.

1. Just say no

Why didn’t you think of this before?  Stop writing.  It’s as simple as that.  Firmly inform your laptop that you're done.  

Wait for huge blocks of time to open up, and refuse to write until they do.  Now that’s commitment!  Don’t touch that keyboard until your Muse flies down from Mount Parnassus to reveal the 101 master plots.  Failure comes to those who wait. 

And don’t listen to barkers like that Trottier fellow who tells you to make realistic writing goals and make time to achieve them.  “Writing is its own reward,” he says.  What kind of bull crap is that?  Remember, success comes one day at a time, but failure is an all-or-nothing deal.  You can have it right now by not acting right now.  Insist on your story unfolding immediately to you at this instant, or find relief with a TV remote.  With any luck, you’ll be asleep before those pesky desires to reach your God-given potential begin to bother you.

2. Listen to those voices

You know which ones.  “You’ll never amount to anything,” and “This is the biggest waste of time since Dole ran for president.”  And don’t forget to repeat this next one ten times before you fall asleep each night: “I’ll never be Hemingway.”  And you never will!  Affirm that.  Of course, Hemingway will never be you, but that’s beside the point.  Face your fears and back off. 

When you are tempted to write, seize this thought: “My work is worthless until it is absolutely perfect, and since it can’t ever be perfect, I am the most wretched creature to ever pick up a pencil.  My writing is an embarrassment to the free world.”  Pay no attention to those who talk about developing your craft or listening to Joseph Conrad’s “inner voice that knows.”  What inner voice?  That’s just the result of a half digested Whopper rotting in your gut.  “Have it your way” and take a nap from the joy of creation.

3. Submit your work prematurely

How can you possibly know when your script or manuscript is ready to be submitted to a potential buyer?  It’s never ready.  Send that unfinished work out now so that it will be rejected, proving that “those voices” mentioned earlier are right on the mark.  Why waste time striving for excellence when you can fail with grace, knowing full well that it wasn’t your best work that was rejected anyway. 

And don’t waste time with a marketing plan or research.  Just find some names in a directory or book and mail off some half-baked query letters.  The rejection slips will give you the perfect excuse to end the writing madness once and for all.  Remember, the road to Heaven is paved with a helluva lot of effort.  You don’t need the pain.

Most importantly, cloud your mind and medicate.  Here, have a beer…and some donut holes.  Don’t you feel better with writing out of your life?  Now, shuffle up to that big plasma TV and sit down.  There, there; everything is going to be just fine.  Soon you’ll be unconscious.  Nighty night.

What!  Can’t sleep?  Well then maybe you should keep writing...and keep living. :-)


  1. I admit, I needed to hear this. Very timely. Thanks, Dave. And with that, back to writing!

  2. You're a brave soul, Nick. Best wishes. :-)

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  4. Those voices inside, and those around. Peculiarly similar aren't they? People you care for and admire advocating you away from matters they've never felt the deep longing urge for. Like the craving for creating what your mind puts forth. You listen out of love and you do it out of respect.

    With the flock in mind they pack you up a nice bag of advices and send you on your way.
    Best intentions sometimes leads the world astray.

    I WILL make that into a good story some day. ;-)

  5. Tommy, I like the positive twist at the end. Keep writing...and living.

  6. Hi Dave. I am returning for a second pitch. I have read, and read and come to understand - this is a process, there needs to be structure. I have rewritten a thousand words. In the end, I am moving forward with my original story; different, better but not yet great. I return to pitch because I now know, I can do that part better.
    Once an idiot, but not twice. And maybe some time even further down the effort, I will get what I want. You were a great teacher. Thank you. Ann

  7. Ann, so good to hear from you, and best wishes with the process. You have a writer's sense.