Being a real writer is tough. Estimates are that over 90% of Americans think they ought to write a book. That’s about 270,000,000 wannabe writers. Amazon presently carries about 40,000,000 books in its catalogue. Assuming each book represents one writer (we’re being simplistic here…I have five out, in seven versions total, but I’m too challenged to do math that complicated), so what about the other 230,000,000 aspiring authors?
I’m guessing that you – yes, you, I know you’re one of them – can’t figure out where to start. Quite understandable. I didn’t know where to start, either how to write or how to be a writer. I mean, do you give up your day job and then sit down and pick up the pen? Do you buy a laptop? Or maybe just a notebook and a pack of pencils at Dollar Tree? And does that last- a lousy two bucks vs. three figures for a laptop – indicate a lack of self-confidence in your abilities or just the lack of cash because you told your boss to put your unfulfilling job where the sun don’t shine and you’re now unemployed and dead broke?
You’ve written plenty: book reports, laundry and grocery lists, teacher notes, holiday reports to friends and family. You may even be known, as I am, for your incredibly witty Facebook comments, and those trenchant sotto voce remarks to your BFFs while engaged in people-watching at Applebees and Church’s.
Maybe what’s kept you off the Amazon Best Seller list isn’t lack of proper writing equipment, but the sudden, inexplicable absence of your Muse. Let’s give her a name: Iphegenia, nickname Iffy. The rancid bitch has decamped, gone walkabout, skipped off on holiday, taken a bunk. No longer whispering sweet everythings in your ear. What nerve! You may have a terminal case of Writer’s Block.
OMG, now what? You told everyone you’re going to be a writer and now you have to be one! Or you could finesse, and merely appear that way. You could wing it. Hail Mary Pass it. In other words, fake it. But how? Once again, Auntie Shayla to the rescue. Here’s five tips that are not in my how-to-write book* for jump-starting your faux-career.
1. Find a quiet space. A corner somewhere, out of the way. But not too remote. What they think you’re doing is a noble pursuit and you should be applauded for such bravery and dedication. But out of sight out of mind is true, if trite, so maybe a corner of the living room or kitchen. Add a desk, lamp, coffee or tea maker, and a businesslike but comfortable chair suitable for weighty cogitation. Occupy this space for a minimum of four hours a day. Do not find a Selectric and type The quick brown fox over and over. Too trite.
2. Periodically, stare into space as you mutter a phrase or two. “But, Marcia, I love you…no…but darling, I love…not right…darling, I…” or “His fist hit his face…no, too generic…his right fist crunched…crunched?…crashed?…smashed?…smashed into his jaw…jaw?…cheek?…nose?…”. That kind of stuff, indicitave of a Serious Work in Progress.
3. Do not answer a summons, regardless of urgency. Iphegenia, even if she’s in Cancun or Phuket or Brighton, commands you, not your family. Exception: house fire, dinner, cocktail hour, Super Bowl.
4. When asked about progress: a wry, self-deprecating smile, followed by one of your usual witty remarks. If none spring to mind, use Hemingway. “Oh, just opening a vein.” Or, “We are all apprentices in a craft we will never master.” As a last resort, “Two thousand words. A good day.” or “Editing is such a bitch, I’m exhausted.”.
5. If someone asks to read: a sorrowful shake of the head and one of two options. A: “Not ready yet. It’s not fully edited.” Or B: “Oh, I never show my work in progress. It dilutes my creativity.”
These five ploys, while not everything you could do, will at least fool all of the people some of the time. And that four hours a day? After you’ve played solitaire for an hour or two and you’re bored witless…you might as well write.
* A is for Author is just the resource you’ll use when you’ve fired Iffy and taken personal charge of actually writing.