How To Be a Real Writer

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Pretty sure this is the only blog where you’ll find writing tips via ROADHOUSE references

If you really want to piss me off, you can say the following phrase.  “Oh, I’m a real writer.”  At the very least, I’ll text everyone I know about what a goon you are, or I might sub-tweet you.  Maybe I’ll laugh in your face, or maybe I’ll go completely Patrick Swayze and rip your throat out, leaving your corpse on the floor of the coffee shop as a warning to others.

“Real” writers.  I heard that phrase a LOT in grad school.  I went to a grad program with a commercial fiction as well as a literary fiction program, and there was occasional contention between the two.  “Oh, I would never write for the pulps” (Yes, she actually said “pulps.” What is this, 1932?  Dial down the gaudy patter, ya loopy dame.)  “Oh, I write real fiction, but maybe I’ll write a sci-fi novel sometime!” (like it’s so easy, anyone can just slum it).  And it’s not just lit fic people.  I heard the “real writer” bullshit from people in my own workshops, who thought they were better that everyone else there because of some arbitrary metric, a goal post only they could kick the ball through.

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Book Swag and Temptation

I love writer swag.  Notebooks, fancy pens, tote bags, stickers with book quotes on them.  I drool over The Writer‘s monthly Take Note column, listing all the things I could buy to make myself a better writer.  If I sling my typewriter tote bag over my shoulder, people will know that I labor over the craft each perfect sentence in my masterpiece.  If I wear my NaNoWriMo t-shirt, people will see that I am capable of writing a novel in 30 days.  They will see me with my expensive pen and my leather-bound notebook at the coffee shop and murmur, “Yes, there is a real writer, you can tell she is very serious because she has a a scarf with books on it.”

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Lament

In times of sickness and trauma, my first instinct is always to watch cop/detective shows.  I don’t know when this urge started, but there was this sense that no matter what evil or illness existed in the world, Jerry Orbach or Shane Vendrell or Elliot Stabler or Michael Westen would fix it.  Especially if I was home sick — if someone was robbed in the first few minutes of Law and Order, I knew that, even if I fell asleep, when I woke up, Sam Waterston would make it all okay.  After I broke up with Aaron, my boyfriend of six years, I watched SVU in my friend Jim & Ian’s room because Det. Benson was a comforting presence.  And three nights before my wedding, I was up at 2 a.m. watching The Shield because I was nervous and Dutch Wagenbach always makes me feel safe when things were stressful and scary.

But today’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, and last week’s at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, not to mention the near-constant stream of fatal shootings by police, generally against black men, it’s hard to watch cop shows — especially The Shield (sorry Shane, Dutch, Lem and Ronnie*) — and root for the Men With The Guns.

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