Category Archives: Featured

How to Pretend to Be A Writer

I’ve been writing in coffee shops for the last eighteen years. I wish I could say I did it for clever creative reasons, like I was dressing my characters in my surroundings, eavesdropping for dialogue, and reading faces for subtext, but really, writing in public just feels less lonely.

At first I entertained the fantasy that a manic pixie dream girl would pull up a stool beside me, glimpse at the wall of text on my screen, raise her eyebrow, and ask, “What are you writing?” (Which did happen… once.) At this point my goals have more to do with my word count for the day.

But I have been that guy, that guy that pitches his stories to baristas washing dishes at the bar, that guy whose day dreaming eyes lingered in the wrong direction a little too long, that guy whose head is so far up his own ass that he gives out his blog address instead of his phone number. You know, that guy, the writer who wears his identity on his sleeve.

Sure, I might have been a caricature, but at least I did the work. I was writing. I was a writer. I did the noun so I got to call myself the verb. Still I met my share of people who did one but not the other: men adopting the persona of a writer as a pretense to hit on women.

I call them “idea men.” They’re fun, charismatic, and commanding. They’ve honed engaging elevator pitches, but they don’t have the attention span to sit their asses in the chair and do the work. Their bibliography is but a theory. They’re the modern equivalent of the medieval minstrel, carrying on an oral tradition for the sake of flirtation.

I shouldn’t let these idea men get to me, but I do. Writing is hard. Finishing a novel is tough, selling it is tougher, letting an editor kill all your darlings can be even tougher still. If you’ve spent years crafting something that didn’t connect with anyone it’s hard to coax yourself to try it again, but those are the responsibilities that come with calling yourself a writer. It takes talent, training, and tenacity (and you’ve still got to get lucky).

It irks me when I overhear a pickup artist slip on the identity of a writer when it’s clear they haven’t done the work. It irks because I’m afraid that’s what other people assume I’m doing. I feel guilty by proxy.

That having been said I’ve written a how-to guide just for the fakers, the idea men, the pick up artists. I dare you to indulge me as I role-play with misogyny (and if this leaves a bad taste in your mouth, that’s kind of the point). Continue reading How to Pretend to Be A Writer

Over Branding: A Video Reading

Budding authors are always told to build a brand, to gain a following, to get their names out there, but what happens when they go too far?

Poetry Today: A Video Reading

Commentary on the state of commercial poetry in the form of a poem that reads like a dis track.

V for Valentinedetta

A Valentine’s Day poem inspired by that famous monologue from V for Vendetta.

How to Get Out of Conversations about Trump by Pitching Your Fiction

How many times has this happened to you: your friends invite you to the bar and you arrive to find an interloper sitting in your chair?

This man, with his half goatee and camouflage cap, sticks out amongst the artistic misfits you usually hang out with. He slams the table, drawing the attention of the wait staff. He enunciates the words ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, like an alien who’s read about laugher and mistaken the onomatopoeia for the real thing.

Your friends look to you with pleading eyes, hostages too scared to signal for help.

The interloper flashes you a nasty sneer, a wolf signaling that this is his deer carcass. When it’s clear you’re joining the table he stands for introductions.

“I should warn you I come with a trigger-warning.”

He doesn’t shake your hand so much as he yanks it by the wrist. He says his name is Tanner.

You have to ask, “So how do you know everyone?”

Tanner doesn’t. He was eavesdropping, interjected himself into the conversation, and played musical chairs until he sandwiched himself between the women. Your friends were just too Minnesota nice to get rid of him.

He’s your problem now. Continue reading How to Get Out of Conversations about Trump by Pitching Your Fiction

When Keeping it Real Online Goes Wrong

If you’ve ever researched making a name for yourself online then you’ve probably been told to build a brand, to simplify your complex personhood into a nuanced little niche that’s easy to digest. If you found yourself having trouble attracting an audience you’ve been told you need to be more authentic, share more of yourself, and get more real.

A lot of writers take this to mean they should chronicle their failures while attempting to make it as an author. Master Yoda does say, “The greatest teacher failure is.” Why not leverage yours to endear yourself to your readers?

But what happens when you volunteer too much information? What happens when your blog becomes your therapy cushion? What happens when you tell everyone your career is fraught with long bouts of depression, nights spent quivering on the floor of your apartment, running the bathroom fan so none of your neighbors can tell that you’re sobbing?

At what point does your depression become your brand? Continue reading When Keeping it Real Online Goes Wrong

How to Be an Anti-Muse

ARTIST’S NOTE: So it looks like I still have some venom I need to squeeze out of system before I can get back to our regularly scheduled program. I like giving writing advice, but sometimes when I look at the state of things in online artistic arenas I want to burn it all down. I realize I owe my readers a debt of sincerity, but if you allow me one more sarcastic tantrum I promise I’ll make it up to you soon.

The Subtle Art of Extinguishing Creative Sparks

Don’t you hate how some people hold onto their artistic ambitions long after they’ve gotten laid for the first time? I mean, come on. They should’ve set that guitar down the moment their backs hit the mattress. You put a sock on the doorknob, strum out a little Wonder Wall, and cast that shit aside. Mission accomplished. Am I right? If someone is still plucking that thing into his thirties there’s something wrong with him.

The same goes for people staggering into coffee houses calling themselves writers, sitting there scribbling into leather bound journals, looking as pensive as possible, hoping some college girl will ask, “What are you writing?” I mean talk about a long con, and the thing I don’t get is why these dumbs schmucks go back to scribbling once they’ve gotten a girl’s attention. It’s like they’re backtracking the wrong way across the finish line.

The worst is when you’re friends with one of these rhyme-scheming stanza stacking wordsmiths, walking around wielding a notepad like a weapon that could go off at the first recitation. You’re a captive audience to their cry for help, forced to give an impromptu theory session under the guise of feedback. The indulgence is exhausting.

You float the idea: What if you channeled all that creative energy into writing a cover letter or technical copy?

Despite all your interventions your friend doesn’t know when to put away childish things. Everyone’s got paintbrushes in their attic, film equipment in their closet, and drum kits in their basement, but he’s still clinging to his hobby like it defines him.

He’s still dreaming about inspiring people with his creations, despite all the grey coming into his hairline. It’s really starting to bum you out.

Well, don’t fret. I’ve developed some tactics to neg your artistic associate into submission. Continue reading How to Be an Anti-Muse

How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method

So your writing is flowing too fast. The spark of inspiration has set your mind ablaze and your fingers hurt from typing. Stephen King says you should write 3,000 words a day and you’re lapping him: 6,000 words a day, 9,000 words a day. You’re so prolific your beta readers feel like you’re swamping them with homework and your inbox is teeming with acceptance letters. Even your coffee table is overflowing with magazines and collections you’ve been featured in. Everybody is buying what you’re selling. Hollywood has optioned so many of your stories that all your liquid assets are tied up in forthcoming films.

Your writer’s workshop has added nights to discuss your work. You to try pump the breaks, to give the other writers around you a chance to catch up, but you finish stories in line at Chipotle. You’re frequently asked; “Are you typing right now?” while you’re appearing on podcasts.

Worse still you’re burdened with an excess of self-satisfaction. People often tell you that you need to glower more. They say you’re one of those writers who is just too damn chipper. The sheer glee you get from waking up every morning is becoming a problem.

Don’t worry. I can help make you tolerable to your less accomplished peers. Just follow my advice for derailing your train of thought and you’ll be writing just as slow as them. Continue reading How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method

What if Depression Was a Guest Star?

Depression kicks the door in, struts onto the set in his popped collar leather jacket, and faces the studio audience. He spreads his legs like he’s mounting a horse, gives the air a one two punch and shouts, “Hee-yaw!” He punctuates that with a high kick, puts one leg over the other and spins 360 degrees.

Depression runs a comb through his hair, moonwalks back and forth, until the audience’s applause dies down. He snaps, points at me in the booth, and delivers his signature catchphrase, “Shouldn’t you be at home contemplating the meaninglessness of existence?”

Like Steve Urkel saying, “Did I do that?” or Bart Simpson saying, “Eat my shorts” or Arthur Fonzarelli saying “Ayyyyy!” the crowd can’t help but lap this line up. They know it’s coming, but they love the repetition, even if it’s bad for them.

Depression follows his catchphrase with this episodes subtle variance. “Those personal failures aren’t going to remember themselves.” That’s his way of clueing the audience into this week’s theme (in this instance it’s past failures).

“It’s cool Big D I’ve got a photographic memory.” This is where I’m supposed to make a space for his leather chaps in the booth.

“The psychiatric community seems pretty quick to dismiss photographic memory as a myth.” Depression slides a chair over and sits on it backward, ignoring the stage directions completely. “I’d say if you really want to recount your failures you need to do a deep dive. Try to find the moment when it all went wrong and Quantum Leap that shit. Your last string of bad luck didn’t happen in a vacuum. You’ve got to find out what set you on that path.” Continue reading What if Depression Was a Guest Star?

How to Write Blog Spam

So You Want to be a Writer in the Information Age

Everyone thinks they have a million-dollar novel in them, something they’ll option to the premium cable companies once they get it started, but you’ve transcended those theoretical thinkers and become a doer. You’ve put in your time at the coffee shop, gritted your teeth through bad dub-step, and put your magnum opus on paper. Now you’re thinking of shopping it around.

The problem is you’re just now reading articles that tell you you’ve done it all backwards. You put the cart before the horse. You were supposed to build a website first, develop a strong social media presence, and then get your novel published. You spent all your time honing your writing skills when you should’ve been practicing selling, so saith the social media gurus you’ve found and they speak with authority.

Build Thy Brand

These social media gurus, these masters of marketing, these grand clerics of the click-through insist writers build a brand before they do anything. A brand is an online presence that represents your unique perspective, beliefs, and voice, and by unique, of course, they mean nothing so emotionally vulnerable that someone might find it depressing, nothing so quirky that people without a sense of humor won’t get it, nothing so seedy it couldn’t be read in classroom, nothing with references your grand parents won’t catch, and nothing remotely political. Continue reading How to Write Blog Spam