How Not To Be A Writer


Have you ever noticed how many “How To Be A Writer” guides are floating around the internet?  Have you seen all the articles about what being a writer means, detailing tips to fit the bill, sharing the holy guidelines you have to follow to truly be able to classify yourself as a “Writer”?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.  Most of these guides are well-meaning; some of them are actually helpful.  Tips of the trade!  Tools of the craft!  Help for the struggling me!

True, there is a lot that goes into being a writer, but I think at its core it’s very simple.  We can break it into tiers pretty easily.

Tier One: Write.  There, you’re now a writer.  Woo!

Tier Two: Protect your writing time at all costs… write every day… set word count goals… etc. etc.

Tier Three: Write about writing (so meta, dude)… find writer friends… put your work out there!

Tier Four:  Only deign to write with a quill and ink because that’s how they did it in the olden days… shut yourself in a tower to fill rolls of parchment with your words… don’t go into the restricted section of the library… copy Hermione’s homework… master the Patronus before the dementors get you…

Well, fine, maybe that last tier crossed over into Hogwarts territory, but you get the picture: There are a lot of ways to be a writer, and some of them are hard!

You know what isn’t hard?  Not being a writer.  We all know how to do that (some writers are even better at not being a writer than non-writers), so I thought it’d be fun to make a quick list.  And here it is!

Twelve Ways to Not be a Writer:

  1. Always revise your first chapter before moving on to the second
  2. Send around your freshly completed very-first rough draft for everyone to read.  Actually, you should send that version in query letters, too
  3. Don’t back up your manuscript.  It’ll be fine
  4. Most books are better if you start with a 50 page prologue.  Those details will be important later so just put it all in there at the beginning
  5. Check social media and email before you write.  What if something pressing is in there that you have to deal with first?  Instagram is important
  6. Only write when flashes of brilliance (aka the Muse) strikes.  If you write at any other time the words will be shit anyway
  7. Writing is social!  Feel free to bring your laptop into a distraction-rich environment.  The best chapters are written while sitting at happy hour with your friends
  8. If you get stuck just bash your head against the keyboard to see which letters make it into the screen.  This one can also be filed under the ‘How to Actually Be a Writer’ list
  9. My next book idea is actually better than this one so I’m going to move on to it and leave this one half-finished.  *4 months later* Actually, maybe I’ll go back and finish that one book, this next one is dumb too
  10. Did you remember to revise your opening line?  It’s the most important part of the book.  Take a least a week to perfect it before moving on – you might as well get it right the first time
  11. Did I leave the oven on?  I should go check if I left the oven on.  Also my house needs to be deep cleaned asap I’ll be right back
  12. This book would have been better as a screenplay anyway

To be serious for a second, though, there are a lot of ways not to be a writer, and we’re all (read: I am) guilty of them pretty often, which is fine.  As I wrote a couple of posts ago, most of what we think are writing distractions are actually important parts of our lives – don’t feel guilty about making time to do other things every now and again.

And while there are many, many, many ways not to be a writer, there is really only one way to be a writer: Write.  So if you write, and you write regularly, you’re a writer no matter what medium you choose.  Congratulations!  Wear that badge with pride!  We’re all extroverted and super popular and party really hard and make barrels of cash (oh wait, sorry, I got confused again and meant to put that under my ‘Signs You Aren’t a Writer’ list).

Okay, so I know that the above list isn’t even close to all-encompassing.  What’d I miss?  What’s your favorite way not to be a writer?

35 comments on “How Not To Be A Writer”

  1. I thought one of your ways to not be a writer would be to publish a guide on writing. 😀 Seriously, this was great! It was funny because it was true. Keep up the good work!

  2. I do SO much procrasti-cleaning. And I can’t work with any unread notifications…

    There’s always RESEARCH (or reading wikipedia for 6 hours) and taking Myers-briggs personality tests for each of your main characters, and secondary characters, and background character’s second cousins…

    1. Hahaha yes, I forgot about the research and personality tests. Especially doing light research on Wikipedia then going down the rabbit-hole by clicking every interesting link you find and somehow ending up on the mating habits of prehistoric mice or something equally ridiculous

  3. Liked this a lot, my best way to not be a writer is to send my work to publishers to have them ignore it or say it’s not their sort of thing and wish me luck for the future.
    My real best way is to write what I want and what I feel.
    Oh and not give up!

  4. “Only deign to write with a quill and ink because that’s how they did it in the olden days”

    No way, man! A Real Writer uses a stylus to press marks into a clay slab. 🙂

  5. My favourite way to not be a writer is to get lost in someone else’s books, or Netflix 🙂
    I don’t back up my manuscript, not until I finish the book.
    I stopped checked my email before I write…now I play Solitaire 🙂

  6. Guilty of many of these…and yet, I still write, too. I think these should actually be under the heading of “how to be a writer”; it might stop people from thinking we can churn out that first book in a day, a week, etc. Great humor! Great post!

  7. Ha! Very funny post! Instead of working on writing my novel, I started a blog about writing my novel. And now I’m reading other blogs about other writers and their writing.

  8. hahah I LOVE THIS. OMG #9 is me to a tee and I’m absolutely guilty of #5 – which is why I’m here right now instead of working on my novel. Well actually, I’m at work, so I should be working..

    Reading this reminded me of this stupid blog post I wrote in 2015 when I was only a wee thing called ‘a very long list of words to avoid when writing’. The article was my attempt to be a pompous ass who thought it was okay to tell people how they should be writing. I think after a few months of following said writing rules, I was like f— that! Never again. Then I wrote ‘There’s writing rules and then there’s Chuck Wendig’ – to correct my blunder. So my favourite way to (not) be a writer? Is to avoid writing rules at all costs least I fall head first into a pit of #11

  9. #13: Halting your work on book 2 of a series because you’ve gotten 15 rejections for book 1, so you decide to rework that one…for three years… ( I loved this post, btw–thanks!)

  10. My list would read rxactly the same, including the quill, ink, Hermione, etc. Deep cleaning the house is the only thing I can get away with not doing right now as building work creates dust, and dust babies and grandkids. I’m writing. The deep clean can wait!

  11. Guilty! Of at least #5 and #9, which you know, because it was my recent post all about #9 that you saw, which led me here, and oh boy, now #5 has reared its ugly head again.

    More seriously, great stuff! And, congrats on going full-time, too.

  12. Hey Alisa, I’m not sure how you found me but I’m glad you connected. You’re a lot of fun. And that, to me, is important in all of this. 🙂

    1. Sorry, looks like I got your name wrong. 🥴 Nice way to . Oh brother…who’s Alisa…? Anyway, I’m Deb. It’s still nice to connect.

  13. Wow.
    Talk about energy and enthusiasm. This is some site and it’s just loaded with invaluable information on how to start writing properly. I only started blogging at Christmas so every tip is appreciated.
    And thank you for taking the time to read some of my stuff. I don’t write epics but I enjoy what I do.
    All the best from one dog lover to another.
    John Ormsby

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