When the Electrical Book Cafe asked me to "write something that could help aspiring authors get to their goal," I thought, "What the heck is an 'Electrical Book Cafe?' It sounds like a B-side song from Smashing Pumpkins. Or Blind Melon. Some band with an adjective in front of a food." And then I thought maybe it's an actual book cafe, but then I realized it wasn't. It was actually an electronic book cafe, so then I was kind of let down. Until I realized it was an Electrical Book Cafe and More and then I was kind of excited and confused. And then I saw it was written by someone named Weeblos with a dog named Haai-O, which is what Ed McMahon used to yell on The Tonight Show. And then after that I remembered I was supposed to write about helping expiring authors to get to their goal and so I thought of Jack Kerouac's "Belief & Technique for Modern Prose," his 30 essentials for those who want to write. I remembered loving that list when I first read it, at the height of a Kerouac addiction that shifted to a Kerouac admiration and now is basically a Kerouac's pretty good. But I thought it might be fun to write up my own kind of list, especially as I'd never attempted to do something along those lines before so it would sort of be like hosting my own cooking show with Chelsey Sullenberger III. So here it is . . . Here's my
30 BELIEFs & TECHNIQUEs FOR POsT-MODERN PROsE (I made the S's small to be all post-modern-y)
1) If you ever have a choice between staying in and writing for the night or going out and kissing someone you love, go out. Choose love over writing every time. Every time. Unless that person will lead to an eventual divorce and a subsequent suicide . . . then stay in and write.
2) If a creative writing teacher ever tells you that you don't have talent, don't listen to them. They're just mad that they're going bald.
3) Read a lot. No idea what to read? Then pick up Andrew Calcutt & Richard Shephard's Cult Fiction: a reader's guide and read every MUST READ listed in the book. That's what I've been doing since I picked that book up at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge in 1998. And if right now you are reading Sarah Palin's Going Rogue and/or that book Twilight by whoever wrote the book Twilight, then you should be shot. And also you're magical, because you're reading this, so how could you be reading Sarah Palin's Going Rogue at the same time?
4) Write a lot. I knew too many "writers" in the MFA programs I graduated from who talked about writing but didn't write. Just like Socrates and Jesus. And since their MFA, they haven't gotten published. Just like Socrates and Jesus. They gave up writing and went to law school or medical school and now they make $170,000 a year. Just like Socrates and Jesus.
5) Don't publish on vanity presses. When I was writing for the Forest Park Review, I had to read a vanity press book. It was the most painful experiences of my life. OK, that’s an exaggeration. I had my collarbone broken. That was worse. And breaking up with my last girlfriend, worse. And living in Alabama for two years, definitely worse. Even worse than the collarbone thing. So I’ll change that reading of the vanity press book to 48th most painful moment of the last five years. Case in point--I'll randomly google a vanity press book now and see what comes up . . . and the first title I came across was We're Gonna Need More Arrows!: hunting adventures around the country and around the world. I haven't read it, but I have a feeling that book would make Going Rogue look like Dostoevsky. And to the author of We're Gonna Need More Arrows!: hunting adventures around the country and around the world, feel free to thank me for doubling your publicity on the book. I want a cut of your first royalty check that will never arrive so forget that I'm even talking to you right now but if you are reading this seriously have a sense of humor because I know you own a lot of arrows.
6) Get an agent. Put that at the top of the list. You have to have a literary agent. By the way, I should note that I don't have an agent, which means it’s sort of idiotic to listen to my advice about the importance of agents I suppose. So go on to point 6.
7) Go to Harvard. The best writers seem to come from Harvard Medical School and Harvard
Law School. That's because they have the money that it takes to become a writer. Being a writer is kind of like being a homeless person except you have a home and a laptop. If you can’t go to Harvard, then become a nurse. Major in Nursing and get your minor in Creative Writing. That way you can have a job so that you can eat during your crazy I-wanna-be-a-writer days. And you'll also know how to treat a sucking chest wound. If you can’t become a nurse or go to Harvard, then move to Ireland. People from Ireland know how to write. And if you can’t become a nurse or go to Harvard or move to Ireland, then become a wizard. Because, seriously, how cool would it be to become a wizard? Especially if you were a magical wizard and not just like a normal everyday wizard.
9) Go to writer's conferences. You won't learn anything at them, but the hook-up ratio at those things is off the charts.
10) Listen to 2Pac. I'm not joking. If you ever have writer's block, listen to 2Pac. And not just All Eyez on Me--I'm talking all of his stuff: 2Pacalypse Now, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., the Makaveli stuff. And listen to Malcolm X speeches. And get really competitive when you go bowling. That aggression and commitment will get your pen going. Does me anyhow. Oh, and don't listen to Nickelback. It’s physically impossible to win the Pulitzer Prize and listen to Nickelback at the same time. Although it is possible to listen to Nickelback and end up in rehab.
11) Other cures for writer's block other than listening to "Keep Ya Head Up" include travelling, having a severe gambling addiction, volunteering, committing a minor misdemeanor, going to a black church (going to a white church though has been proven to cause writer's block, see Harvard Review of Psychology, 1963), lighting a fire in a fireplace, being on the BBC, rowing, going AWOL from military service, landscaping, visiting a Holocaust museum, and baking.
12) Root for the Lions.
13) Buy my novel U.P., http://www.amazon.com/u-p-R-Riekki/dp/0979625564.
14) Like Proust, be an old teahead of time . . . err, excuse me that's from Kerouac's list. Which reminds me . . .
15) Read Kerouac's "Belief & Technique for Modern Prose." I can’t come up with 15 more suggestions. That’s just ridiculous.
Anyway, I hope these suggestions will help exhaling authors get to their goal. And if it doesn’t help you, good! What? Do you think I want you competing against me? I should have had this list be things like “Don’t read” and “Avoid writer’s conferences” and “listen to Nickelback.”