Saturday, September 1, 2012

Really Bad Writing Advice: The Power of Negative Thinking

All right, I get that there are people who swear by affirmations. They bound out of bed in the morning telling themselves that they are glorious human beings who deserve the best day ever. They put post-its on their bathroom mirrors telling them that they are writing the Great American Novel. When confronted with the hideous prose they wrote the day before while chanting “I am a superb writer and this is superb,” they tell themselves, “The worse the dress rehearsal, the better the show, and man, I put on a great show.”

I am here to tell you: Stop it. We all know what a sick, unhealthy defense mechanism denial is, and beyond the gag-me-with-a-spoon aspects of positive thinking, you are undermining the necessary and desirable angst, self-doubt, self-flagellation, misery, pain, and horror that will lead you to the frozen stupor of the truly great.

Don’t you want to grow from pain and have sensitive, artsy bags under your eyes that cause people reading dog-eared copies of obscure German novels in German at Starbucks to make passes at you?

So, in my continuing quest to wipe all other writers off the face of the earth due to a truly great frozen stupor, I have compiled a list of things you should be telling yourself:

1.) I can’t write.

2.) Even if I could write, which I can’t, I’ll never get an agent.

3a.) Even if I do get an agent, which I won’t, this manuscript will never sell because i) it sucks or, in the alternative, ii.) it is too, too brilliant and innovate to meet the crass demands of the marketplace.

3b.) My agent will hate this and refuse to try to sell it. Not to mention, any agent who took me on in the first place no doubt sucks.

4.) Even if this manuscript sells, which it won’t, it will tank and I will never publish another novel under my own name, which will be excoriated by publishers near and far.

5.) My dialogue is stilted.

6.) Even if my dialogue weren’t stilted, which it is, the plot is predictable/too far fetched/boring/not credible/derivative/stupid/non-existent.

7.) I am incapable of finishing, and why should I, because it sucks.

8.) I am incapable of revising.

9.) Even if I could revise, which I can’t, why would anyone throw their time into the black hole of this godawful manuscript unless s/he were a delusional positive thinker?

10.) I suck.

I think that pretty much covers it. Have a nice day.


  1. Excellent negative advice! :D

    Now if we all just do the opposite, we might just get somewhere!

  2. Oh dear, you've given it away! Thanks for joining, Ann

  3. Keep going. WE need you. Particularly like the idea of those
    sensitive artsy bags under the eyes... I'd always thought the kidneys weren't working properly. Now I know better.
    Just sorry you didn't describe the bearded spectacled brown tweed jacketed nerds who read those dog-eared copies of obscure German novels.

  4. Oh, Valerie, it's not even the issue of what they're wearing, it's that they're just so so much more artistically sensitive than you could ever be, and ever so much more discerning. And also pretentious.