To Write is to be Desperate (No Book Will Help)

Early in the week, during a fit of desperation, I purchased Ariel Gore’s book How To Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. Last week my inspiration meter was about to sputter and break due to overload. I was staying up writing until 2am and then waking up for work at 7:30, but staying up late doesn’t agree with me so I started feeling lethargic, and the lethargy led to more resentment of my current full-time job. I needed hope and creative energy, and this book (with its title appealing to the worst part of me that imagines myself on The Daily Show, book in hand) found me as I looked for others on perfecting query letters.

If asked to describe it in one word, I’d say it’s “cute.” Ariel Gore wrote it because a young writer who had asked to meet with her to discuss breaking into the writing world died suddenly before they were able to talk. It’s written in an in-your-face, DIY, Gen-X type style. I don’t know if that is an actual style, but work with me. Example:

Think you can’t be a lit star because you’re a teen mom or a polyester housewife? Because you’re too tall or too old? In a wheelchair or in prison? Think again. It’s your funkiness that makes you special, memorable… famous.

I’m taking it too literally. I’m being too hard on it. Its focus on fame is tongue in cheek. I’ll give you all of that. The only part that truly annoyed me was the focus on ‘zines, because they are so unabashedly Gen-X and 90s, and as any of my friends can attest I have a special loathing for all things dated. ‘Zines are for some people, but the book treats them as though a necessary component of being a writer is to put one out. All of these are subjective matters, and if you want to read a cute book on writing by a Gen-X ‘zine maker, it’s probably your book.

Aside from its tone and the ‘zines, it gave me a valuable piece of knowledge: No one will ever respect my time and my space. No one in my family will ever realize that when I take a sick day to write I really can’t take my grandmother to the OTB. The knowledge doesn’t alleviate the stress of the situation, but the knowledge is that I just have to deal with it and not make it an excuse. Of course, it brings us back to the situation in which I stay up late to write and then feel like shit in the morning. The situation which got me to read the book in the first place. Maybe I really got nothing for my $13.95…


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