So You Want to Be A Famous Writer

by Randall Cleveland

Writing is one of the least-valued and under-appreciated occupations a person can get into. Seriously. Go check out Monster.com's listings for "writers." Check out how many goofballs are convinced you'll be willing to crank out six articles a day for "exposure." If you've ever had the privilege of working as a writer in a company or agency, you know it's pretty much a non-stop barrage of Could you please justify your existence again? and I'm not sure how to allocate you on a spreadsheet, exactly.

How do you get around this indignity? Simple: you become one of the greats. And I'm going to show you how with free, easy to understand lessons right here because I'm probably the nicest guy on the planet.

Step 1: Cultivate a Personality

Quick: name a famous author. You said Ernest Hemingway, right? No? Oh. Well, uh, I kind of had this Hemingway example locked and loaded, and it really only works if you guessed "Hemingway," so…

Oh! You did say Ernest Hemingway! Great! Now: do you think anyone would give two craps about Ernest Hemingway if he wasn't the WWI version of Hunter S. Thompson? All the most famous authors have one thing in common: crippling issues with addiction, depression, and/or sexual deviance. These are what we in the business call eccentricities, and every author has 'em. You'll need to develop your own if you ever want any hope of literary success.

Hemingway drank. And shot sharks with machine guns. And got into fights. And survived African plane crashes. He's really kind of your gold standard, but there's plenty of inspiration to draw from: Lord Byron kept a pet bear. Philip K. Dick was schizophrenic, which isn't so much an adopted eccentricity so much as one imposed on him by nature, but still. Truman Capote ticked off pretty much everyone he knew by mocking them in his works. Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with rocks and walked into a river.

The point is you're going to have to do something pretty original to stand out in the world of authors.

But have no fear! When in doubt, drink. Mutter under your breath. Enjoy the occasional surprise outburst with firearms (aiming only at targets or other non-living things, of course). Go to parties and belligerently howl about the status quo or mankind's folly or the betrayals of kinship or something.

Everyone should have one crippling personality defect in time for next week's lesson on the easy stuff: Manuscripts.