I was thrilled, after a very scary year of unemployment, to be hired as a part-time writing tutor at a local community college. The job was a perfect fit for me, and I felt right at home. Unfortunately, after months of devoting all my time to writing, my productivity began to suffer right away. I couldn’t seem to manage my time and deal with this new commitment on top of my old responsibilities or switch my brain back and forth between a working and writing mode. My creative output ground to a halt. I could not understand how I could be so responsible and efficient at work, yet so inefficient and unprolific at home. This simply did not compute. Other writers seemed to manage. I have read about those super writers who rise at 4:00a.m. to squeeze in a couple of hours of work before the day begins. 4:00 a.m.??? I can barely get out of bed at all in the morning let alone rise at 4:00 a.m.!! In order to exorcise this demon that was blocking my so-called muse, I decided to create some guidelines for my current inefficacious state. Since there is so much material written across the media, regarding how to be a writer and that wasn’t working for me, maybe a little reverse psychology would. So, without further ado, here are my guidelines for how not to be a writer:  

  • Be sure to have a monumental stack of bills on your desk. The stack will serve as a constant reminder that you don’t have two nickels to rub against each other and visions of homelessness will be so distracting you won’t be able to string a sentence together.
  • Have a teenaged daughter close at hand who requires a great deal of chauffeuring, with extra driving required for soccer practice, Green Club, chorus rehearsal, chemistry projects, football and basketball games, and other social events such as movies and birthday parties. If you don’t already have one of these young human deterrents handy, I am quite sure that there is a parent out there who would be more than happy to supply one or more for a nominal fee.
  • Take on all household responsibilities such as making phone calls (two hours on hold with the IRS last week!!!), scheduling repair people, running errands, grocery shopping, taking the dog to the vet, doing laundry and cleaning the house. You must be enough of a control freak to firmly believe that no one can do these things as well as you and you must never accept any offer of assistance with any of these chores.
  • Randomly determine that making snickerdoodles is absolutely the most important thing on your to-do list; so important, in fact, you must drop everything to make them.
  • Spend inordinate amounts of time researching MFA degrees because surely spending another $40,000.00 on your education will propel you to writing stardom even though your existing degrees and huge student loan haven’t brought you even remotely close to stardom thus far!
  • Spend equally inordinate amounts of time investigating mundane things on the internet like why the orchid has withered since its re-potting, a deliberate ruse regularly employed by you to avoid writing when things aren’t going well.
  • Waste lots of time dreaming of winning the lottery and moving to Bora Bora.
  • Last, but certainly by no means least, make sure you immediately retreat into a black hole of despair the minute any submission is rejected, Eat lots of chocolate while ensconced and refuse to come out thereby, yet again, successfully avoiding the laptop.

So there you have them! Follow this regimen closely and I can pretty much guarantee that you will not succeed as a writer. However, should you decide to create your own how not to be a writer guidelines, search carefully amongst the words, punctuation, and clauses. You just might find your errant muse hiding behind that orchid, mischievously eating chocolate, and patiently waiting until your back is turned before making a break for it to Bora Bora.

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Comment by Laura Janis Thompson on May 22, 2014 at 10:49am

I'm sorry! Virgilia, not Virginia! Pretty name! :)

Comment by Laura Janis Thompson on May 22, 2014 at 10:48am

Hi Virginia! I know, right? Even though our situations all may be different, it seems we all suffer. Our society demands that we do too many things at the same time, too fast, and that we do them well. No wonder we are all stressed! :)

Comment by Virgilia Campos on May 22, 2014 at 8:02am

Oh my... way to show me that my plight is not unique;)

Comment by Laura Janis Thompson on May 19, 2014 at 2:40pm

Thanks, Karen! Yes, that little muse is a dickens! She and my internal editor get into some regular mischief together!  :)

Comment by Karen Szklany Gault on May 19, 2014 at 2:14pm

Great list, Laura!  Perhaps the exercise of writing such a list would function as a dare to our muse to get back to work...and the humor could give us some writing prompt ideas in and of themselves. :0)

Comment by Laura Janis Thompson on May 18, 2014 at 4:09pm

Hey Mary Lou! So true, right? I work at a college and last week was a break before the term started. I would be totally lying if I told you how productive I was! :) No one was home but me, and I still found ways to waste time! Thanks for reading!

Comment by Laura Janis Thompson on May 18, 2014 at 4:06pm

Hi Deepa! We can't give up! :) I know you can do it! I have noticed lately, that I have finally learned how to tune everyone out. I can actually sit in the kitchen, and work on my laptop without hearing the dog bark, my daughter telling me the latest about her boyfriend, my husband complaining about work, or the variety of notifications pinging away on my cell phone. I am so impressed with myself. This is huge progress! I think I learned this skill from my husband, and honestly, payback is kind of sweet! Hang in there!    

Comment by Mary Lou Gomes on May 18, 2014 at 12:15pm

How true this is and easy it is to fall into these traps-even with out any children around. 

Comment by Laura Janis Thompson on May 18, 2014 at 10:41am

Thank you for reading! :)

Comment by Deepa Garwa on May 18, 2014 at 10:40am

Loved it! and the best part...I was constantly nodding and smiling. So I have a pre teen at home who needs a lot of chauffering ( almost every day), husband is posted in another country, so I am in charge of everything that needs to be paid or refilled or running errands and I just love Google! and I did I mention I  have a daughter with special needs too. So I totally fit in almost everything you've described and I thought I am so going to be a writer ( Who am I kidding!!)

thanks for sharing!


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