Don’t Become A Novelist

Most of my friends want to become novelists. The rest want to be screenwriters. It’s a calling, they say, and apparently everyone I know has it. I don’t even live in Brooklyn. How is this possible?

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be a writer. First of all, literary parties are disasters. They’re insufferable. Every last attendee believes that they are, or will be, the greatest writer in the universe. This includes people as obscure as 1) that girl who published some flash fiction in a students-only magazine six years ago and 2) the fucking social media intern who got hired by a small publishing house because he’s 22 and knows what a Klout score is. I’ve had more fun at NA meetings, even the sober ones. Which brings me to my second point.

If you want to be a writer because you think it’s going to be all cigarettes, whisky, and sex with bountiful literati, think again. Today’s writers – the ones who actually get published – are qualified, like accountants. They’ve earned MFAs and teach at universities. This means they worry about things, like their careers, and the debt accrued in order to attend an MFA program and become a Qualified Writer in the first place. And all of this practical stuff is about as sexy as being an actuary. So forget becoming the 21st century’s Henry Miller. There’s just not enough time to be a libertine.

Lastly, aspiring novelists are miserable conversationalists. They can only talk about themselves, or their unpublished books. If you have the misfortune of engaging one in even the most basic dialogue, you will, with 100% certainty, hear the sad story of “How My Manuscript Is Coming Along.” I’ve listened to variants of that confession at least twenty times, and it turns out that all these would-be writers have the same problem: coming up with a good ending. (And also a good middle section. But everyone has a totally bitchin’ first chapter. I’ve heard enough bitchin’ first chapters to put together a whole book.)

I can picture them on Sunday nights, gloomily thinking about not being published. I can see them making resolutions. They say to themselves, My stories are so good in my head. I’m such a genius. I just need time to get them down on paper. Next weekend, I’ll lock myself in my room and do nothing but write.

Don’t be like them. It’s not what you think it is. You want something else, even if you don’t know it. That’s what I keep telling my friends, but none of them listen. They’re deluded. An entire generation with a manuscript locked away somewhere. It’s depressing enough to make you write a book. Well, not me, of course… but maybe someone else. TC mark

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  • Do

    maybe i just hang out with the ‘wrong’ aspiring writers because all of them are rather bashful about discussing their work, even when I press. They’d much rather discuss the usual bullshit–books, movies, 90’s tv shows they like.

  • Anonymous

    writing is super dumb and for dummies

    that said, this article is basically just sweeping generalizations based on the few terrible people who share your social circle

    I’m very reluctant to trash articles, but this one is just “one X therefore ALL X”

  • xra

    this is why i play music… sure “everyone wants to do it” and thus there are a bunch of pompous tools involved in this pursuit as well, but damn it’s fun to do while doing, that is, the payoff is coextensive with the performance itself

    plus ever heard anyone say music parties are disasters?

    • NoSexCity

      You’re comparing apples & oranges, methinks.

  • NoSexCity

    I feel you. I love writing, but I have no doubt in my mind that my lack of MFA/desire for wild parties will keep me from taking that first step toward the Best Sellers list.

    … which is why I have a blog, duh. 

    • anon

      you sound interesting..i’ve been reading your comments and have read your blog.>)

      • NoSexCity

        … Interesting is one word for it, I suppose. Hope you’ve enjoyed what bits you’ve read here/there.

  • dahlelama

    As a totally failed writer, I’m always surprised when people wanna talk about how they’re failing at writing. “Man, I’m writing this great thing that no one thinks is great but me, and boy is it tanking.” How is that anyone’s chosen topic of conversation? Perhaps I need to introduce your friends to a move I like to call “mumble-and-change-the-subject.”

    • Aja

      Hahahaha.  You’re probably not a failure, it’s just rough out there right now.  Don’t give up if it’s truly what you want to do.

  • Aja

    This article made me laugh.  You’re right, everyone does want to become a writer these days.  It’s because everyone feels like their voice is valid due to the internet and it’s endless doors to brazen self promotion.  I like writing.  I do it because it makes me feel good and when work is slow, I feel like I have something to do with myself.  But I keep it as a hobby for now, until I can invest more into it.  But if one day someone wanted to publish something I wrote, I wouldn’t protest.

    • Michael Koh

      let me publish you

    • Michael Koh

      let me publish you

      • Aja


  • Klyne93

    This just sounds like an account of whining because you yourself are not an accomplished author. And judging by this boring post, I can sort of see why that is.

    • Anonymous

      Did we read the same post? Why do trolls love the “you’re just jealous” comment so much? Are you thirteen years old?

    • Immaho

      You’re stoopid. And you smell bad.

  • Acoates40

    I’m the Real Deal. Dropped out of Uni and Now My Life is Whiskey and Sex and a Novel that’s Finished.

    • elizabeth

      what is your blog about exactly? i’m genuinely confused.

      • Unreal Deal

        i don’t know what it’s either but his comment was a perfect antidote to this downer of an article. kudos to the attitude.

  • K.

    I’m just trying to say that my mom is a published writer. A college graduate, yes, but she didn’t waste time getting her masters thinking that would automatically qualify her. Writing is a gift, I think. You have it from a young age, or you spend your life convincing yourself that you are the generation’s Hemingway. My mom is tremendously modest and never brags about what she’s working on next like the hipsters your friends sound like.

    I just think you’re accusing everyone who likes to write of being a hipster without any direction in life, and not realizing that from J.K. Rowling, to a fifth grader who composes stories for his parents to read with pride, there are accomplished writers who do it for the love of what they do….Not just because they’re douche bags who want a free ride into a party life.

    • Anonymous

      That’s why he specified “my friends” (not “your mom,” “J.K. Rowling,” “fifth graders,” et al)

      • Niki

        No… I’m pretty sure he generalises and talks about “aspiring novelists” and “today’s writers”

      • Ronshaiza

        one thing is sure- he didn’t SPECIFY. read again kaitlyn.

      • Anonymous


  • sb

    Why are you acting like you’re telling us something new? 
    You know what else people grow up wanting to be? Politicians, doctors, actors, marine-biologists, and countless other challenging/”unrealistic” dreams.
    The people who want to write are going to continue writing, and the people who want to by physicists are, well, fuck if I know…I’m a writer.
    Your argument is essentially “Give up because it’s not going to happen anyway get off my lawn you idealistic hipster fucks”

  • Michael Koh

    don’t get an MFA #amirite

  • puzzlingcreativity

    Joyce Carol Oates once said “There is such a thing as writing, but no such thing as writers”

  • Anonymous

    So why don’t we stop making it so you need tenure and an M.F.A. to get published? Let’s start having parties with cigarettes, whiskey and sex and still write great things without a silly degree. Literary revolution!

  • Anonymous

    So why don’t we stop making it so you need tenure and an M.F.A. to get published? Let’s start having parties with cigarettes, whiskey and sex and still write great things without a silly degree. Literary revolution!

  • Joant Ubeda

    I think the simple answer is to write something good.

  • Michael Vickers

    I went to a party once (that wasn’t really horrible actually) and I stood in a group of about ten people and said some bullshit about how hopeless it is calling yourself a writer, or worse a screenwriter, and then we went around the circle and 100% of those people said that they wanted to do just that. I should have tallied how many books or scripts they actually read in the last year.

  • Amnesiacsiblings

    Everyone wants to be a writer because now everyone can write stuff on the internet and people will encourage them. Everyone thinks they have talent and everyone think they are the voice of the generation, and in a way, everyone i the voice of their generation via their blog– so that kind of ends up meaning that no one is. No one fights to get read, because they don’t have to– if you slap some shit up on a blog, a bunch of people will tell you you’re great. Maybe people with MFAs are just the only ones who have spent a serious amount of time writing through their own schlock to arrive at something decent and creative. To be a writer now, you do not have to be talented or creative, you can just reiterate every other piece on Thought Catalog about being mid-twenties and et cetera and people will relate to you, or something. I think it’ much more challenging to get that relation out of something with more depth than a cereal bowl. I am not a writer, but I am a photographer, and both of those things seem to have in common that jut anyone thinks he can label himself “I’m a writer” or “I’m a photographer” despite having very little to support such a claim.

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