A Simple Formula For Being A Writer

Seventy percent of being a writer is claiming to be a writer.

It doesn’t matter that your brain has turned to mush and you haven’t written anything in years. You study the groceries and mannerisms of everyone who comes through your checkout lane, making up elaborate stories about each of them and convincing yourself that they will all someday be characters in your novel. You’ll default to answering almost every question with “I’m a writer.” Why are you 25 and still working in a grocery store? What are you doing with that empty Moleskine notebook you carry everywhere? “I’m a writer” is sufficient.

Ten percent of being a writer is not knowing how to answer the question “What do you write?”

Sometimes the words “I’m a writer” comes from your lips delicately and confidently – like the words on your Mother’s Day card, oozing with sibling-trumping charm and sentiment. More often than not, though, they’ll come up from your stomach, spill out your mouth and run for the door so fast you can’t catch them and shove them back. And when that happens, you’ll get asked what you write. The truth: you updated a WordPress blog once, but then never touched it again. But that’s not what you’ll say.

Instead, you’ll pretend working at your college paper was a real journalism job and make up a story about industry layoffs. You’ll say you’re “working on something,” or that you’re just “having a hard time developing this one character.” If that doesn’t throw them off their track, they may ask the next, most dreaded, question – “Have you published anything I’d know?” No, of course not. You haven’t published anything anyone would know, because you haven’t published anything, and probably never will. Defend your choice to not publish the works you haven’t written by saying something like “I’m still revising” or, if you’re feeling especially pretentious, “the world isn’t ready for it.”

Fifteen percent of being a writer is not being able to do math.

How much should I tip my bartender? Oh, fuck it. Have $10 for that one PBR I ordered.  Thank you, Mr. Bill Collector. I did know my bill was overdue.It’s not because I wasn’t trying to pay you. It’s just that I don’t know how to add and I didn’t budget and now I – No, I’m not kidding, sir. I really don’t know how to add.

It doesn’t matter how small, stupid or insignificant, you simply won’t be able to figure it out.  You’ll continue to justify your lack of math skills by telling yourself it doesn’t really matter. Still, though, you can’t shake the feeling that because of you, thousands of people are dead after you couldn’t figure out what time a train leaving Cincinnati at 9am going 90 miles an hour would collide with the train coming from Texas.

The rest is a hazy cloud of self-hatred and self-doubt. I’m not sure what that percentage is, though, because I’m a writer. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • Jack Andrew Martell

    I don't know; the reason I'm not published yet is I'm sure I'd slip and start saying 'I'm an author' and sound like an enormous douchebag.

    • Seymour Blake

      You're not published because you're scared you might call yourself an author?

  • Seymour Blake

    100% of this is true.

  • Jj

    Neat little piece

  • RC

    I laughed out loud at this. More, please!

  • Guest666

    this is some real ass shit doggie.

  • http://galbatross.wordpress.com Duke Holland of Gishmale

    Another 20% of being a writer is putting a crappy article on thought catalog.

    • PhermonousFan


      • http://galbatross.wordpress.com Duke Holland of Gishmale

        It's OK. Not everything needs to be beautiful, perfect or even worth anybody's time. And even if it is awesome beyond belief there's still going to be haters. For some reason, people enjoy making shitty comments, even me — a perfect person who has never wrote a shitty piece of shit (that was sarcastic incase you couldn't deduce). So don't let the man get you down, specifically this man. GODSPEED! Butttttt this article kinda sucked.

      • Allison

        Why? Why? Why? What? Why exactly? What? Why? Be more constructive with your feedback.

      • Sandy

        blog comments + grain of salt = sanity.

        it was a funny post, girl.

  • drywords

    LOL, I really identified with this ;)

    Most writers have a huge amount of self-doubt that forms the grosteque shape of Joan Rivers in their heads… or maybe that's just me.

  • Levw

    you don't know to just tip your bartender a buck or two for a beer? that's not math

    • Chelleshock

      Exaggeration of a simple thing for the sake of humor… if you don't understand that then you should probably just step away from the internet.

      • Levw

        it's not really “math” tho it's “reasons allison casey should step away from the internet”

      • Levw

        it's not really “math” tho it's “reasons allison casey should step away from the internet”

      • StingyBee

        Your writing skills are impressive. Please, more commenting.

      • Levw

        i don't think allison is gonna make you a mixtape just cause you defended her article bro. you gotta accept when a joke doesn't make sense

      • StingyBee

        Your face doesn't make sense!

      • Chelleshock

        Just because you are too dumb to get it, bro, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense.

        Also, bro? Seriously? Who says that?

      • Chelleshock

        It must be challenging coming up with such witty retorts…

        The act of tipping, in general, is math.  Yes, with alcoholic drinks the general rule may be a dollar or two per drink, depending on if that drink simply involved opening a can or actually mixing something. However, PBR is an identifiably cheap item that is always cheap no matter where you go, unlike a hamburger or cup of coffee for example which can vary significantly depending on where you get it.

      • Levw

        why not use the example of a hamburger instead of one that makes no sense? why force in a mention of PBR at all?

      • Chelleshock

        Have you ever tipped anyone who served you a hamburger that cost as little as a the average PBR? 

      • I Can't Think of a Witty Name

        PBR, hamburger, organic vegan locally made ingredient cupcake. It doesn't really matter. The joke is in that it's a cheap thing, and that it's hard to figure out a percentage, and she ends up spending too much because she's dumb.

        Joke explained, let's all move on. Also, LEVW, please learn to punctuate. It will really help your case.

        Besides, she's probably a vegan anyway.

      • Busted.

        I totally just got busted for commenting in the third person on my own article.
        Thanks, automatic picture putter-upper!

      • jenn


      • Allison

        Super awkward. That's what I get for trying to quell a dumb argument with self-deprecating humor. Oh well.

      • Levw

        i thought we agreed that math has nothing to do with tipping for a beer

      • Chelleshock

        LEVW, you are literally too stupid to insult.

      • Levw

        the joke is pretty clear michelle but what you aren't really grasping here is that it's not funny if it has zero basis in reality

        hamburger works, beer doesn't, using PBR as a cheap signifier is a questionable tactic, etc.

      • Chelleshock

        Actually, what I'm not grasping is why someone who lacks reading and writing comprehension, not to mention a sense of humor,  is reading a humorous blog about writing.

      • Levw

        idk michelle shocked i don't think it's too hard to understand what i'm writing

        maybe you need to “step away from the internet” and learn how tipping at a bar works

      • Nsain

        IM A WRITER!

  • Arsenio

    Not trying to be a dick but is it a requirement that everyone on this site have a super-affected bio like they're a Moldy Peaches song come to life

    • victoria elliott

      solid comment, would ride bikes/stay up late n watch cartoons w/ you

  • Someone Who Is Decent at Math

    I see what you did there. That's only 95%, showing that you truly are not good at math. (Or are secretly decent at math and are intentionally messing up as an exaggerated display of your poor math skills for the sake of irony.)

    • Nsain

      He's a writer :p

      • Nery


  • Mary Quite-contrary

    TC is too success-oriented

  • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

    'everyone' must love this because 'everyone' is a 'writer' and can 'relate'

  • NotAmathperson

    Two trains, traveling towards each other, left from two stations that are 900 miles apart, at 4 pm. If the rate of the first train is 72 mph and the rate of the second train is 78 mph, at wthat time will they pass each other?
    but in real honesty, this made me laugh.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ecnadac11 Constant Writer

    “Fifteen percent of being a writer is not being able to do math.” That one cracked me up. I haven't had math since high school, thank God, and I can't do much of anything, even simple math, in my head anymore.
    -Constant Writer

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