The Doing and The Done – 1/9/17

The Doing:

1. Realize first piece of flash of the year is an absolute piece of shit without slipping into pit of despair.

2. Continue drafting The Book which you haven’t done in like three days and don’t forget to fix up that subplot.

3. Start another story that hopefully isn’t an absolute piece of shit in order to not fall into pit of despair.

4. Cash paycheck on way home tomorrow so you can buy food and afford to have someone else fix your hair later on in the week (we both know you’re in over your head when it comes to the stuff on top of your head right now).

5. Additional quick-fire piece for optioned column.

The Done:

1. Post additional ads to finally sell the fucking $600 motorized paperweight in my backyard.

2. Yelled at landlord’s dog for shitting outside your door last week yet again, knowing damn well she’ll just do it out of spite and she has no sense of right or wrong or consequence because she is a dog and dogs are stupid but we love them apparently.

3. Find out which roommate fucked with the thermostat (not putting on blast because it was an accident).

4. Plan books to be read once done with books being read now.

5. Snack yourself to death at three thirty in the morning while taking German lesson on Duolingo.

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The Doing and The Done- 1/4/17

The Doing:

  1. Continue second draft of The Book and have done and polished within two months (Beta readers can apply but since like three people have ever fucking read this no point in asking here).
  2. More stories and flash and things to make up for abysmal 2016.
  3. Finish outline for True Story Book and brainstorm for The Funny One That’ll Probably Just Be a One-Off Novella.

The Done:

  1. Two or three short essays for optioned column in Leftist Political Magazine Which Shall Remain Anonymous Until Such Time As Can Be Formally Announced.
  2. First piece of flash of 2017 (and in four fucking months).
  3.   Look I thought I had enough important writer things done to fill three of these but it’s only four fucking days into 2017 and I did jackshit last year so what the fuck else could you honestly expect.

Top Five Ways to Avoid First Book Syndrome

There’s really no feeling like having your first book published. The world opens up to you, if for but a brief moment; the sun comes out, the birds sing your name in exalted praise, and at last you become A Writer Who’s Made It.

I guess.

I actually have no idea what this feels like because I’ve never had a fucking book published. Stories? Sure.

Don’t look at me like that. I swear to God I have. Just been a slow year on that front. Been a while.

This time two years ago I was finishing The Book. There was a New York agent waiting for it. And I couldn’t wait to brag about the success and celebrate my first sale at the age of nineteen and roll in the royalties.

By December that deal had fallen to absolute shit and I was left with a hundred-page-long brick of tattooed tree flesh and crippling self-doubt and a raging desperation to fix something I’d never realized I’d completely fucking broken while trying to make perfect.

My debut.

First Book Syndrome is a devastating ailment that can affect any one of us. Here are five things we can all do to try avoiding it.

 

    1. Get Your Head Out Of Your Rectum

By the time I’d sold my first story in February of 2014 The Book was already almost halfway done.  I was ready to be a writer. Do this professionally. Learn how to balance the day job and making words and a social life (BAHAHAHA just kidding on that last thing).

By the time the first draft was done that summer my head was already in the clouds and up my ass. I imagined the movie that’d follow this, the title sequence and the opening shots to a film that’d be made five years down the road because this book was so groundbreaking and original that all the studios would be begging and bidding millions of dollars for the story from me, a poor kid from a small Connecticut city, a child prodigy with a weird name who maybe had a clue about what he was doing.

He didn’t. His head stayed firmly up his ass until that rejection came and opened his eyes back up and he realized that he should have focused on it more and been able to quit the dreaming and look at the book for what it was: a hundred pages of a story from someone not even old enough to drink written in first person with a small cast of characters.

I thought I could sell it, but I’d only sold it to myself all along.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a little self-encouragement. Every writer needs it because we all have nights where we suffer from existential crises and tears flood our pens and notebooks and keyboards and the words don’t come alive and nothing works and OH GOD MAKE IT STOP WHY DO I CONTINUE DOING THIS.

Right? I’m not the only one right? Please tell me I’m not alone. For the love of God tell me I’m not alone.

When it comes to hype, have faith enough to get you through, but not too much that you’re blind to your own mistakes.

 

   2. Outside Opinions Are A Thing So Use Them

This was supposed to be The First Book. The one that’d actually get me there. I was adamant about this. So I never shut the fuck up about it and demanded the people around me have a read and let me know what they think and what if anything was wrong with it.

Not like anything was wrong with it.

They’d tell me it was amazing, because it was amazing, because duh.

One copy to a friend who has it on the same shelf in his room. It hasn’t moved in almost three years. But he said it was good. So there’s that.

Next to my new landlord, who said she absolutely loved it, which was nice.

Next to the girl I chased. She took notes and actually seemed engaged about it. Good sign right? She was even able to critique where it was weak and suggested how I could fix it. By Fall I had another draft coming with all suggestions integrated.

They helped open the door.

To my asshole, in this metaphor, so my head could begin to slide back out.

No book is perfect. Mine wasn’t. Yours isn’t. And sometimes in the midst of what you’re doing you lose track of how well you’re doing it. A second opinion never hurts. And if it does, well, you’re in the wrong fucking business.

 

    3. Learn the Craft

This may sound cliché to a lot of you but it’s cliché because it’s sad how often this happens. Someone you know hears you’re a writer and wants to be one too and has always wanted to be a writer and make books and be smart and pick up chicks at Starbucks and has the best idea for one and dude you should totally hear them out on it.

They go get a professional author’s photo taken (or just put on some glasses and have a family member do it) and don’t shut the fuck up for three weeks straight about how brilliant it is and how it’ll change everything. It’s an amazing book, believe me. They know good stories. They use the best words. They’re great with the words.

Oh yeah and there’s the essential step: they never fucking write it. They move on to something else or forget about it or tuck it away until they feel “ready” to write again in, like, six years, when the cycle repeats itself.

News flash to these people whom I’ve reduced to tears and sent into their own existential crisis: You can’t be a writer if you don’t actually write. Now, I’m not saying never do anything AFK (Away From Keyboard, for all you non-nineties’ kids not in total cringemode right now), nor have I ever-you need to live your life. But you have to want to go back to the page sometime soon. You have to want to write. Even when life is hard and you don’t want to.

 

    4. No Drugs

Drugs are cool sometimes. Great for inspiration not only from mind-bending trips that take you to other dimensions and touch the hand of God (your hand’s actually in the garbage disposal, bruh, you should get it out) or the soaring highs that rejuvenate the soul or the hangovers and mornings in the gutter and seedy motel rooms and the mistakes you make that change your life forever.

Moderation, my child. Everything in moderation. But the stress of making a book and perfecting every word and scene and character arc and plotline and making sure the dates match and that your narrator’s wearing the same colored underwear across a ten page long expositional scene can drive you mad. And some turn to drugs, and some do it too often, and then do too much, and end up stoned off their asses six days a week after work (Seventh day spent crying because you used all the drugs. Horrible feeling.) and you get zero writing done.

So, easy enough rule, no drugs while writing a book you want to sell.

Okay, maybe just once.

But like not before you start writing. Because it’s hard to fight off dragons in your living room and scribble a coherent story at the same time. And some drugs make you lazy. Which helps nothing.

Also drugs are bad and get you in trouble and I can not condone any of the actions described within this segment.

Anyway.

 

    5. Hello I Am An Amateur Please Reject Me

I’ve made the point here before about how goddamn professional you have to be in order to actually make it or do anything as a writer. You’ll have to deal with people across the industry; from literary agents and editors and ad-execs (look at you, Mr. Big Time) to your actual fucking readers to other writers in a community you kind of have to be a part of in order to have any sort of that second thing I mentioned.

It is so easy to find yourself blacklisted after doing something stupid-whether insulting the suicide of another writer’s spouse; or, in even more recent history, not knowing how to talk to a woman who has made it obvious that she is in a committed relationship (not that she should have to, but that’s an issue for another day), to asking another woman if you can shit in her mouth.

Make friends with people. Be nice. Joke around. Share dank memes. Read other people’s work and support each other and trust me, the writing community will open up to you and it will feel amazing to be a part of.

And when it comes to rejection letters, or query letters, or book submissions, or movie treatments, or anything besides the actual thing of words you’re trying to sell, be smart and read up on how to approach and accomplish them and be respectful regardless of what happens to it. It could be a bitter rejection from a story you poured your heart into, but if you take it on the chin and learn how to move on, you may just have more accepted and published and read later on.

Be immature about it, and throw a tantrum, and be an asshole; and get ready for everything you’ve done to come to a screeching halt.

As a newcomer, it’s all about momentum. You have to keep building it.

 

I wish all of my fellow noobs luck with their first book. I hope it sells well and becomes something to be proud of.

Just don’t forget to link me in the acknowledgments, because motivation and blog-based life-coaching can’t be free.

Or read mine, if that day ever comes. That’d help too.

 

What I Need My Republican Peers to Understand About Their Hurting Friends

What I Need My Republican Peers to Understand About Their Hurting Friends

“Next time you whine, remember:

You thought this was acceptable.”

Nouveaux Romantiques

It’s over. After nearly two years of unadulterated bullshit fromeveryone, the election is over, and my candidate did not win.

Exhausted and anxious, I watched as red state after red state appeared on CNN’s map. I was so in shock that I literally couldn’t bring myself to continue until the race was called in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and went to sleep teary-eyed, stressed, and devastated.

The next morning I, like all of you, woke up to social media post after social media post echoing the disappointment that lulled me to sleep the night before. People were astonished that someone as controversial as Donald J. Trump could be elected President, but a lot of others were just plain hurt.

This is where the lack of understanding from my Republican friends comes into play.

Upon seeingthe dozens of posts decrying the prejudice that colored his campaign, my Trump…

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A Juvenile In The Art of Living; Or, How Six Months Became Three Years

 

 

By now I’m used to the questions but it doesn’t mean they can’t piss me off.

They’ll find out somehow that I don’t own a car.

“You don’t own a car?” they’ll ask, and I’ll shrug and find an excuse. Say you’re saving money and it shuts them up for a second. Long enough to change the subject.

They’ll find out somehow that I don’t have a license.

“And no license?” they ask then. “Really? Are you serious? At 21? I got mine when I was fucking sixteen, man.” As though telling me when theirs was obtained will help me navigate the bureaucracy as well as reverse time so I’ll never have to have had this conversation in the first place or navigate the tense shifts required to properly describe the encounter.

They’ll find out I’m not in college nor ever have been.

“Wait, you aren’t in school yet?” they’ll ask, the look on their face somewhere between wonder, contempt, and worry; as though their concern actually means anything to me anymore. “Why not?”

These are the hardest ones to answer. Why at twenty-one years old I have stories published amid a hopefully budding career but no college degree nor a license or a car to my name and can count on my hands the number of times I’ve driven one.

Well, I’m giving myself some space here to answer that. Sit back and observe my failures in spectacular and painful fashion before your very eyes.

 

  1. Why No College

I remember walking into my guidance counselor’s office during the last few months of my senior year to that stern look on her face again. I never liked that stern look. My defenses went up automatically.

“You haven’t been all that honest with me,” she said. I said nothing back. No point in trying to crawl my way out of this. I’d been keeping secrets my entire school career. I was a pro at it by now. Sure it made me a lying deceitful little piece of shit but it kept my school life stable. They didn’t need to know what went on when I got off the bus and walked to the mysterious house they were never able to follow me to. Which one could it be? I thought, waiting.

“I learned that your mom’s been in-” She trailed off for a second, that sorry look in her eyes amplified suddenly. “-Jail.”

The look dropped. I didn’t crumble. Still said nothing. Nodded acceptance.

“I know I told you you’d be able to make it to Eastern-” Eastern Connecticut State University, the only school I might be able to afford without loans that’d haunt me till I die. “-but Matt, you might need to take some time off and get your own life stabilized before you try going. You have that new job.”

I nodded again. Looked at the floor with hard eyes and back up at her.

“Save up. The money is yours. You have to remember that you were homeless two years ago.”

She stops to get her emphasis across. I nod again. A secret I’d also kept all this time. Only slipped once. When overtired to a friend who hadn’t told a soul in the remaining time I knew him. I couldn’t imagine how I’d be treated if it came out. How I could ever look any of them in the face again.

“You’ll get there. It just might take a little longer because you were born into something outside of your control. And when you do make it-whether you’re a writer or a Spanish teacher or a social worker, you’ll know what it feels like. And that sympathy? It’ll make you even better at whatever you decide to do.”

I’m not here to talk about what happened in that six-month-little-longer-time after I graduated. I turned eighteen that October. I was gone by that December. I was on my own. College had never felt so far away.

I guess I just got used to it. College is a means to an end. I don’t want to be enslaved by loan debt with a degree that does nothing but hang on my wall. What the hell would I want to study anyway? Not writing. Writing classes kill me. Would I just find out eventually after a semester or two? Do I even need an education to survive? To feel smart? When I can read almost any book across any discipline to brush up when I need to? There are plenty of writers who made it without a college education. Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, to name two off the top of my head.

I’m not in college because I’m not sure if I even want to go. You can try to suade me all you want but I’ve made it this far on my own. I’m not sure how much thousands of borrowed dollars and a piece of paper will do. It’s my choice for my life and I’ll make my mind up eventually.

 

2. Why No Car

At first it was because of no money. Everything in those days was because of no money. I sat back idly in high school and watched all of them get licenses and cars and drive to school and go on roadtrips and have a chance to start living and I hated them for it. They were leaving me behind. The jobs I got were temporary. Two lay-offs from two places in six months. Family needed the money. They were first dibs. I ended up saving nothing.

Moving out and having something stable for work and a stable place to live meant no excuse. I was cheap. Always have been. Barely spent anything-most lavish thing I bought in 2014 was a used PS3 I still use actively to this day-and was able to save. Like a few thousand. Of course, no bank account and cashed checks helped. Keeping track of finances on a Draconian level helped. Being painfully fucking single helped.

So why don’t I have one?

The parents needed a loan of a grand and a half to save the house they lived in alongside the girl who might’ve become my fiancée if we lasted longer. I was going to marry her. Eventually. I didn’t want any of them on the streets.

We split two months later. They haven’t paid it back. The case is in arbitration, therefore I can’t comment on it.

The new job held promises it still can’t keep. Easier overnight hours, easier customer base, better money. Being an auditor was almost a goal of mine. I am young and stupid and completely underestimated what I was getting myself into. What it’d cost to leave home at eleven o’clock and find a way home when I was off after seven. To work is almost non-negotiable: cabs. Fifteen dollars (that’s tip included) one way, five nights a week. Seventy-five. In the beginning, fifteen dollars getting home, every single fucking morning. Another seventy-five. That’s one hundred and fifty dollars from a four hundred dollar paycheck every fucking week just to make the money.

I needed another way home. Well, there’s busses. I could catch one at seven thirty and then transfer to the only one running to my part of Groton and meet other transfers in New London and back to Groton and run north through Preston to Norwich and take the scenic route through Ledyard before running back to Center Groton and by my house. Total commute time: two hours. Daily. Except for Sunday, the only day mine was the only route that didn’t run and I’d take a cab home.

With my luck, eventually, that stopped too. I’d heard good things about mopeds, scooters and the like. Fast enough to get you there, heavy enough to almost balance itself and make for an easy ride. Plus Macklemore has that song “Downtown” which makes mopeds cool. So after bitching and moaning someone recommended a place in Norwich that sold Chinese scooters (“Was,” because they’ve erased their website and fled town, I’ve heard) fresh off the boat at 49.5 cc (0.5 cc below the minimum registration combustion) for six hundred. I caught a ride there from the roommate.

“Have you ridden one of these things before?” he asked.

“No,” I admitted, “but I’ve heard it’s just as easy as riding a bike. Easier, actually, cuz of the weight.”

He said nothing. There might’ve been a smirk on his face.

We picked it up. Drove her home. It wouldn’t start for two weeks. I had various people come look at it. Got the parts I needed. Dealership couldn’t be reached. I fronted the money myself. The bike worked. I went to ride it to work one night just after a fresh repair.

I am young and stupid and did a stupid thing.

I failed to realize that the balance was worse the first night I tried taking it to work. I overcompensated a turn coming out of the driveway and almost fell on my side. Made it to the long downward hill going three miles per hour, legs on the sides to keep what little fucking control I had, and after another electrical malfunction I panicked and flipped her on the left side in the middle of the fucking road to keep from crashing her down an embankment.

Right on my ankle. Limped the bike home. It was ten thirty at night. I’d be due in by eleven. I called and told them what happened and walked an hour there in seventy degree weather with a hundred percent humidity because there was no way I would have time for a cab on a fucking Friday.

I was defeated. Got the electric fixed, tried a few more times, more trouble with balance. There is no point in trying to ride a bike that cost me six hundred dollars and was supposed to just be a means to an end. It sits in my backyard, now, barely eight miles to its name.

It’s also for sale. If you’re interested

3. Why No License

Little known fact:

The only decorations of my own I have in my room are a Bellator MMA poster that sat crumpled under my bed for eighteen months before I finally got the nerve to hang the thing up and a collection of self-written vanity cards that sit above the loveseat I call my writing desk, the scribbles on it composed of random inspirational shit to put my head back on my shoulders when my existence of endless failure catches up to me.

One of my favorites has been relevant all my life.

“Eventually: A word that needs to be struck from the English language.

Eventually-adv.-Never.”

I have put trying to get my license off since I left home. Some part of me is terrified of driving, of the responsibility required, even if I’m actually OK for someone who’s barely driven ten times in his life. I’m terrified that I’ll get in a car and immediately crash and kill somebody. It’s a stupid fear. It holds me back.

I love to drive. And I finally can’t wait to do it. After two years of putting it in the background I am ready. Two years of the only stability my life has ever really known. Something I am young and stupid and let get in my head.

Eventually, I’d tell myself. You’ll get it done eventually.

My permit I got when I was nineteen. Driver’s Ed I didn’t start until the end of the summer after at a place just down the road from me that had a weird system where they split the required hours into two halves. The first was done then. The second I was supposed to do this spring (Spring of 2016, for all you future people). The job and the commute home left no room for it. I vastly underestimated what the job would take out of me. How am I supposed to go to a 3 p.m. class when I don’t get home from a fucking overnight until nine thirty and am lucky to be in bed by noon five nights a week? They wouldn’t let me adjust the lessons around my ever-changing schedule. The erratic days off, the on-call hours I’ll never be paid for.

I was young and stupid and didn’t expect it from a newly opened hotel. I should have it by now and it pisses me off beyond no end. I should’ve asked about how clusterfucked the hours were and listened to advice screaming that I needed to prepare myself for it.

I could have it all done by now and never have to type this if it wasn’t for a summer that blinked away while I dragged through it. And that’s the regret that hurts the most.

 

The permit expires next week. I get it renewed the week after. I wasted two years and will grit my teeth about it for the rest of my life. I never want to taste this defeat again.

At long last I am ready to finish getting my shit together.

For now.

Career Suicide Is A Thing (And You Can Too) (In Five Easy Steps)

Let me jump at the gun first and admit that I haven’t been around for very long. Sure I’ve had a few stories published in a few places and a couple anthologies here and there and have had a few book deals dangled in front of me but I’m smart enough to realize that I’m pretty fucking lucky for a twenty year old kid who found out last week that he weighs over 130 pounds for the first time in his life. I could’ve blown it so many times. And the sad part is I’ve already seen plenty of people fuck all of their hard work up for the dumbest reasons in my small time on this small planet. We’re all fighting for a small piece of the pie that seems to get smaller every day. Here’s a few ways to keep yourself from getting kicked out of the dessert section of the buffet.

 

  1. You Don’t Know How To Promote

 

There’s a story I love telling. I was sitting at work one morning waiting to get off. Sorting through my Suggested Friends list, as you do, sent a few out for the sake of it. Did I know any of these people? Nope. But it’s the electronic way of introducing yourself. Some take it a step far and will immediately accept and immediately say “Hey thanks for adding me!” as a kind gesture if not a bit of mild schmoozery.

I do not like old people by choice. Might be because I’m young and don’t enjoy going face to face with a reminder of my own mortality on a regular basis (Forty dollars says I go bald by the time I turn fifty. You can use this blog post as a citation when I pay you). Also as a former host they usually bitch about not having window seats during peak times and don’t know what that stupid “compromise” thing is or why there are other people in a restaurant that serves breakfast at nine in the morning. Anyway some old guy from Florida was down there on the list and I said “fuck it” and sent a request.

Which was immediately accepted. To which he immediately replied with a message, transcribed below:

 

Him: “Hi thanks for sending!”

Me: “No problem thanks for accepting!”

Him: “I’m a writer!”

Me: “Wow, what a coincidence, I am too!”

Him: “Wanna read one of my stories!”

Me: “Um…”

 

His next message had pasted into it a five hundred word flash story about a little girl and her horse. It took me by surprise to say the least. It’s been five months and I still haven’t gotten more than three words into the thing before becoming violently bored.

Him: “What’d you think?”

Me: “…It’s actually a little hard to read here on Messenger.”

 

I hoped he would get the inkling of what I was trying to say. That sending a story upon immediately meeting someone through a social network only reeks of desperation and shows total novice.

 

Him: “Can I send it to you through your email, maybe?”

Me: “Sure, you can find it in my bio.”

Him: “OK!”

 

He fucked off for five minutes and gave me time to absorb what the fuck had just happened.

It kept happening.

 

Him: “I can’t find it, can you just give it to me?”

Me: “It’s in there. You can find it.”

 

I could’ve been nicer about it. But this was ridiculous. The guy was beyond not knowing how to network. He didn’t even know what networking was judging from what I’d been through. I’m sure (and I hope for my own sake) that every writer is at least a little socially inept (in order for me not to be the weirdest one in the room for once) but you have to have some common sense when interacting with real people online. There is a person on the other side of the screen. The Internet is a great way to meet people, sure, take my rendezvous with Aidan Thorn and his patient/lovely wife in DC a few months ago, and the future of publishing is online, absolutely; but never think that you can treat people online differently than you’d treat them in person. Online You is a reflection of True You, which is probably the most Buddhist thing I’ve ever written (go me). Which brings me to:

 

  1. Anti-Social Media

 

Don’t be a dick. Yeah, I’m an asshole all the time, sure; I enjoy memes about the meaninglessness of human existence and I correct my loyal friends about trivial things and use big words just to prove my superiority so often it’s become a habit and I end up sounding like a New England tough guy who uses words like “trivial” on a regular basis. I’m also so sarcastic it’s literally painful (“Ow! My everything!”) and I write condescending blog posts for barely ascertainable reasons. But I’m only directly mean to people who deserve it. It’s all fun and games.

But some people take it a step too far. Start arguments. Bad mouth companies, magazines, editors, and writers when bullshit happens.

Today one of my friends (I will designate him Friend A, A is for Asshole) dragged another friend (Friend 1) into a conversation about PC culture using suicidal behavior as an example and called Friend 1 something petty I’m not going to repeat for becoming disturbed at the content of this conversation because he’d lost his significant other last year to suicide. I used to respect Friend A. He was good to talk to sometimes. A little politics obsessed, which is natural in these times. Supportive of my work once in a while. But he did something unspeakable and treated Friend 1 with absolute apathy.  We cherish Friend 1. The retribution was swift. Immediate blocks/unfriends and we picked a side. Friend 1 over Friend A because Friend 1 is innocent and doesn’t deserve this kind of shit.

Politics is no excuse for a lack of humanity. A computer screen is also no excuse for a lack of humanity. I know he is reading this right now. What he needs to know is that the damage is irreparable. He has alienated himself from the only community that would ever support him.

He’s alone now, with no one willing to read him again because he has effectively stained his name. It happens fast in this world. He can only hope it isn’t permanent. I hope he learns that starting petty high school beef through a superfluous insult to prove a political point isn’t worth losing a fanbase over.

 

  1. Rejecting Rejection Letters.

 

This could also go under the category of “don’t be a dick,” and did until I felt the urge to comment on today’s proceedings. It’s also a large enough category on its own right.

Rejection letters suck. I know. Trust me, I know. I’ve seen enough in my life I’ve given up plenty of times. It’s disheartening. You want to reach through the email devaluing your life’s work, your absolutely genius prose, your grandiose genre-spanning story, and strangle the editor who can’t see it fitting in the only magazine in your internet bookmarks you haven’t tried yet or the anthology that had your name written all over it.

There’s two kinds of people. There’s real writers and there’s idiots.

Real writers react according to the contents of the letter. If the deal is done-if it’s short and to the point, no sign of them wanting this story back, maybe a little annoyance in their tone-do nothing and move on. Maybe drink a little along the way to ease the pain, or do what I did and pick up a pill habit after a string of rejection letters in my first year as an active published writer while my homelife spun out of fucking control, a story which has itself been rejected more times than I can count, including from a forthcoming anthology I’m promoting and supporting regardless because I’m not THAT petty. On the other hand, skip the third step and just keep writing. Yeah, do nothing, move on, keep writing. That sounds better.

An idiot takes it all personally. The editor rejected it because they’re a stinky poopoo head. The editor is worthless and a loser whose magazine doesn’t mean jackshit to anyone and will never be read and you’re too good for it and you know what it’s time they got a taste of their own medicine.

You reply and type something stupid and angry in stupid anger and the editor opens it. An example:

 

HEY ASSHOLE,

FUCK YOU AND YOUR STUPID POOPYHEAD MAGAZINE. I’M GONNA BE A STAR GODDAMN IT! YOU’LL SEE THIS STORY IN BETTER AND BIGGER PLACES THAN YOUR LITTLE PIECE OF SHIT EXCUSE FOR WHATEVER THE HELL IT IS!!!

Yours,

Mr. Nobody.

 

And the Editor reads it and immediately chuckles to himself and blocks your email address from ever sending anything to his magazine or any of his staff’s emails ever again. And contacts every editor and literary agent he knows (a lot) and tells them all how unprofessional you are. And now whenever you send that work anywhere, including places “better than his”, your name will come up on a registry of anyone who was ever a prick about a rejection letter ever. You’re blacklisted because you were an idiot about responding to something every editor and literary agent and writer will receive multiple times in their lives.

I’d much rather receive a million rejection letters than be barred from publishing ever again. But that’s just me.

 

  1. I Am Perfect So You Can Go Fuck Yourself

 

Read around and you’ll hear stories about writers who typed only one draft and then had it sent out and published without ever changing a word. Hey, you think, I could do that. I am the greatest writer who has ever lived. I know every word I put on page is amazing. I am incredible. My stories will win Awards. God, I’m fucking great. I’m gonna go jerk off to my own reflection for the fourth time today.

But you’re not. I’m not. No one is. No writer or human being living or dead is, has been, was, or ever will be. There is always room for improvement. I learned early on to never stop trying to hone my craft. Sure, I’m more confident now than I was with some of my early stories now that I have an inkling as to what the fuck I’m doing and how to balance a professional and writing life (personal is still a mess, don’t worry, I’m too damaged) but I know that I could always be doing better. I’m lucky to be here this young. I appreciate every acceptance and every dose of respect I get and yes even the wisecracks about my age (I am not seven years old).

I got a piece of advice once from one of my good friends, one of the best writers I’ve met in person, and one of the fastest friends I’ve made in person, Danny Gardner. He told me to appreciate being here this young and know how lucky I am but never let my ego get to me.

I hope I have a lot of time left to prove him right.

 

  1. Never Write Again

 

Stephen King once said that life does not support art. It’s the other way around. Simple quote from a great book you have to read at least once in your life-I recommend at a depressive episode after a few drastic failures and no hope on the horizon, like how I picked it up-but the lesson rings true and it’s a lesson I give to everyone. Writing isn’t life but it’s a way back to life. Okay, that’s two quotes from the same source. Get to the point, Matt.

I recently survived ten months of non-medicated obsessive-compulsive disorder culminated by severe symptoms and a bizarre borderline suicide attempt while on vacation. I got the pills back a month and a half ago. How did I come back? How did I try to stay normal, in the midst of all the weird shit happening around me-the roommate’s fatal overdose, the damaged but beautiful Canadian I chased for three months, the job change? I wrote. Not as often as I’d like, most of it unpublishable or in the case of the verses unlistenable, but what matters is that I shut all the voices up and I did what something primal drives me to do. I put words on paper. I tell stories. And somehow, now, I feel something close to normal.

Writing isn’t life. I still need time to do human things like shower and work and have nom-noms and chase women I know I have zero chance with. Sometimes I don’t even want to write. Sometimes with the overnight gig so affecting my sleep schedule I won’t have time for days on end. Going away from the page isn’t the important part. What matters is that, eventually, I try to come back.

The easiest way to commit career suicide as a writer is to never write again. If you’re thinking of pulling a Salinger and buying a cabin in New Hampshire and locking yourself in there for the rest of your life and feeling sorry for yourself until you croak, remember: he ran through three marriages in two different houses there and never got a word published after his second divorce. But he never stopped writing.

And as long as you’re smart enough to listen to people’s advice sometimes, and as long as you use that head on your shoulders, maybe you’ll have a chance at affording one of those big cabins someday.

Just save me a spot, will you? I’ll probably need the couch to crash on.