Fame, Fortune &Failure: How to be a Writer


By Andrew Prenger

Chapter 01: Drinking

This is actually the most important part of being a writer. All the best writers were alcoholics or drug addicts. Look at Stephen King. While trashed he wrote Christine, a very terrifying novel about an evil car. Clean and sober he wrote From a Buick 8, about an evil car so boring I believe I hated my copy out of existence. The point is that declaring that you want to be a writer is akin to telling your family “I want to be a full-blown alcoholic.” I wish I had known this earlier in life. It would have made me understand the look of sadness in my father’s eyes when I told him I was going to major in English at college. There was a hint of hope on his face. Perhaps he thought that instead of wasting my life typing out worthless short stories I would instead choose the lucrative career of teaching high school English. That went out the window when I declared that not only would I major in English, but the focus would be creative writing.

As an extra kick in the teeth I also refused to minor in anything, thereby taking away any back-up career I might fall into.

Going to college is an important part of the process for being a writer. While there you will be exposed to a myriad of different alcoholic beverages which will allow you to figure out which best compliments your writing style. Make sure to pick a state college where there are likely to be parties nearly every day. Just wander around the streets looking for the biggest party and go in. Odds are there will be a keg somewhere and a stray red cup laying about, free you from the financial burden of buying one. If anyone objects to your presence at the party just say you know Bill and they will nod in recognition and leave you alone. If they counter that there is no Bill there just say that you got all those confusing Greek letters mixed up and head to the party next door. Repeat until you are successful. Being a writer means refusing to quit.

Don’t worry about class while in college. Make sure to attend enough so that you are not expelled, but don’t worry about endless nights studying for a test. You’re an English major. What you are there to learn about is how to bullshit. What is writing if not being a capable liar? Classes are where you learn your craft. You may have stayed up the night before trying to prove to your roommate that you can drink a case of Keystone Ice faster than he can instead of reading Wuthering Heights, but your teacher doesn’t need to know about that. Sit in the back row so she cannot smell you, listen to classmates so you can at least figure out which character is which, then if you are called upon for your opinion recite something you gleamed from the Wikipedia article about the “transcendental beauty” the most boring book about romance ever.

I have found that for me personally that whiskey is a pretty good drink. It does a good job of lubricating the thoughts and make them flow easy from your brain to your pen. It has the added benefit of making you look like a manly man. A man who can drink whiskey straight all night looks much cooler than one who sits there chugging beer. This will make it seem less pathetic when you have to explain that you are writing sci-fi stories in a notebook.

A good bar is essential to being a writer. It is your home away from home. This is where you will spend most of your time working on your craft. The best thing is that even if you go to the bar for three hours and don’t get any writing done you will at least leave the place feeling pretty good. And if you do managed to scribble down some paragraphs then you will think you are the fucking king of writing. Writing is your bitch.

The bar is a good place to get things done. At noon the place should be fairly empty. As a writer it will be socially acceptable to be there that early. You are a writer, nobody expects you to be doing anything productive with your time anyway. Hell, it’s a miracle you are up and out of your house by that time of the day. Reward yourself with a drink. The bar works so well as a place of writing because it is largely free of distraction. Think of your house, or more likely your basement apartment, what is in it? Television, DVDs, books, video games and your computer with its time-wasting internet. You will never get any writing done at home. Not with the allures of internet pornography and trying to get the high-score on Bejeweled. You need a place of concentration. Your bar is that place.

There are most likely TVs at the bar. Try if you can to stake out a spot where you can’t see the TV. This can be tricky because you also need to have your back to the wall so nobody can sneak up behind you and shoot you. If all else fails hope that all the televisions are turned to sports. This works even if you are a fan of sports television. The middle of the day is not a good time for sports news, especially during the weekday. Most sports are played on the weekend, so all the 24-hour sports networks have to go on are highlights from the past weekend, previews of the upcoming weekend and talking heads about sports stars’ salaries and injuries. After about thirty minutes the cycle should repeat and you should know all you need to know about LeBron James. This frees you up to stare at the blank page and consider what poor choices you have made in your life to get to this point.

Feel free to stop writing once your vision starts to get blurry. Remember to eat something so that you don’t get too drunk and become ineffectual too quickly. Bar food is often greasy and primarily designed to soak up alcohol, so go crazy. It is counter-productive to spend all night drunkenly writing the greatest novel this world has ever seen, only to wake up and find that it is all complete gibberish. Finnegans Wake already exists, nobody is looking to publish another one of those.

I suggest that you find a bar close to where you live. Or, barring that, one that is close to a good bus route. Do not drive yourself to the bar. You are more likely to believe you can drive home. This is a mistake. You are now a writer. You are too poor to get a DUI. While prison would be an interesting experience that may provide you with a well of inspiration I have the feeling that the only thing you would be writing would be your suicide note.

Having a designated driver is also no good. For one, it will be hard to convince a friend to go to the bar with you in the middle of the day on Tuesday. Even if they do agree then you are stuck in a situation where you are now at the bar with someone. You are meant to be alone. So alone. Perhaps you are unlike me and you have a true friend willing to help you with your writing career and will drive you to the bar, then sit quietly in the corner drinking soda while you work on your masterpiece and hit on waitresses. If so, I hate you, you lucky bastard.

Ideally you will want to choose a bar with some local color. The bar is not just a refuge for you to write in, it is also a tool for combating writer’s block. Look around you. See all those other poor souls in the bar that don’t have a notebook or laptop in front of them? They are non-writers. They are your muses. Look at their scraggly beards and unkempt clothes. Their defensive postures and hidden weapons. What are their stories? Where did that guy get that scar? Why is that guy limping? What kind of man drinks wine coolers? You don’t have to waste precious time coming up with your own characters since God has seen fit to provide you with them. Good thing for all of us God isn’t too litigious. And, as far as I know, he’s stopped being vengeful as well. I hold no responsibility if you are struck by lightning for taking my advice.

Starting with this step you are now on your way to being a successful writer. Who knows, within a few years you may be the next Bukowski. If not, then perhaps you’ve had a good time along the way until you became one of those sad guys sitting at the bar while some punk sits in the corner snickering and writing stuff down in his notebook. Go ahead, take your anger out on him. He won’t be expecting it. God may no longer be vengeful, but you sure as hell can be. What else do you have to lose?

3 thoughts on “Fame, Fortune &Failure: How to be a Writer

  1. I really like your style. To smash the words I’d use to describe it into 2 words “Sad humor” is the simplest way to say it. Although those 2 words do not come close to capturing the feeling you do in these two chapters. I am a creative writing major dropout. Emphasis on the major dropout. Without further limp compliments or telling you more useless information about me I just want to say a sincere I do hope to read more from you in the future. Also, sorry for any grammar I may have butchered. I did mention I dropped out of college right?


    • Sorry for the massive delay in writing back. Andrew really appreciated your comment when I relayed it to him. Seriously, it made his day, possibly week.


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