Wednesday, 26 May 2010

how to be a writer - part 3


Writing is an anguished, solitary trade. Unless you do it with other people, which can be even worse. There is no lonelier place than the writers' room of a top sitcom when you're about to be fired. You'll know it's going to happen because all the other writers start laughing at your jokes. These are the dark times for the writer. This is the place of pain. These are the mean streets down which you must lurch, nursing the black eye you got at the last place you were thrown out of. But do you despair? Yes! Plunge to the depths of misery, and make that dark, demonic pit the crucible in which to forge a new soul! (I'm on a roll here. That was good coffee.) Arise from the ashes of your agony, reborn, renewed, revitalised, and follow the path of wisdom and self-knowledge that was forged by the Masters of old: fierce, bearded types, many of them professional hermits who rejected all human society save for weekly meetings of the local Hermits' Club. But know that the path is steep. The road is hard. The buses are infrequent. For this is.... THE WAY OF THE LONER.

You are not lonely
Just because you spend all your time alone, that doesn’t make you lonely. It makes you a loner. Big difference. You are the Cat who Walks by Itself. And walking by yourself, incidentally, is a simple, inexpensive way to stay healthy. You’ll find yourself thanking the bailiff who re-possessed your car. Not to his face, but silently, to yourself. This is the Way of the Loner.

You are your own best friend
When you first set out on the Path of Dynamic Solitude, the idea of having a pet to keep you company may seem attractive. But scientists now speculate that dogs, cats and other pets may have the same needs, delusions and neuroses as the person you’ve just finished a relationship with. Why not grow a moustache for company? Women, don't be left out. Facial hair is cheap to maintain, and easier to get rid of than a pet. Society looks more favourably on someone who shaves off their beard than someone who leaves their cat in a cinema many miles from its home.

You travel light
Do you really need your so-called friends, who say they want to help you take your mind off your problems, and buy you drinks all night just so they can feel superior when you end up crying in front of them? No. Get drunk alone, at home.  But a word of caution. You may be the kind of drunk who goes through a gregarious stage. For some, the window is narrow, lasting only a few carefree moments between the stages of Infantile Hilarity and Unpredictable Aggression. But for others, it lasts until the people you're trying to be gregarious with club together to pay for a taxi, forcibly put you in it, and instruct the driver to take you to another town. When you're getting drunk at home alone you may experience a sudden urge to rush out to a bar, club, launderette or anywhere else you can find fellow human beings to tell them how much you like them. As a sensible precaution, before you start to drink, lock yourself in and hide your keys somewhere you won't think of looking later, when you're drunk. Don't worry, you'll probably remember where they are the next morning, or some time that day. And if it takes a couple of days to find them, so what? You didn't have any plans to go out, anyway.

It's your party.
If you really need a social life, your imagination is the best party you’ll ever go to. And, for once, you’re on the guest list for the VIP lounge. In fact, you control the guest list! Invite who you want; linger over the choice of who to turn away. The Adept in the Tao of Singleness has one priceless asset: time. So, let your fantasies run wild. Here’s a good one. You die stoically of a rare but painless disease contracted during your work among the poor, that you tried to keep secret but is now legendary. Imagine the look on your pompous brother-in-law’s face when what you really think of him comes out in the reading of your inspirational will, which is televised world-wide, and causes the parties in all global conflicts to resolve their differences! Also, you can finally give your real opinion of the screenplay that your friend sold through sheer luck to those German producers who were all a bunch of amateurs anyway, so God knows how the film ended up being so successful. And express your feelings about people who say they'll pass on your own script to their new best friends, the German film producers, but almost certainly didn't, even though you let them sleep on your floor for three months when they first came to London, for a very reasonable rent.

You are not alone.
Actually, you are alone, in the sense that you spend all your time by yourself. But you’re not alone in the sense that there are thousands, maybe millions of people like you. It’s just that you don’t want to meet them. They’re real losers, mostly. But you are a Loner.


  1. Beautiful. Absolutely totally beautiful words and thoughts. So deep. And painful. Because that's what the truth is. One day I may even face it :)

  2. Oh, thank goodness. Someone who understands the real reason I sport an abundance of facial hair with no animals being harmed in my pursuit of being a female screenwriter. I just wish the world appreciated us.

  3. Infantile hilarity - check. Unpredictable aggression - check. Can always rely on you to cheer me up after a long day weeping over my keyboard. Alone.

  4. Jes. Re-read what you haven't read properly.