How to Become a "Writer"
Claudie Ann Seaman Award
Runner-Up for Creative Nonfiction
Dehydrate. Teach yourself to embrace thirst. After some time, it will feel more natural for your lips to be parched than moist. Once you have conquered this physical desire, you can move on to procrastination. Mental desires are always more difficult to conquer, and you must start slow.
Listen to Eleanor Rigby on repeat for at least four hours. Write extensively about all the lonely people. You will produce trash, but in the moment, let it feel like gold. Drink the Beatles like they are your life blood. The writing you produce under their influence will likely be abysmal, but you will have written.
Cry in a corner. Let the tear tracks scar into your skin. Look in a mirror. Write. Think of all the acne you’re eradicating, drying your cheeks with salt like that. Write. Write. Write.
Stretch. Let your hamstrings groan daily. Devote yourself to freeing your body from that plodding, insistent ache you feel when you lean into your straddle. Hold every position for exactly fifty-seven seconds. Do not count; set a timer, and brainstorm while you stretch. The timer will surprise you every time.
Dress warmly. You will find, after confining yourself to an office chair for a sufficient amount of time, that your limbs grow cold and hard. You will need blankets, warm milk, and soft lighting.
Do one hundred squats every day for a month. You will surprise yourself. It will be painful. You will succeed. In the following month, write 2,000 words every day. Tell yourself this task is easier. It will still feel harder. It will be painful. And yet you will still succeed.
Color-code your wardrobe. Alphabetize your books. Set alarms, and obey them. Wash your face morning and night. Floss everyday. Breathe slowly. You will fail at all of these things.
Bake often. Modify every recipe you encounter. Play loud music while you work. Do not indulge yourself in eating as you work. Imagine you are creating something incredible. When you finish, you will realize your work is impermanent, by definition. Either it will become trash, or it will become feces. Neither is preferable. Recognize that words are also food. Accept this. Eat. You will be starving. After eating, do not forget to relieve yourself.
Carry a notebook everywhere you go. Ignore it. Emptiness is far more inspiring than satisfaction; you are giving yourself an infinity to work with, rather than finitude.
Imagine a strong-willed cat is following you wherever you go, and she is judging your every action. Internalize these fears. Write them down. They will become the stuff of poetry.
Talk to yourself. This is writing. Write down much later what you believe you had been saying. It will be much better the second time around.
Eat lots of fiber. While on the toilet, do not bring a cell phone, book, or any other form of entertainment. Think in silence. Wait. The words will ultimately emerge just as easily as your excrement.
Read legal journals. You will be underwhelmed by the quality of the writing. You will think, I can do better than a world-renowned lawyer. You will become inspired.
Knit. You will find yourself interminably bored; you are full of words, after all. Shred your yarn into wispy strips. Tape this ugly, knotted tapestry to the wall above your desk. Write.
Look for wedding rings on every hand you encounter, regardless of age. Memorize those hands, and you will subsequently become captivated by the rest of their body. You will ingest those features and wonder, for hours on end, what those features mean about the person in question. You will find no definite answers. Keep searching.
Avoid cardboard jigsaws like the plague. Quench your thirst for puzzles with words. You will feel much better about yourself afterwards. Imagine every word is a puzzle piece; each belongs somewhere, and some are easier to place than others, but none’s purpose is obvious. Do not try to build a story without foundations; do not try to build a puzzle starting from the center. Corners are your lifelines. Cement them. Obey them.
Associate with animals. Befriend dogs; become cordial with cats; respect fish. Be wary of rabbits; they scratch. Recognize the values of these creatures despite their inability to understand language. Study the way you communicate. It is all tone of voice, and physical gestures. These are important. Internalize this knowledge. Apply it to your words. This is how you communicate without words. This is how you communicate with only words. It is the same. Accept this.
Live in living buildings. Let every building you enter become a temporary home. Accept the walls around you. Investigate their pores. Let your shoes squeak on their floors. Let your hands brush their walls. Maybe this building will be gone in a decade, struck down by a developer. Maybe that building will be demolished in thirty. Maybe this building will crumble in one hundred. Maybe that one will last a millennia. Recognize this: buildings are difficult to build; buildings are viciously encompassing while alive. Buildings are also easy to destroy. Understanding this is crucial. Your words are structures, and can be crushed with ease. But they can also last. It just matters how you structure them, and how they are valued by others.
Above all, do not forget to write. Tell yourself it is time to write. It is time to write. Excuses are only borne of fear. Conquer these fears. Write. Write. Write. At times words will seem like all you have. Do not underestimate this. Write. There is no way around it; there is no escaping it. If you wish to become a writer, you must write.
Do not be fooled by the title; the advice is not merely consigned to people who write. Anyone who has something to say but struggles to find the courage to say it will empathize with the sentiment of this piece. You will walk away a newfound confidence in your voice as a writer as well as an unwavering appreciation for what it means to be human.
EDITORIAL PRAISE FROM JOHNATHAN EIG, CREATIVE NONFICTION JUDGE
I liked the creativity. I liked the humor. I liked everyone of the tips, especially the embrace of failure and the toilet isolation. If this writer followers their own advice, I see enormous potential here.
Lara Katz is a rising freshman at Princeton University, where she hopes to study Classics, write for a campus magazine, and run a curling team. She is a 2020 graduate of Pierrepont School in Westport, Connecticut. Her writing appears in the National Poetry Quarterly, Bookends Review, and other publications.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR