Innovative Ways to Torture a Writer

Everybody has that special writer in his or her life that makes them want to punch through walls, devour newborn babies, and set oil rigs on fire. Here are a few ways to make them squirm under the callused thumb of your literary rage.

  1. Send them links to places like this. Hey girl, this looks perfect for you—oops, mid-career writers only! Too bad you’ve never been published.
  2. Ask them to read long lists of numbers out loud. Every writer I know is numerically dyslexic. (When I worked at Starbucks, I would tell people their grande latte was “$9.36!!!” at least once a day. They hated me.)
  3. Invite them to incredible literary events in different states…because everybody knows writers are too poor to travel anywhere but the local soup kitchen. Sorry, dear, I’m sure the William Shakespeare Reads Junot Diaz…NAKED! Literary Hour will come to Gary, Indiana. Eventually.
  4. Buy them this incredible signed first edition of Tender is the Night. (Revenge is a dish best served when it costs upwards of $30,000.) As the salt tears of their gratitude splatter the floor and they kiss the fragile dust jacket and ever-so-gently crack open the spine, remark that you ripped out all the pages and replaced them with photocopies of Stephanie Meyer’s brilliant work, “The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella,” because you know how much they love the postmodern oevre.
  5. Give lots of advice—generously and freely. “I’m sensing that this female lead is actually a transvestite. You say she has ‘smooth glowing skin’ and ‘luminous high cheekbones,’ but all I hear is ‘stubble disguised under heavy stage makeup.’” “Perhaps this ten-volume novel would work better as a short story.”
  6. Offer your services—generously and freely. “You know, if you ever need an proofreader—a spellchecker, even—I’m there.” 
  7. After reading the top-secret ninth draft of their precious trilogy, I Was A Middle-Aged Janitor: A “Vacuum Cleaner” Novel, sit in silence for twenty minutes with a deep furrow in the middle of your forehead. Murmur, “Unbelievable.” Five minutes later, say, “Did you know that if you let your eyes go out of focus for long enough, the whole room starts to swim?”
  8. Say, “Writing…h’m. Isn’t that kind of like performance art?
  9. Give plenty of maddeningly vague revision suggestions. A classic: “Use another word here.” Alternatively, you can just underline every other sentence in a squiggly red pen without making any notes in the margins. Does “squiggly underline” mean “I love this part” or “This makes me want to vomit all over your face”? WHO KNOWS?!?!?!?!?!
  10. If you’re both at the same party, and they fall silent, even for a minute (warning: highly unlikely), pat their knee, smile gently, and say, “It gets lonely, doesn’t it?” 
  11. Throw bricks at their head.

PS: I hope it’s not tasteless to use a pic of the beautiful Virginia Woolf…I’m definitely not trying to say that people should have tortured HER.

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