How to Become a Writer

Rule #1: The thing you do MUST be esoteric and abstract. We are not looking for a physical finished product. So: don’t tell me how to bake a cherry pie, change the oil in your car, or build a computer. Tell me (for instance) how to approach a stranger, how to break up with you boyfriend/girlfriend, how to convince your parents to send you to Cancun, how to succeed in show business.

Rule #2: Your thesis (last sentence of your introductory paragraph) should detail what exactly is the task: Paul Simon sang that there are “fifty ways to leave your lover,” but with my formula, you need only one. The topic sentences to your paragraphs should detail each major step. First, secure a relationship with someone else.

Suggestion: try to find some ironic distance between what you write and what you mean. Use Lorrie Moore’s “How to Become a Writer” and Hemingway’s “Camping Out” as templates. This isn’t root canal, people—you’re allowed to have some fun.

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