satire, fiction and humor, writing

How to Be an Aspiring Writer

There are I-don’t-know-how-many books, blogs and other resources for people who want to know how to become a writer. This blog even has a post or two on the subject.

What’s sorely missing, however, are any guides on how to become an aspiring writer.

Works on writing are for people who are already aspiring to become writers. They’re not much use for those who are aspiring to aspire to become writers. One has to walk before they can run, of course.

The demand for guides on “how to become an aspiring writer” is surprisingly high. I see two or three versions of that question cross my Quora feed in an average week. Yet these valiant souls, who aspire one day to aspire to write, get completely overlooked by an industry that’s, apparently, only interested in reaching those who have already begun the aspiration process.

So: If you’re dreaming of someday being the kind of person who dreams about writing a novel, a screenplay, a memoir or a collection of poems, here’s the guide for you.

Acquire the Necessary Aesthetic

Most of the energy cost of being an aspiring writer is spent on maintaining a “writer aesthetic.” This makes sense; after all, the most important part of being an aspiring writer is to look like one.

One’s aesthetic is about more than looks. It’s an entire lifestyle approach that communicates to the world, “I have Lofty Thoughts, which I might someday Write Down in the form of a Book.”

As a newcomer to the adventure of writer aspirations, do spend most of your time cultivating your personal aesthetic to live like you imagine a writer having deep thoughts about nature and the human condition would live.

Here are a few places to start:

  • Clothing. Dress the way you imagine a writer dressing when that writer is the kind of writer you want to be. If nothing comes to mind, opt for dark/muted colors, turtlenecks, and berets. Avoid jeans unless you have no choice or you’re going for a “working stiff by day, poetic genius by night” vibe.
  • Diet. To be an aspiring writer, it is of course absolutely essential to consume only the food, drink and substances that the writer in your imagination would consume. Be realistic: You can’t actually live on coffee, cigarettes and hard liquor, but you can certainly incorporate them into your public consumption and/or find convincing alternatives. Attention to consumables is essential to properly fuel the aspiring writer within.
  • Haunts. I’m going to guess that the writer in your imagination doesn’t do anything so mundane as work in an office or pick up the dry cleaning. You may still need to make money and buy groceries while you aspire to write your bestseller, but that doesn’t mean you need to be seen in those places any longer than necessary. Work on spending your free time in places you imagine writers would frequent, like coffee shops. Just remember that these places need to be public. After all, the point of being an aspiring writer is to be seen aspiring.
  • Interests. As an aspiring writer, your primary interest should be, of course, writing. But every writer needs something to write about. Cultivate an appropriately aspirational hobby, like collecting Victorian hair jewelry. If you’re short on funds, “observing the human condition” is a classic aspiring-writer hobby that costs nothing.

Need a shortcut to a full-on writer aesthetic? Look up “dark academia” on Pinterest. What you’ll see is pretty much just my life, but better, for the kids have made it an Aesthetic.

Read Book(s) on Writing

As the huge selection of books, blogs and articles on How to Write makes clear, there’s a huge market for writing advice. Who consumes this advice? Aspiring writers, of course!

To make the transition to a full-fledged aspiring writer, then, you’ll need to read at least one book on writing. It’s best to make this book a fairly recent classic that other people have actually heard of, and that has no unseemly words or phrases in its title, no matter how good the content it. (Sorry, Chuck Wendig.)

When in doubt, reach for a book like Stephen King’s On Writing or Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Neither book will help you be a better writer unless you actually write, but that’s not your goal. Your goal is to be able to quote the book you choose as if it is the Scripture of your new religion: the Church of Aspiring to Write.

(You will meet members of rival churches. Be patient with them. Their benighted ignorance is not their fault. Lead by example, so that others may aspire to write as fervently as you do.)

Start a Piece (But Don’t Actually Work On It)

Finally, aspiring writers always have a piece in the works – but they don’t actually work on it. Or if they do, the work consists of anything except actually putting words on paper/screen.

Here’s the great secret of writing: Everything ever written got that way by someone putting down words, one after the other, until the piece was finished (or abandoned). But you don’t want to be a writer; you want to be an aspiring writer. And aspiring writers don’t write; they dream of having written.

To convince skeptical audiences, however, you’ll need to at least start a piece. Decide what you’re going to write, then create a title page. You don’t have to love the title. You don’t even have to have a title; you can call it “My Novel” or “My Screenplay.”

Write this down on a piece of paper, then put that piece of paper away somewhere and forget about it. Like a law degree, it’s only there so that you can inject it into conversations in order to score points: “I’m writing a screenplay.

You should, of course, strenuously avoid actually writing the screenplay. Go read another book on writing, or refresh Twitter, or Observe the Human Condition. Really, anything except putting words down on paper/screen.

Because if you start putting down words, you might become an actual writer – and nothing ruins a career as an aspiring writer faster than becoming a real one.


What’s your advice for becoming an aspiring writer? Leave a comment, share this post, or buy me a coffee.

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satire, fiction and humor, writing

Here’s How Many Calories of Turkish Delight Edmund Pevensie Ate

In my family, I’m notorious for loving Turkish Delight.

This Christmas, I ordered my own box of Turkish Delight, figuring that since nobody else in the family even likes the stuff, they’d go on ignoring my love of it like always. But, like every other decision I’ve tried to make in 2020 based on past information, “buying my own Turkish Delight” ended up being the wrong choice.

I woke up on Christmas morning to catch my husband putting the finishing touches on a batch of homemade Turkish Delight. And when our gifts from his parents (finally) arrived, there was another box stuffed in between the hand towels I’d requested.

For the first time in my life, I can say that I am in possession of “several pounds” of Turkish Delight at the same time. Which reminded me of someone else who once found himself in possession of several pounds of Turkish Delight.

In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, second-to-last child and Judas Iscariot stand-in Edmund Pevensie finds himself in Narnia after chasing Lucy into the wardrobe. There, he meets a terrifyingly white woman who styles herself the White Queen, but whom Lucy’s friend Tumnus has referred to as the White Witch.

Her Whiteness not that into Edmund until she realizes Edmund is a “son of Adam” – that is, human. That’s when she invites him to sit in her sleigh and warm up. She gives him a tasty warm drink, and then offers him a snack:

“The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable.”

Over the next several paragraphs, Edmund eats the entire box. He leaves the White Queen/Witch feeling rather cross and plotting to exchange his brother and sisters for “roomfuls” of Turkish Delight. In the text, his bad attitude is attributed to the fact that the Turkish Delight is magic, and that given the chance, Edmund might have gone on eating it until it killed him.

Even as a child, I doubted magic had anything to do with Edmund’s desire to eat more Turkish Delight. There were plenty of sweets I would have eaten several pounds of at one go if I’d been allowed.

As an adult, I doubt magic has much to do with Edmund’s mood post-Turkish Delight, either. Here’s why.

According to the manufacturer of this particular brand of Turkish Delight, this is one “piece”:

(Image: a hand holding a teaspoon over a beige background. The teaspoon contains a small cube covered in powdered sugar. The cube fits entirely within the boundaries of the teaspoon.

Traditional Turkish Delight consists primarily of sugar, cornstarch, rosewater, and the occasional pistachio. Some types are made in flavors other than rosewater, but they’re all, at heart, a bit of sugar and cornstarch boiled down to a thick paste.

I usually eat one or maybe two pieces in a sitting. Occasionally I eat three in one go, but I regret it.

This is the box of Turkish Delight from which I took this piece (same teaspoon included for scale):

A box of “Hazer Baba Turkish Delight,” with a teaspoon resting on top. The teaspoon is a little more than half as long as the box.

This box contains 16 ounces, or 1 pound, of Turkish Delight. According to the back of the box, there are about 33 pieces in this one pound. Remember that number; we’ll need it later.

C.S. Lewis doesn’t tell us exactly how many pounds of Turkish Delight Edmund is supposed to have eaten. We know it’s more than one, because Edmund’s box contains “pounds,” plural, and we can guess it’s more than two, because the pounds are described as “several,” rather than “a couple” or “two.”

For the purposes of our math, I’m going to say that Edmund eats three pounds of Turkish Delight. He could possibly have eaten only two, or more than three, but he definitely ate more than one. Three boxes equals about 99 pieces of the size pictured in the teaspoon above.

The back of this box of Turkish Delight states that there are about 50 calories in each piece. One pound of Turkish Delight, then, is about 1,650 calories. This is, very roughly speaking, the amount a 165-pound human burns in a day of being awake, but sedentary.

Edmund eats (I assume) THREE of these in one sitting. That’s 4,950 calories, or more than three days’ worth of calories for a child Edmund’s size, made up entirely of sugar and a little bit of pistachio. Edmund ate six and a half cups’ worth of sugar. In one sitting.

No wonder Edmund has a bad mood and a stomachache when he finally meets up with Lucy!


Liked this post? Leave a comment, share on social media, or buy me a coffee to wash down this Turkish Delight.

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satire, fiction and humor

Bad Carols, S2E5: My Troubles Will Teach Me Love

(For an overview of the Bad Carols project, click here. Previous episodes this season: E1E2E3, E4.)

At some point in the last ten years or so, radio stations started trying to round out the annual rotation of Christmas music by adding songs that aren’t really Christmas songs, but that mention snow or use the word “Christmas” in passing. I’m thinking of songs like Wham!’s “Last Christmas” (a year-round tune when I was a wee one growing up in the Wham! era) or Dan Fogleburg’s “Same Old Lang Syne,” a song that has nothing to do with Christmas at all except that the story happens on Christmas Eve.

“Pop song that’s not really about Christmas but is a Christmas tune now” has been a sorely overlooked genre in the Bad Carols series to date. This song aims to correct that problem.

As always, lyrics are by Botnik; music is by me.

Score is here [pdf].
Audio file is here [mp3].

My Troubles Will Teach Me Love

Inside my heart, but underneath
The sadness that I feel
Your Christmas sweater looks so ugly
I cry for you.

Chorus: My troubles will teach me love
For my neighbor’s washing machine.
Can I tell you right up front
Your sweater saddens me?

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