Long ago in a galaxy far, far away I began writing a book—a book, which if you ever read, will no-doubt inspire great laughter when you read the author’s assessment of it as “literature”. Now to be clear, this literary Holy Grail is intended to, among other things, inspire laughter, but for reasons other than a convenient platform for mocking me.
I have a friend, who has been very supportive of me throughout the development of this book, suggesting at one point soon after its inception that she was addicted to the content. She was so supportive, in fact, that after I completed it, she bought me a book about how to become published.
The book, entitled Fondling Your Muse by John Warner, presents a humorous approach involving his experiences as writer, which is similar to the approach of my book except my book is not about being a writer. My book is about being a guy dealing with the opposite sex. Nevertheless, I enjoyed his work almost as much as I enjoy my own, so naturally, I became very a big fan very quickly. Among other interesting tidbits, the author provides a quiz to determine whether you really are a writer or whether you simply enjoy writing.
The distinction between those two creatures is that, according Warner, people who merely enjoy writing have a more normal disposition than a true writer. They are typically happier and tend to be better adjusted and more emotionally stable than those of us who identify ourselves as writers. Writers, he maintains, are temperamental, impatient prima donnas who tend to be on the verge of some crisis most of the time—drama queens to use the current vernacular. Bingo. This guy knows his stuff.
I have another friend who at one point stopped me mid-sentence during a typical rant, which was nothing more than a bitch-fest, to put me in my place (deservedly so by the way). “Guy, I love you, but you are a whiny pain in the ass.” She tends not to mince words and for the record she was right. It’s not an attractive trait—but I own it.
So about this quiz. The idea is that you answer the questions and score yourself according to Warner’s instructions, accumulating points as you go. After taking the test, I felt compelled to offer a few of the questions to give you a sense of the man’s keen observations of just exactly how writers tend to operate. Read them carefully. They offer a lot of insight into us, the pathetic creatures of the literary world:
Q: Are you a know-it-all? At cocktail parties do you find yourself constantly saying things like “Actually the causes of the Civil War were linked more with economic issues rather than the social injustice of slavery.”
A: On more than one occasion I have offered that very assessment nearly verbatim. I got 10 points but I missed the bonus points for failing to offer the following when my assertion is challenged: “You must be mistaken, but that isn’t really surprising given that you’re not as smart or as well read as I am.” I’ve thought it plenty of times, but never actually said it aloud.
Q: Do you have a deeply ingrained streak of self-loathing? Are you thin-skinned? When people criticize you, do you lash out like a scorned child, calling them “smear-meisters” and “pinheads” until you eventually scream at them to shut up? Afterward, do you spend a few hours rocking in the corner in the fetal position, worried that you might be a complete and total fraud?
A: When I read this question, an overwhelming sense of paranoia came over me, as though Warner was actually stalking me; watching my every move. A perfect score of 10 points.
Q: In conversation, when someone brings up a popular book, do you invariably respond with “I read it; it wasn’t that good.” whether you’ve read it or not?
A: Another seven points plus three more for “…feeling precisely zero guilt about dismissing another writer’s hard work so callously and without foundation or reason.”
Q: Are you addicted to any of the following? Give yourself two points for each.
- Gummi bears
- Fawning praise
- Injectable narcotics
- The New York Times Book review
A: I only scored six points here because cigarettes and gummy bears are bad for your teeth, and needles frighten me as much as writers employed by the New York Times.
Q: Are you addicted to any of the following? Subtract two points for each:
- Fresh air
- Intimate relations with a living creature other than yourself
- The appearance of your abdominal muscles
- Generally upright posture
- Dandruff-free clothes
A: Ouch. I had to subtract four points because, for one thing, I really love the very few friends I have. I also happen to have a very intimate relationship with my dog.
Q: Do you find a way to tell everyone you meet that you’re a writer, no matter what the context? For example, when your dry cleaner asks if you want starch, do you say “I’m a writer you know.” Or when you take your car in for a tune-up do you say something like “As a mechanic, you fix cars; as a writer, I fix the human soul.”
A: Ah; redemption. 10 more points.
These are only six of the 12 questions Warner poses in his quiz, but the rest of them were a little lame, and not really worthy of this blog. The score stops at 71 or above. I scored a 74. Now here’s the final straw: Mr. Warner did not bestow on me the title of Writer. He deduced that I merely had the temperament of a writer. OK; that’s not entirely true. After a rhetorical question aimed at himself, he begrudgingly admitted what I already knew:
Are you insulted that, instead of coming right out and labeling you a writer, I’ve said you only act and look like a writer? I figured as much. You’re a writer. You might not be any good. You might not sell a single word. But you’re going to be as big a pain in the ass as the most accomplished wordsmiths. Congratulations.
The verdict is in. Finally; a little recognition.