Robert Cormack

1 month ago · 4 min. reading time · visibility ~100 ·

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Writing Tips You Won't Get Anywhere Else.

Mostly because they're rude, insensitive and probably right.

 

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People think I must be a strange person. That is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It’s in a jar on my desk.” Stephen King

Let me start by dropping a small bomb on the notion that writing every day will make you a better writer. That’s like saying if you talk more, it’ll make you more interesting. Frankly, you’re more likely to become a bore. Same with writing. You might be a bore already.

The skill of writing isn’t about continuous output. It’s about being critical. Every sentence you put down should produce incredibly rude comments, some of which you’ll find devastating.

If you’re saying, Gosh, that could turn me off writing entirely, maybe it should. If you can’t take deadly criticism from yourself, believe me, it’s going to sound a lot worse coming from other people.

Hell, I haven’t been on speaking terms with myself for years. I use an imaginary intermediary.

And before you start nodding away, agreeing that maybe you could love yourself less, I’m surprised you love yourself at all. I certainly don’t. Hell, I haven’t been on speaking terms with myself for years. I use an imaginary intermediary. I tell myself to fuck off, and my intermediary passes it along.

The Fuck You Payoff

Here’s what I mean by telling yourself to fuck off. Once you detach yourself from yourself, you can be far more objective. It’s like an out-of-body experience. You look down and say, “Bloody hell, you’re disgusting.”

It’s like humble beginnings. You’ve got nowhere to go but up.

Think of Stephen King for a minute.

It was either send Carrie to a publisher or use it to heat the place. She gambled.

Do you honestly think he loves himself? Maybe now because he’s worth $400 million. But back when he wrote Carrie, he had no self-respect whatsoever. His wife had to take the manuscript out of the trashcan. They lived in a trailer. It was either send Carrie to a publisher or use it to heat the place. She gambled.

The “I’ll Show You” Fuck You Royally Moment

Every writer of any merit — including Stephen King — has told their personal rude to fuck off. It’s not unlike telling your older brother to fuck off after years of abuse. Now you’re standing on your own two feet.

This is where every writer needs to be.

I call it the “I’ll show you” fuck you royally moment.

Instead of expected someone else to save your sorry ass, you realize you have to do it yourself. Even Stephen King had to realize that. Sure, his wife was supportive. She was freezing in that trailer. She would’ve told a goat it could write if said goat promised to keep her feet warm.

The Destructive Mechanism Known As Love

If we write as an act of love, we’ll never get over being goopy. Love may work wonderfully in songs, but we’re not lyricists. Imagine Stephen King writing his wife a love song. He’d have to throw in an axe-wielding murderer or rabid dog just to stop her from barfing all over the place.

Writing isn’t an act of love. It’s an act of surviving love.

We want to see what happens afterwards. Show us someone going up in flames. They can smooch later.

Think of Madame Bovary or Wuthering Heights. In each case, love itself doesn’t keep us turning the pages. We want to see what happens afterwards. Show us someone going up in flames. They can smooch later.

The Meaty Underbelly

Every piece of writing needs a meaty underbelly, meaning the reason why. Why does Heathcliff marry the other woman? Why is Madame Bovary a slut? We’re essentially gossips. We only care about plot if it’s worth repeating. That’s why I don’t understand plot outlines. Life isn’t planned. Nobody cares what you want to happen next. We only care what Madame Bovary wants to happen next. Flaubert hated outlines.

Find Your Bitch, Then Bitch About It

Someone once said, “Great writers have a bone to pick with the world.” That’s essentially true. Throughout history, any writer with any longevity really hated life. Actually, they hated dummies. In medieval times, most people were dummies, so you could get away with a lot.

Shakespeare fucked over society on a regular basis.

He even fucked over the Queen and she was paying him.

If you think about it, writing is one big bitch session with intermissions of love, loyalty and occasional lust.

If you read his plays carefully, he’s bitching his ass off. Julius Caesar, MacBeth, Hamlet. He obviously hated the pricks. They, in turn, hated other pricks. If you think about it, writing is one big bitch session with intermissions of love, loyalty and occasional lust.

And don’t fucking say “Lust sells.”

Tattooed heads used to sell.

They sold so well, eventually, they ran out of tattooed heads.

So they took heads and tattooed them.

See any tattooed heads now? Didn’t think so.

Stick to bitching.

By the way, Henry Miller died broke.

The Bounce-Back Philosophy

We all have a breaking point. The spirit that’s supposed to move us, simply doesn’t. Anything can break our spirit. Bad reviews, too many rejections, someone calling you a “fruit.”

Somehow the universe is always asking “Do you really want to be a writer?” The sane answer is no. Except we’re not exactly sane, are we? Who else goes around telling themselves to fuck off? Okay, comedians. They do it more than anybody. But we’re running a close second.

It’s like a basketball. If you don’t bounce, you aren’t in the game anymore. You’re a pair of reconstituted sandals.

What’s the universe really trying to tell us?

Only that bouncing back is part of the plan. It’s like a basketball. If you don’t bounce, you aren’t in the game anymore. You’re a pair of reconstituted sandals.

Some might call us reactionaries or masochists. Big deal. It’s better than being an anti-vaxxer or a florist. We live in troubled times. So does Stephen King. He’s made $400 million. The money’s out there, in other words.

Then again, we could fuck it up royally.

We could grow weak, or lustful, or worse, goopy. So many writers on social media have become one of the three. Goopy and lustful are the worst. These people would rather sink into the muddy flatlands of shallow emotion than find a meaty underbelly. That’s their loss.

And there you’ll be, standing on your own two feet, telling yourself to fuck off. Maybe even kissing Stephen King’s ring.

Eventually, the pendulum will swing. Readers will grow tired of goopy.

They’ll search out the meatier subjects — even if they’re vegans.

And there you’ll be, standing on your own two feet, telling yourself to fuck off. Maybe even kissing Stephen King’s ring.

That’s if he wears one. For all I know, he’s got braided hair from some murder victim wrapped around his finger. It wouldn’t surprise me.

I might do the same.

I sure as hell don’t want to be a reconstituted sandal.

Robert Cormack is a novelist, journalist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Robert’s other articles and stories at robertcormack.net

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Comments

Robert Cormack

1 month ago #6

Robert Cormack

1 month ago #5

Jim Murray

1 month ago #4

 If you were aiming to scare the shit out of would be writers, mission  accomplished. I agree with almost everything. I have a need to write every day. It's not compulsive, But it is definitely real. That's not to say that every day I write some sort of masterpiece. Cause I don't.  As for the ‘fuck you’ bit, well that comes with the territory, doesn't it?

Jerry Fletcher

1 month ago #3

Ah Cormack, once again a joyous read. I cant begin to imagine your scrivenings on a “down day.” Stay thought provoking sir!

Robert Cormack

1 month ago #2

Ken Boddie

1 month ago #1

It’s all obvious now, Rob. My own lack of success as a writer is because I fail to tell myself and all my readers (yes both of them, or if I count you, then the other one) to fuck off on a regular basis. But I draw the line at kissing anyone’s ‘ring’, especially if they’ve had curry the day before. 😂🤣😂

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