How to be a writer in the year 2014

1. Write a lot of lists.

Lists are cool. Lists are in. Lists are super easy to digest, and take very little of a potential reader’s effort, thought, or time. Throw a few funny gifs in there, and ignore the sinking feeling in your stomach when you realize gifs will eventually replace even the measly word count you’ve been assigned.

 2. Be famous for something else.

So, you wanted to write a novel or, god forbid, a short story collection? Who do you think you are—James Franco? Because unless you are literally James Franco, no one cares about your short stories. You better start filming those reality TV audition tapes, or pray to whatever higher power you believe in that your arm is bitten off by a shark.

3. Build your network.

For your sake, I hope you have a famous godfather in the entertainment industry, because if not you will repeat the phrase “networking” so many times it will lose all meaning and start to sound more and more like a made up word every time you say it. Coffee with a former professor? Networking. Drinking too much at a reading and complimenting another author’s shoes six times in one night? Networking. Getting a little too personal for small talk with the buyer at Powell’s because you’re lonely and you just had to put down your cat and your water was just shut off and you’ve sent 300 e-mails this week to people you can’t even put a face to who will probably never respond? Networking.

4. Write for exposure.

Read dozens of free articles and short stories online every day, and then complain about how no one pays writers anymore. Conveniently forget about the enormous cuts to arts funding when you smugly ask, “Why doesn’t that lit mag just get a grant?” Eventually realize we all helped dig the hole so you might as well bury yourself in it with the rest of us.

 5. Take a day job or five.

Get ready to spin that Creative Writing degree on every minimum wage customer service job application on the planet (which is how many you’ll need to fill out to even get an in person interview). Grudgingly accept the fact that the phrase “excellent written and oral communication skills” in your qualifications summary is the only thing your degree will ever be good for.

6. Check out Elance.

Sure, clients will expect you to work for pennies, writing five hundred word articles for a dollar each, or cranking out the same topic eight different ways for a content mill. But you should check it out anyway, because you’d really like to tell your snotty nephew with the MBA that you’re a “freelance writer” this Christmas instead of watching him smirk when you say, “Yeah, still at that diner part time.”

 7. Never surrender.

If you were to make a “Pros/Cons of Being a Writer” Excel list with all the extra time you have during your perpetual un/underemployment, the con column would be approximately 46 rows long, and the pro column would contain a single row that said, “get to write.” Hold on to that. You liked this once. Every romantic notion you ever had about being a writer has been completely destroyed, and those stupid Hemingway quote memes people keep sharing on Facebook are so tacky they make you want to pour bleach in your eyes, but at the end of the day that pro is still there. You get to write. Even if you get paid 56 cents for an hour of your time. Even if you have to put in a gif of Jennifer Lawrence making that bug eyed robot smile face. Even if your mom is the only person who ever reads it. You get to write.

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