How To Be A Writer
by Howdgar Fobgoblin
Teachers always tell me, “If you really wanna be a writer, you’ve gotta be committed.” I have some questions about this statement. Several important details have been glaringly omitted. For example, what does one have to do, in order to qualify for commitment? What kind of institution is suitable for the sort of extended care a writer needs? Should there be doctors on call at all times? Will it be necessary to have regular shock therapy? Does drinking a pint of Jamesons without breathing even once, count as shock treatment? Does it count as a suicide attempt? These are the notions that run through my mind upon hearing the words committed and writer in the same sentence.
For this writer, I suggest, being institutionalized is not an ideal option, even though three square meals a day and free psychoactive drugs are both appealing aspects of life in a mental hospital. For one thing, I expect research will become more difficult when the most useful item in my arsenal of tools is a rubber fork. My social life is bound to suffer. Conversations are likely to be restricted to topics like bedsheets, extra helpings of jello (with or without reddi-whip), and methods for the advance aerialistic training of invisible fleas. I foresee endless difficulties for a serious writer, in scraping up inspirational subject matter. The fleas’ regimen might be fascinating, but for how many pages can I sustain a description of the mysterious bite marks in the shape of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, that are clearly visible on a fellow patient’s buttocks? Must I request a room change ever three to five weeks, in order to have access to new character development material?
And then there’s the small matter of lifestyle. All writers require extra helpings of nookie, let’s just admit that right now– not because we deserve it, but because we have an obligation to posterity to publish plenty of lascivious gossip, crude exposes and steamy sex scenes. Most everybody out there may be sadly deprived in the love department, but we owe it to our readers to at least provide a tantalizingly vicarious experience of intimacy. I believe it’s my obligation to cultivate a lifestyle that allows for rip-roaring orgies, outrageous affaires– and the occasional tortured unrequited passion, just to keep me humble. But once the least ethical 37% of the hospital staff, and the fully functional 13.5% of the patients have been exhausted, where will I turn for life’s sweet adventures? I’ll be forced to order out for pizza, which I expect is strictly prohibited. Who wants to risk having one’s ping-pong privileges revoked, on the off chance that the delivery person will be not only gender-appropriate, but sentient?
No, I’ve made up my mind. I’m willing to stay up all night, typing until my fingers bleed. I don’t mind drinking three-day-old coffee with too much vermouth and a butterscotch dissolved in it. I’m prepared to engage in hallucinatory conversations with Rimbaud’s mother. I can accept the need to call my agent up sobbing, and alternately threaten suicide and murder every time a rejection slip comes in. I can even face a flurry of lawsuits by the parents of students I’ve supposedly molested during that fateful hitchhiking trip to Saratoga (hey, I thought those were breath mints!) But I refuse to be committed. In my opinion, it’s just not as necessary to my career as everyone around here keeps insisting it is.