Guest Post

Guest Post: “When I’m a Writer I’ll…” by Amy Lane

Lollipop by Amy Lane

Oh yes—we all have an image of that thing we want to be when we grow up, right? When I was getting my degree, I thought teaching would be me, elegant and coiffed, smiling benevolently as I dispersed the magic of the literary gods to the willing masses.

I had no idea I’d spend most of my career wearing jeans and a t-shirt, saying things like, “If you’re going to pass me a phony excuse note, dorkweed, try to hide the fresh hickey on your neck when you come in!”

But that’s okay—because the things I did get from teaching were infinitely better than the image I had of what it would be like.

But that doesn’t mean the image wasn’t fun.

So here’s a list of things we absolutely need to be good writers. Must haves. Can’t write without them. Everyone’s gottem.


A Writer’s Clothes

A true writer wears some if not all of the following:

  • Shawls of many colors or a shawl collared sweater
  • Folksy peasant shirts when gardening (see a Writer’s Hobbies)
  • Yoga pants
  • Corduroy jackets with leather patches at the elbows
  • Unspeakably ugly ponchos
  • Housedresses in fashion in the 50s
  • Faded jeans
  • Baseball T-shirts featuring 80’s bands emblazoned on the front
  • Turbans or Fedoras
  • Long coats
  • Ascot ties
  • Cocktail dresses of severest black
  • Black jeans, sweatshirts, and berets
  • Feathers, somewhere


We can’t always be sitting at the manual Underwood typewriter conjuring worlds out of thin air—we must have other pastimes that underscore how brilliant we are and how sad it is that we can’t crouch, cramped and feral, over a relic of a bygone age, for all eternity. A real writer can be found—

  • Gardening
  • Attending cocktail parties given by the prominent members of his or her community (See Vices)
  • Solving crimes for fun!
  • Volunteering at orphanages
  • Learning new recipes
  • Sampling wines (See Vices)
  • Jetting to New York to talk to our agents
  • Starting new businesses with our friends
  • Reading, uninterrupted, in a book filled corner of our home while the maid brings us a sandwich and a brandy
  • Fighting violently with our lovers
  • Lounging about in coffeehouses, critiquing the world and contemplating the decline of civilization as we know it as evidenced by the lack of ferocity in the Oxford comma debate


The following is a partial list of things that a writer should consume at some point in his or her career:

  • Absinthe
  • Whiskey
  • Single Malt Scotch
  • Sauvignon Blanc and other wines that do not taste like flat seven up
  • Coffee, black
  • Coffee, regular
  • Coffee, on ice, with an exotic essence of something not unhealthy for you wafting off the surface like perfume
  • Red Bull and Gin
  • Ale
  • Perrier
  • Microbrews
  • Vodka Martinis
  • Tea—particularly peppermint, chamomile, Earl Grey or chai
  • Mint Juleps
  • Vodka Lemonades
  • Greyhounds
  • Long Island Iced Tea
  • See Writer’s Vices


Some very potential accessories to a writer’s image are—

  • A scarf, a la Doctor Who
  • A pipe
  • A genteel cigarette
  • A large cat
  • A small dog
  • A large dog
  • A dying plant
  • A backyard that resembles the jungles of the Amazon
  • Books, falling off the bookshelves
  • A kitchen table that looks like the ruins of Pompeii
  • Tax troubles
  • Missed deadlines
  • Glamorous friends
  • Misanthropy
  • Reclusiveness
  • A dripping sense of irony
  • A distant relationship with time
  • An even more distant relationship with the Chicago Manual of Style
  • A general disdain for rules or distractions or basic manners
  • An a leaky pen, manual typewriter, or, in a pinch, a Neolithic computer
  • Accoutrements of exercise—often dusty
  • A miserable day job
  • An interesting vice

Writer’s Vices

Now, it’s true—most of the writers I know are actually well adjusted people who eat well and exercise as often as their lives permit…

However, the great writers of the literary canon had some, shall we say, interesting vices, things that our coworkers in the carpool or the other parents of our kids’ soccer teams just don’t indulge in.  So, of course, no matter how mundane a real writer’s life might be, we can’t help but yearn nostalgically for the glamour and enchantment of the old school vices.  We don’t actually want the vices, per se—but, you know, we sometimes fear that we’ll never be Dickens if we’re not writing from debtor’s prison with our impoverished family by our side.

Some other vices include—

  • A fondness for older women—if we’re heterosexual men
  • A fondness for younger men—if we’re heterosexual women
  • Vice versa if hetero is off the table
  • Repressed homosexuality—if we’re men writing about being manly men who don’t like women because we do not lust after men
  • Laudanum addiction—particularly if we’re Romantic poets
  • Money troubles—particularly if we have older richer relatives who wish to chain us to a respectable job during a time when only men could inherit
  • Sexual insatiability—particularly if we’re Victorian novelists, Romantic poets, or pulp fiction writers in the 70’s
  • Controlling disapproving parents—if we’re young women in the 1800’ds
  • Alcohol—particularly Southern writers in the 30’s
  • Alcohol—particularly white male writers in any age
  • Alcohol—particularly during prohibition
  • Alcohol—particularly if you have a missed deadline, a convention to attend, a book that didn’t sell, or an editor/publisher/critic who just doesn’t understand
  • A spouse who resents your success and sucks the creativity right out of you—especially if you’re F. Scott Fitzgerald—also, alcohol
  • A laundry list of ex-spouses to support
  • A laundry list of children who hate you
  • Heroin—particularly if you’re a Beat Poet in the 50’s
  • Too many cats

And there you go—all the things you need in life to be a writer, except, you know, the finished manuscript and the contract.

Go forth, writer, indulge in some vices, buy a shawl, shoot back some whiskey, pet your cat and create!

Amy Lane has two kids in college, two gradeschoolers in soccer, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crap mansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write. You can find Amy on Tumblr, Twitter, her blog, and her website

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