Recessionist Writing & The Slow Road To Hell


If I hear or read one more person say they started writing because they were laid off from their real job and suddenly had all this wonderful time to write, I am stabbing that person in the throat with a fork.

I realize it is uncharitable of me. It could even be criminal. But there are some things so utterly tasteless, they deserve a direct and violent response.

This is one of those things.

I am going to tell you something that many will disagree with, but this is an incontrovertible fact: If you have written fiction for less than a year, you suck donkey balls.

That’s not a personal judgement. That is a stone cold fact about the quality of your writing. Your writing is so awfully craptacular that it’s not even worth politely suggesting you should refine your craft. Indeed, believing that one is the exception to the rule is a surefire way of proving beyond any doubt whatsoever that not only is your writing craptacular, it is so laughably bad that the only people who would like are websites that specialize in posting terrible writing for others to laugh at, while trying not to feel sorry for the absolutely misguided stupidity and hubris of the author – sort of a literary version of People of Wal-Mart.

I am being unusually charitable by calling it at a year. Five is more like it, but by a year, you should at least know to what degree you suck donkey balls. The self-awareness will either force you to commit suicide, or you’ll be encouraged enough to continue. There really isn’t any middle ground.

The problem with the mindset that a job loss is a great time to start writing is that it means you haven’t been writing all the time you had the job. Every day, people tell me, I always wanted to write, but I just never found the time.

Oh really? I always wanted to perform brain surgery, but I just never found the time.

In other words: you do what you have to do. If you have to write, you will. Not even medical school can keep you down (ask Michael Crichton or John Cook.)

Lawyers are the worst. Lawyers write law documents. Plus, as a rule, they’re arrogant. Put the two together and you have yourself a trainwreck. They just don’t realize that writing a Motion to Compel Discovery is not the same as developing a character and a narrative arc. The skills don’t translate.

Writing, for me, was mostly about obsession. I have done other things in my life, but nothing forced me into making time as much as writing. In fact, I cut out other things so I could write. I wrote part of a novel while working as a software engineer at a certain mouse-themed entertainment company. I’ve written a novel every year since I was sixteen. I can’t not write. Probably like you can’t not do brain surgery.

The cool thing about obsession is you get to learn how to make mistakes and you don’t get discouraged. That experience is invaluable when the career you’ve chosen is mostly rejection. You just shrug it off and try harder.

That isn’t the same thing as believing the agents or editors are misguided, by the way. Nor is it arrogance. It’s just knowing that writing is hard work. It’s blue collar work. It’s about discipline, repetition, living inside your mind, and somehow being relate-able to enough people that they’d want to read the product of all that deliberation.

That is what worries me about the new crop of Recessionist Writers. They are indulging in something they have fantasized about but never actually made the time to do. If they actually complete a manuscript, they will no doubt clog up the works with their donkey-ball sucking story that is more a form of autobiographical therapy than an actual story with a narrative arc and captivating characters and so forth.

It just seems disrespectful. That’s what this is about. It’s disrespecting the process. It’s like saying okay, I will be a pianist, without even really knowing where middle C is, or how to play Heart and Soul.

You might be one of those one in a bazillion people who can somehow make it work, but I doubt it. Don’t you? Because you would have done it before circumstances – such as an economic recession – forced you.


  1. You’re right, but Cara you are so funny. I’m having trouble deciding if I like your writing more because you are so right… or so funny. Not sure if you do that on purpose or not, but either way, it’s probably a good problem to have.

  2. Yeah, that’s why Tolstoy wrote so much and so well. Because “he had the time”.

    Not because he was dedicated, made sacrifices, had genius, and drive and also the commitment to sit down at the desk every day …

    It’s because “he had the time”


    Biggest pet peeve ever.

  3. Cara Ellison says:

    Ron, thank you.

    Sheila, I have a feeling this will be a popular ranting topic for a while.

  4. My new book is actually about donkey ball sucking, so…it might work. Of course, I’m still “fleshing” out the concept. I’m also composing a symphony.

  5. Cara Ellison says:

    DBW, you crack me up. Thank you for making me giggle. : )

  6. I love how you put the word fleshing in quotation marks, DBW. hahahaha

  7. jessicarrot says:

    So, for the record… is it okay to be a recessionist writer if you acknowledge that you suck donkey balls?

  8. Cara Ellison says:

    Yes, I think that is okay. But under no circumstances could you personally ever think you suck donkey balls. You rock!

    I was thinking of you this evening, and here you are! : )

  9. jessicarrot says:

    Awww. I see myself in this phenomenon you are talking about though. I’ve always written… since I was a child but mostly poetry or very short stories. I’m trying to make the leap into novel writing and its freaking hard! I’m determined to finish a novel this year though. And its going to suck. But I’m okay with that. Sucking has never yielded anything but good results in my life. 😉

  10. Cara Ellison says:

    : )

    Novels are tough but I’m sure you can do it! And I love your writing.


  1. […] Posted on May 25, 2010 by keelsecho I am a recessionist writer. […]

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