I’ve been wasting my life in writing workshops, trying to articulate ideas, and generally believing the Bird by Bird bullshit that “the process” can help one understand the world.
All this time, I’ve been thinking like a little girl and had I been serious about myself or my career, I would’ve been thinking like a boss.
I want to spare you these mistakes and more importantly: save you time. Because even a boss can’t buy time.
If you’re serious about writing, you will treat it like a business and accept that, just like every other competitive profession, this one’s driven by market principles. Like guns or butter, writing is ruled by the most basic law of Econ 101, which is:
$UPPLY AND DEMAND.
So let’s get right to it.
How today’s world creates a demand, which you can then supply
GIVE ME THAT OPINION.
Also, life is complicated, and nuance is exhausting. Who has time to read multiple newspapers and see how a story is covered from various angles? Who is willing to wait and gradually build an understanding of say, LIBOR?
Also, maybe I’m racist or sexist or anti-gay or anti-science or just nuts and not seeing my views represented by the mainstream media.
This is an opportunity for you!
Editors are busy—they see the same viewpoints all the time! So do their readers. The point is not to express yours in a way that’s smart or well-researched to distinguish yourself from the herd—the point is to GET ATTENTION.
To think about this musically (why not?), don’t be a song, be a fucking fire alarm. Not everyone likes the same music, but we all hear the fire alarm.
We live in an SEO, content-aggregation beast of a world in which you need to give people something to get outraged by, react to and link to! Which is exactly what I’m doing right now! Meta!
You, BOSS-MAN writer, can supply a solution
Break it down for us in very simple terms.
Better yet: tell us why our base, unfounded, knee-jerk reactions are right!
Distract me from trying to understand [Syria/the fact that our government tortures its own citizens in the prison system/the unchecked use of drones killing civilians] by sparking a national debate about whether or not rape is all that bad.
Am I making myself clear? It doesn’t matter what you say, the point is that you say it. Loudly. Now. With a counter-intuitive headline.
Another way to think about this: Who is writing for the racists? The misogynists? What’s being said in the locker room of the Augusta National Golf Course that you’re not seeing in the NYT?
Find the hole in the market, and fill it.
Here is the formula to make big bucks through your writing
1. Find something we all struggle with (say “work-life balance”) and explain why it’s a heaping waste of time.
1b. Recall some crazy thought you had in a dark moment or during a weird dream after eating too much Indian food. Pick that wackjob idea that you reflexively shrugged off and now passionately defend it.
2. Throw in a few studies (ideally from a university, but no biggie if not) and infer whatever you want to support your hypothesis. No one reads studies anyway—the point is to show you can play the “smart person” game.
3. Sit back and enjoy the attention. Leverage it toward a book deal, punditry, and $peaking opportunities …
Like a boss.
If it’s so simple, why am I not doing it?
I know my weaknesses.
First of all, as Kevin Williamson explained so spectacularly in the National Review: I am a woman, my dad had two daughters, and thus my gene pool is a big waste of fallopian tubes. Or something.
Worse, I am a people-pleasing nice girl and if many smart people told me I was wrong, I’d think they probably had a point.
And worst of all, because I am a slow-thinking pansy who values nuance, I’d write some middle-of-the-road piece without a super-sharp point of view, thus wasting your time.
Here’s just one small example to prove my point: on Monday, a stranger on Broadway called me a slut, and instead of thinking “What a crazy pants jerk!” my first thought was, “I wonder why he said that? Is my outfit suggestive?”
People, I looked down and remembered I was wearing a green T-shirt with pink bunnies! The point is: I don’t have the balls to lie and piss off everyone to get famous, but maybe you do.
How to brainstorm ideas that will earn you big bucks and fame
If you’re a bigot, imagine the article you want to read. Go write it!
Or, ask yourself this: what do people not say aloud because it’s shamefully obviously hateful and/or wrong and therefore my passionate defense of this position will really stick out?
What did I think in sixth grade—like, girls are dumb—that would be fun to explore today?
What is universally accepted as proven scientific fact and how can I argue against this in a fun and creative way?
Some articles you could write that will no doubt lead to book deals
1. The War on Drugs Isn’t Tough Enough on Black Men [NOTE: you will crush this if you are black man]
2. Where’s my Prince Charming? An analysis of how all women in America just want a man to take care of them using anecdotal evidence from one woman’s life
3. Let’s be Honest: Women are Shrill and Make Terrible Bosses
4. White Men Make Better Presidents and it’s Just Genetics [Note: no need for science—use examples from American history, which is filled with white presidents]
5. I Don’t Give a Fuck about Syria and Neither Should You. Here’s Why
6. Girl, Let’s Get Real: Black Women are Angry and It’s Hard to Date Them
7. Poor People Need to Take Accountability, Now
8. My Nanny Works 12 Hours a Day Because That’s the Deal She Struck with the Devil when She Came to this Country Illegally
9. Homosexuality isn’t Wrong—it’s Just Plain Weird. [Peppered with quotes from your bigot friends]
10. How Michelle Obama Drags Women Down By Raising the Bar For All of Us
11. Guns Don’t Kill People, Latinos Do
12. Ten Ways Pinterest Will Make You Smarter [told in GIFs]
13. To Stimulate the Economy, Legalize Sex-Trafficking (pun!)
14. Want to Lose Weight? Sit Down and Eat Cookies
15. Help! I hired a Mexican! [a personal essay about the struggle to understand a housekeeper and overcome the language barrier]
There. I’ve taught you everything I know and believe passionately.
Good luck, go raise hell like a boss, and keep this little girl posted!