Before I begin, I want to give full disclosure. Despite my obvious feelings about hipsters, I have found myself wearing skinnier and skinnier jeans, listening to Arcade Fire, and espousing the various qualities of David Eggers to my friends. The reasons for this are simple – girls like the skinny jean/flannel shirt look, the Arcade Fire are good, and you have to be stupid not to like David Eggers. But I recognize that I share the many of the personal qualities that make hipsters, hipsters. However, I have drawn a couple of lines in the sand that I will not cross – vinyl, black rim glasses, and literally everything that is in www.lookbook.nu.
But those things are annoyances, not actual philosophical differences. At the end of the day, hipsters’ terrible, obscure music choices don’t impact me, and dudes who wear black rim glasses bigger than their head are hurting no one but themselves. It is a victimless fashion crime. A sartorial version of weed, if you will.
But what is absolutely ridiculous is the rising number of people who are wearing beards and are barely writing and yet insist on calling themselves writers. This is a crime in two parts so let me address these things accordingly.
Beards: Having a beard doesn’t make you a good writer. Yes, Walt Whitman was a rockin’ poet. Coincidentally, Walt Whitman also rocked the most awesome ‘stache known to man. His beard, however, had relatively little impact on his composition, word choice, or meter. Unless these beards are forcibly removing the pen from their owners and scribbling sonnets onto the page, you don’t need them and feel free to shave them at any point. Don’t think about it as losing your style. Instead, think about it as gaining a girlfriend, a real job, and your sense of respect. This rule does not apply to Lee Clow, whose Twitter @Leeclowsbeard makes it pretty clear that he’s Lee fucking Clow and he’ll do what he likes. You are not Lee Clow. Nor are you his beard, So stop calling yourself an “innovator” because you look like a Fraggle Rock character. You know what’s innovative? Emily Dickinson’s invention of slant rhyming. She rhymed orange with “door hinge.” That’s so fucking metal, man. So metal.
So to summarize: your ironic beard sucks and so does your half-finished novel.
Calling Yourself a Writer When You’re Really Just Terrible at Everything Else
What’s really awesome about the majority of established writers is how awesome they are at things that aren’t writing. They have hobbies that inform their writing. Theodore Roethke was one of the best poets of the 20th century and he wrote poems during his downtime as a doctor. That means that in between saving lives he was writing some of the dopest shit the world has ever seen. Earnest Hemingway arm wrestled everyone in Florida, killed anything that moved in Africa, and taught the Spaniards how a real bro wears a knitted sweater. Oscar Wilde somehow managed to write monumental pieces like The Importance of Being Earnest and Dorian Gray and still have sex with EVERYONE. If these guys were alive today and went to Bucknell, they would show up to a frat party riding an actual bison and then run the beer pong tables like they were Kevin Durant at Rucker Park.
The greater point of this is the majority of great writers are great for a reason: they’re capable, detail-oriented people who focused their efforts on writing but realized too that they needed to be “unwriterly” at times professionally in order to write something successful and worthwhile.
Because writing is often (and perhaps wrongly) perceived as a vague occupation with an admittedly limited career path, it can become the refuge of those who have been rejected in other fields. Saying that you are a “writer” for these sorts of people is often easier then “job hunting.”
This is the schedule of a “writer”
11:30 AM: Drink coffee
12:30 AM: Open up laptop,
12:31 AM: Close laptop
12:32 AM – 9:00 PM: Talk about your ex girlfriend. To anyone. No, but really, she’s going to come back
9:00- 12:00AM: Tell cute girls at the bohemian bar down the street about your soon-to-be-published play. Do your best to look emotionally vulnerable. Do your best to pretend that you don’t hear me and my friends laughing at you.
This is the schedule of a Writer.
6:00 AM: Wake up early to get a quick page or two done
8:30 AM: Leave for your day job
7:30 PM: Get back from your job do errands, call your friends and tell them you can’t come out tonight
7:30 to 12 AM: Work on your novel/play/ edit poems because your deadline for your editor is tomorrow. Drink coffee. Fret over pages. Agonize over word choice. Don’t pick up the phone. Don’t go on Facebook.
If you’re playing at home that’s a 14-16 hour day. I didn’t become a writer because I couldn’t do that. I didn’t love it enough, I didn’t have it in me. I have a real writer friends and I know that they’re real writers because I never see them. It is a hard, work heavy lifestyle.
I greatly prefer my current 9-5 in a cubicle…reading espn.com. And that is distinguishing characteristic that cuts the line between “writers” and Writers. So if you’re unemployed do us all a favor and say that you’re a mime, instead of some bullshit novelist. It’ll shut you up and allow us to pay proper homage to the people who are grinding out the things we love.