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10 Ways To Torture A Writer

January 20, 2015
It’s generally assumed that writers are tortured souls, but the truth is most of us are just sensitive and self-obsessed babies. Struggling to complete and/or sell one’s books does not a tortured soul make. Nor does agonizing over which image to use for your latest blog post or how to get new “likes” on your Facebook author page.

The truth is, we writers today could use a little more torture. Many could use a lot more. Now, I’m not suggesting the general public go all Abu Ghraib on our asses and physically torment us every chance they get. I’m merely suggesting a little psychological and emotional warfare to wake us up and shake us out of our comfortable discomfort zone. A sort of, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” approach. It might even rile us up enough to produce something better than 99% of the sh*t currently labeled a ‘best seller.’

And with that I give you 10 ways to do some much-needed damage to a writer’s psyche:                

1) While reading their published novel in front of them, make a face and say, “Ooh, another typo” every now and again. It is said that Oscar Wilde died not of cerebral meningitis but rather of psychosis caused by a sadistic friend pointing out 11 egregious errors in the pages of The Importance of Being Earnest.

2) Tell them you have a friend whose debut book got accepted by the very first big literary agent he/she queried. The writer you tell this to will politely smile and say, “That’s really great.” And then blood will trickle down their chin, as typically occurs when one has bitten clean through their lower lip.

3) Insist that “irregardless” is a word. Just because Merriam Webster recognizes ‘irregardless’ as a “nonstandard” form of ‘regardless,’ use of it can cause a writer to suffer serious emotional distress and, often, the shutdown of major organs.  

4) If the writer is your spouse/partner, tell them you’ll be withholding sex until they read 50 Shades of Gray from cover to cover. This is extremely torturous for a writer, as it forces them to choose between celibacy and destroying their soul.

5) Tell them you’re not buying their book because you’re waiting until it’s made into a movie. For enhanced results, be sure to add a nice, “I mean really, who actually reads anymore?”

6) Ask them, “Why can’t you write more like THIS?” while holding up a copy of one of the Twilight books. Before you do this, be sure you are wearing fire-retardant clothing to protect you from serious burns in the likely event the writer combusts. 

7) Send them a fake rejection letter telling them you would have accepted their manuscript if only they had used a different font. “Close but no cigar” incidents are excruciating for writers. Just ask John Kennedy Toole, whose novel A Confederacy of Dunces was rejected by a major publisher in the final stages of publication consideration in 1966. Sadly, this contributed largely to Toole’s suicide a couple of years later. The good news is the award-winning novel was eventually published in 1980; the bad news is Toole was still dead and thus couldn’t celebrate or sign any copies.

8) Ask them to write a synopsis. For an author, writing a 300-page novel is a piece of cake; writing a formal and concise synopsis of that novel is painful and terrifying. Asking an author to try to condense their masterpiece into four or five pages yet still capture the full essence of each complex character and plot twist is crueler than waterboarding the author or making them use “irregardless” in a sentence.   

9) Ask them to pay for dinner. Pretending to forget your purse or wallet when dining out with a writer is one of the most sinister things you can do, considering their entire last royalty check went toward buying a new pen cap. To keep this form of torture from going too far, just before they hand the waiter their credit card – which is already maxed out on fees they owe their website designer, book publicist and psychiatrist – “find” your purse or wallet and pick up the bill. Then promptly perform CPR on your writer companion.
10) Walk into their writing space and talk to them while the prose is flowing. This is perhaps the most deadly of all the torture methods listed, only it is likely you who will end up dead, not the writer. When in the groove, writers deal with interruptions about as well as Oscar Pistorious deals with noises coming from the bathroom.

There are plenty of other ways to torture a writer, and I encourage you to explore… irregardless of how other writers may feel about this.


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