“We off That.” — Don’ts for Writers in 2017

Jay-Z’s “Off That” is a concise guide to what was no longer cool as of 2009: everything from baggy clothes and Timbs (Timberland boots,) to fighting in the club and telling your girl you love her.

We writers could use a similar style audit. With all the wackness being perpetrated in the writing game today, it’s time for a little perspective. Here’s a writer’s list of “don’ts” for 2017.

Talking Like Good Charlotte Fans, we off That.

By that I mean gossiping about the “under-rated” and “over-ratedness” of authors.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little old for studded belts and hating things just because they’re popular.

The Word “Just,” we off That.

Remember Marissa Cooper on The O.C? She had this tick where every time she needed to express herself or work through a dilemma she’d start by saying “It’s just…” in a breathless voice. It was part of the reason some people were happy when she got killed off.

That’s what you sound like when you send an email “Just checking in…,” or “Just following up…,” or “Just wanting to know…”

Just stop it. Get to the point, say what you mean, mean what you say. The word “just” damages your credibility.

Writing What You Know, we off That

How about going out and having new experiences. Go ahead, write what you know, but try expanding what you know while you’re at it.

Public Shaming and Outrage, we off That.

The cult of outrage will always try to make you feel like it’s your duty to care, but that’s bullshit. Get back to work.

SJWs, we off That.

While we’re at it, let’s stop giving the professionally offended so much airtime.

I don’t even need to get into this one. If you agree, I had you at “SJWs” and if you’re one of them, I lost you when I was born with a “Y” chromosome.

Feeling Sorry for Ourselves, we off That.

As the web opens up more publishing, freelancing, and collaborating opportunities, people who want to make art but don’t are running out of excuses.

You may have some very real grievances and worries, but how does complaining help you get where you want to go?

Polyamory, we off That.

Are you kidding me? one partner is distracting enough. Besides, there’s nothing worse for a creative than getting all of his or her needs met.

The Beat Generation, we off That.

The Ramones were great, but your buddy’s garage band might suck a little less if they learned more than four chords.

That’s the problem with the beats: a few innovators passed down an easy to imitate style and set of values that, more often than not, is used to justify lazy writing, clueless politics, and a dull approach to life.

Ditto hippies.

Poet Voice, we off That.

Rich Smith laid out the case against this affectation in City Arts two years ago. Mashable explains the linguistics behind why poets sound the way they do and gives us some cringe-worthy examples.

Spammy Book Promotion, we off That.

If you deliver value consistently and add something to my life, I will trample over people — Black Friday style — to buy your book. If you have a killer blog or a YouTube channel that makes me laugh on a regular basis or you post great stuff on medium, I will crawl to the bookstore if need be.

So relax. Focus on writing stuff people want to read, not on sales tactics to make them read it.

Typecasting Veterans, we off That.

Not everyone who goes to war sees combat. Not everyone who sees combat is traumatized, some people actually love it. The “haunted veteran” stock character is harmful in its inaccuracy.

For a more complex look at war and trauma check out Sebastian Junger’s Tribe — easily the top non-fiction book of 2016.

Anything about Coffee or Sushi in our Author Bios, we off That.

Or just author bios in general. For a fresh alternative, check out Derek Sivers’ “now page.”

Happy 2017, or to quote Jay-Z, “Welcome to the future, b*tches.”