Think Like A Writer!

Imagine what life could be like if your thoughts had no boundaries — if you could transform a dull moment into an adventurous romp in your head — and think like a writer, like I do. (Huffington Post, November 24)

If your thoughts had no boundaries they could wander freely, like the coyote who comes down out of the mountains to forage for food among the glass and concrete canyons before being shot with a tranquilizer dart and hauled ingloriously back to its habitat in a sack. All this and more can you achieve — if you think like a writer, like I do.

If you think like a writer, like I do, you can spend your days hogging the table next to the wall plug at Starbucks and avoiding the angry searchlight sweep of the baristas’ grudging eyes, and you can stare out the window for eleven full hours and tell yourself it’s research into the human condition, because you think like a writer.

Did you see what I was going for back there with the thing about “glass and concrete canyons”? That was a metaphor, I think. Maybe a simile. I’m not sure, because I didn’t pay much attention in class. My gift is imagination and it cannot be circumscribed by rules of grammar. You can say I’m a borderline illiterate who came this close to flunking out of high school; I prefer to say I saw through high school’s facade of indignity and repression because I had the gift of insight. And imagination, as I said. Two gifts, really. They can be your gifts too, if you learn to think like a writer.

If you learn to think like a writer you can transform a dull moment into an adventurous romp in your head, because to do so in the actual physical confines of, say, the line at the post office invites the skeptical looks of strangers. But in your head — why, that’s where all the quality romping happens! Picture the elderly gentleman muttering into a takeout bowl of ramen noodles as a delightful, wise old unicorn! Then his weird tangly eyebrows become emblems of age and experience, rather than a disturbing artifact of poor personal grooming! What gifts of elucidation would your new friend deliver? If he could talk, I mean. Can he talk? The unicorn, I mean here, not the old guy. You gotta assume the old guy can talk. But the unicorn? It’s up to you — if you learn to think like a writer.

If you learn to think like a writer you can employ stagy gimmicks like the repetition of certain key phrases for effect. But if, and I can’t stress this too strongly, ONLY if… you learn to think like a writer!

Ellipses are good in there too. (Think like a writer.)

I didn’t always think like a writer. I used to think like a person. Then one day I realized that my interior life was ruled by thoughts of doom and meaninglessness and the overwhelming fear that if I had ever possessed even a minuscule gift it had surely fled and I would never know another moment of true creativity. That was when I knew I was truly Thinking Like A Writer.

Capitals. That’s also a good one. Throw some of those babies in there. If your reader is extremely credulous you can fool him into thinking you possess some gravitas because you speak in what appear to be oracular pronouncements. When in reality you have only employed a cheap trick of spelling… because you think like a writer.

Sorry: The canyon thing. I didn’t mean that the canyons are literally made of glass and concrete. I should probably make that clear. That was a dressed-up way of saying “buildings,” to contrast with the untamed wilderness that is the coyote’s real home. You got that, right? I started to worry that you hadn’t, because I — YES THERE IT IS DO YOU SEE WHAT I JUST DID? BOOM. I think like a writer.

Look. All I’m saying is this. Simply this: Vary your sentence lengths occasionally. For rhythm. And sometimes even use a sentence fragment. Just don’t overdo it. Because then it draws attention to itself. And then they know you’re a hack. And then you are finished. Well and truly finished. Because seriously: Think like a writer, don’t think like a writer… What difference does it make? We’re all faking it anyway. The only thing that’s real is our desperate need for the approval of others. And do you know how I know this?

Yes. Exactly.

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