In correlation with this previous piece.
RULE: Slow the fuck down.
In this game, taking the scenic route is better. Taking shortcuts will only get you stranded in the big city of opportunity without so much as a poncho to protect your happy ass from the pressure police when they start raining rubber bullets at your head. Here at Iowa, the agents have begun to visit campus and the little signup sheets call out in the Dey House (pronounced DIE), and to be fair, a great many of my more talented peers are ready for such a step. I personally am not. Ain’t that the checklist, though? MFA(x) Novel(x) Agent(x) Sweet tenured teaching gig, one of three available at any given time(x) Sell your novel to HBO under the stipulation they’ll hire Peter Dinklage because you wrote that role just for him (x) Marry a Swedish pop star(x) Buy a hovercraft(x) Buy another hovercraft because you can(x) Ride around in hovercrafts with Peter Dinklage(x). First of all, this whole checklist is bullshit except for the novel part. At some point, you will need something made of words that you have wrought with your own sweat and blood and piss and tears and any other bodily fluids I’ve forgotten to mention. The point is, whatever that first novel is, you want it to be worth all the waiting. You want it to reduce Peter Dinklage to tears, it’s so heartbreaking and funny and twisted and poignant. You don’t want to rush into just having a manuscript for the sake of having a manuscript. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with being ambitious, but like virginity, your first novel can be a beautiful occasion or it can be just as easily sent away in an Arby’s parking lot while two dudes watch you in an adjacent Taurus eating Big Montanas and slurping Jamocha shakes.
(If you’re reading this Pete, contact me at Willock77@hotmail.com with your preference of hovercraft interior upholstery color)
RULE: Read for a magazine.
It is good to have a pulse on what’s going on in literature. Like in workshop, you’ll always get more from reading the work of others than receiving feedback yourself. You learn what works, what doesn’t, see the glaring mistakes in your own work magnified x 1000. Plus you get to read really cool cover letters in which people tell you all the names of their seventeen cats, where they attended pre-school, how they found your magazine through dumpster diving, and describe in detail what their story is meant to be and do and how it was inspired by a dream Fred Savage once told them at a rave. Consider finding yourself a magazine you’re a fan of and offering to help. You may not get paid (you won’t get paid) but the investment will be worth it. And don’t just do it to add another shitty notch to your CV.
(But if they begin to take advantage of you, drop that shit like it’s physics for physics majors instead of physics for clown school majors, like you signed up for) Continue reading