Authors Anonymous: My Most Stupidest Act as a Writer

I have always wanted to be a writer. Sure there were passing ideas about being a translator for the United Nations, a spy, and a voiceover artist, but through all those fleeting occupation plans, I’ve wanted to be a writer.

I think the first story I ever wrote was called ‘Fluffy the Cat,’ and it was about a cat named Fluffy. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, I did show talent early on. You can call me gifted, I don’t mind.

When we start out as little baby writers, we emulate the authors we know and love. I went through phases where I wrote like Dr. Seuss and Cicely Mary Barker (the author/illustrator of all those Flower Fairy poems), Sylvia Plath and Peggy Hong. When I found Adrienne Rich’s The Fact of a Doorframe, it became my Bible. My copy is full of post-it tabs and the binding is broken. I wrote like 20 papers on her in college.

Somewhere along our writer journey, we’re supposed to take the lessons we’ve learned from other authors and infuse them with our own process. I may have taken that first bit too literally. 17152401969_93d951142f_z

I know all of us make stupid decisions while in high school, but I made really stupid decisions in high school. For example, I thought a stellar look for my first homecoming dance would be to have my friend’s mom make me a renaissance outfit using gray and lavender plaid flannel fabric for the skirt. Who thinks of flannel for a formal dance? This girl. But this isn’t a post about fashion, it’s about writing. And I’m going to confess my most stupidest act as a writer. Are you ready for this?

My Most Stupidest Act as a Writer

I cheated on my boyfriend. I see some of you are confused. I can explain. I truly believed, in the deep down pit of my soul, that I did what I did because I thought it would make me a better writer. Pretty stupid, huh?

I was reading all these books about forbidden romances and free love and I was talking about them with someone I thought was a friend. I trusted her when she gave me advice. I know now, I was pretty much just a form of entertainment for her. She could live vicariously through me because I was the one making bad choices, hurting others’ feelings without any regard. How I wish I hadn’t been so naive.

Of course I’m sad that someone I thought was my friend didn’t talk a lick of sense into me, but ultimately this was my mistake. I believed the only way I could write like all these other authors I loved was to “experience everything.” Did the pain I caused my boyfriend make me a better writer? No. Of course not. Did it make me a better person? I hope so. I sure as hell would never put anyone through that kind of pain again, and as karma would have it, I felt what it was like personally a few years later. I don’t condemn all cheaters. People do what they do for all sorts of reasons. But thinking it would make them a better writer? Yah, if I hadn’t fooled myself into thinking that, I wouldn’t understand it.

So there you have it. My confession. My dirty little secret. I’m not proud of it. But I often wonder if the life lesson overall wasn’t worth it. I learned what it means to hurt someone, I learned what it means to be hurt by a friend. I don’t think it helped me with craft or editing, but it helped remind me I’m human. I will make mistakes – foolish ones I won’t believe I did. But I will try better next time.

What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done in the name of writing? I bet it’s not as stupid as mine.

12 responses

  1. Stupidest thing I’ve done as a writer (so far) – have my first book printed without having read the proof copy. I sold or gave away all 50 copies before I read through the proof. OMG – the number of typos, formatting mistakes and such made me sick. I wanted to “recall” all of them, lol.

    1. I bet you’re not alone in this. With self-publishing becoming more of a trend, I’m sure many writers forget a step and then learn from it on the next one. Sorry that happened, though. I would want to pull them too. But remember, a good story will still capture its reader. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your embarrassing moment with me.

  2. I adore your willingness to be vulnerable and honest here, Jess. We all make mistakes, and hopefully, like you, learn from them. I hope you’ve forgiven yourself!

    Some of mine: asking too many people for feedback on a manuscript – then trusting their opinions more than my gut (so easy to do when we’re new), and thinking that more is better. And by more, I mean working with very few breaks and until my eyes nearly fell out. I’ve learned that living, breathing, etc., are more important than “sit down and write, dammit!” time. 😉

    1. Thanks for the kind words, August. This post was postponed several times unsure of how people would respond. But ultimately, it shaped who I would become and was a hard, but good learning lesson in both instances.

      And I’ve done your mistake too. Add in changing so many details at their suggestion you don’t have a clue what you’re writing anymore! LOL More graveyard words…

  3. Stupidest thing I ever did as a writer? Not feed the beast. I sacrificed that part of my soul (along with my music) on the altar of my career. Fortunately, God had a different plan for me that did not include being a workaholic and caused me to lose my job. Through that, I rediscovered my passions and actively pursued them….and made some great friends along the way.

    1. Sounds like a great learning lesson, Kitt. I’m sure it was tough at the time, that’s a big transition. Glad you saw the other side of things.

  4. I took a paragraph from your book, Jess. Not so much to be a “writer”, but an artist in general, with an emphasis on poems and stories.

    I didn’t actually cheat on my boyfriend… we were in one of those “broken up, but not” phases where we just hadn’t fallen back together, and there was no actual intercourse involved.

    I had friends who were into so much of everything, friends who’d seen that, done that, got the souvenir. And I wanted to be more worldly-wise and eloquent and… well, I wanted to be something I wasn’t.

    Something I never was meant to be. You know that feeling when you’re in over your head and every action seems to lead you into digging a deeper whole for yourself? I got kicked out of my house, lived in my car or crashed on a friend’s floor… or sometimes in their bed, laying still and tense as hands would wander and then give up in frustration, knowing I’d have to find a new place to sleep the next day.

    The whole experience gave me a lot of angst, despair and frustration for my poetry. I don’t think it made me write better poems or stories. I didn’t have the time or the energy to craft words carefully… and stream of consciousness gets tired fast. Would I do it again? Probably, but mostly because who I was at the time wasn’t the kind of person who’d listen to the me I am now….

    1. Thank you for sharing this Eden. I can absolutely understand getting caught up in the swell. And if your friends aren’t the ones to help you out, it takes longer to find your way out. I’m glad we both did, and that you didn’t stop writing. It probably saved you.

    2. This always makes me think of Ross and Rachel on Friends. “We were on a break!”

  5. Good lord. If I experienced everything I wrote about in my novel, I would have had to:

    1. Harpoon a man to death.
    2. Toss a hand grenade into another man’s tent.
    3. Blow up a boat.
    4. Set fire to an SUV.
    5. Blow up a national monument with a shoulder-fired rocket.

    Sometimes, the power of imagination is quite enough.

    If anybody is intrigued enough to purchase a copy, though, might I direct them to “No Time for Kings” on Amazon. Available in paperback and Kindle versions.

    The WORST thing I ever did as a writer, though? That one time I shamelessly plugged my novel in the comments section on somebody else’s blog post. 😉

    1. LOL. Plug away, Mark! You’re always welcome…once you’re released from prison from blowing up that boat.

  6. […] favorite, Jess Witkins. Jess is currently working on a book of her own, and talked about the worst thing she ever did as a writer. If you don’t feel like following the link, I’ll “out” her for you: Jess […]

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