Thinking Makes It So: 4 reasons everyone should write

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By Kelly LeVan

4. The pay is fabulous

Seriously: Columbia Pictures paid Scott Rosenberg $1.2 million just to rewrite his own script, titled “Black Ice,” in 2000. Of course, he had a bit of an amazing track record with “High Fidelity,” “Con Air,” “Gone in Sixty Seconds” and “The Sentinel.” Nevertheless, since “Black Ice” remains unproduced, it’s hard to say whether he deserved it.

“Well, sure, but he wrote for the movies,” you’re saying – out loud, in unison with the person sitting beside you on the bus, who has been reading over your shoulder – “and I want to write novels!”

Here’s a story for you: Two novelists climbed into a bus. One said to the other, “I can’t imagine why the bus was so late!”

“Ha! YOU can’t,” the other said.

OK – I stole the punch line from “The Simpsons” but the truth remains: You just need a fantastic imagination and a willingness to do the work. Then you get rich.

It’s too late now, of course, but if you had just taken the time to scribble down a few Harry Potter novels, you would be making something like $140/minute or $200,000/day, according to Forbes magazine’s calculations.

You know what you get for being lazy? The indulgence of your friends, who put up with your whining.

3. Flexible hours

Part-time? Full-time? Nights and weekends? Split-shifts? There are positions open at every level of commitment and entry-level writers can try any schedule they like until they find the perfect fit.

I’ve heard of authors who rise at 5 a.m. every day to put in a half-hour’s work before the kids wake up and abstract thought becomes a faint memory, like prom night. Others will stay up all night if that happens to be when inspiration attacks. Some work full-time jobs and write gorgeous prose when the rest of us are watching “So You Think You Can Dance” on TV. For others, writing is their full-time job. I assume this bunch enjoys prime-time television just like anyone else.

The point is, when you fill out your application to be a writer, you don’t have to check little availability boxes. If you have a life-drawing class Tuesday nights, boxing on Wednesdays and you have to pick your son up from preschool at 3 p.m. every day, you can still get hired.

The Writing Job will even offer you sick leave and vacation time whenever you need it, no questions asked. But remember, take too much vacation and Reason No. 4 stops applying to you.

2. You can call yourself a writer without having to actually, you know, write

This might not appear to qualify as one of the top four reasons to write, since it involves absolutely no writing, but it really is an excellent perk and I know plenty of people who take advantage of it.

And really, “writing” is not so much an act as a feeling. You can look at a clump of purple-flowery weeds in your backyard and be “writing,” if something about the weeds gives you a nostalgic or sentimental feeling. You can be at a party and overhear a great line of dialogue. That, too, is writing.

Ultimately, all writing requires is physically writing at some point in your life. It doesn’t have to be 50,000 words. Once you’ve written a chapter or even a first paragraph of a novel, you get full access to the title of “writer.” Take a poetry workshop. That counts. Even long after the class ends and you’re still sitting on those 10 poems you wrote over a 16-week period, you are a writer.

Talk about flexible hours – though again, the more lax you are about the physical, actual writing – not just the staring at weeds and thinking of clever similes – the less likely Reason No. 4 will pertain to you. And Reason No. 4, even though it’s ranked fourth and not first, is quite appealing.

1. You can express your true, dazzling self

However, if your true self is too dazzling, perhaps you should refrain from writing all together. Writing is less about bragging than about admitting faults. This is just what people prefer to read.

Take, just for instance, popular Chuck Palahniuk books about sex addicts (“Choke”), people who like to spread rabies (“Rant”), plan to kill themselves on film (“Snuff”) and sneak female hormones into the food and beverages of men they are attracted to (“Invisible Monsters”). People love these, even people who don’t consider suicidal tendencies a really attractive quality in a sexual partner.

Of course, if one believes Palahniuk is merely expressing his true self in these novels, one is as deranged as any of his characters.

Self-expression, at its best, comes from a weird angle that distorts and amplifies a lot of minor imperfections until they become interesting.

“Tell the truth but tell it slant,” Emily Dickinson wrote, although probably with a dash somewhere.

Slant yourself enough and you might earn the big bucks, too, just like she did. Wait – like her publishers did.

OK, Reason No. 4 still doesn’t quite work. But if you still want to write, then I give you my blessing, one writer to another.

E-mail Kelly your favorite Dickinson poems at laeditor@lamonitor.com.