Commentary • Opinion • ISSUE 49•23 • Jun 4, 2013
I have so much sympathy for aspiring writers. Our profession is difficult to master, and the deluge of advice writers receive doesn’t make it any easier: “Write every day,” “Study the works of writers you admire,” “The essence of writing is rewriting,” etc. Such guidance isn’t wrong, exactly, but it certainly misses the big picture.
As an author with a half century of literary success behind me, I can assure you the only way to make it in this industry is to meet as many publishers as you possibly can and then fuck them.
Take all the classes you want, attend every writers’ conference—these can be great investments in your career, but only if you’re making the most of them by meeting, exchanging contact information with, and ultimately seducing people who work in the book industry. Success in writing takes serious commitment and a willingness to devote thousands of hours to the craft of having sex with key publishing professionals.
People always ask me about my own process, and the first thing I tell them is that what works for me isn’t necessarily right for you. Each writer’s path is a highly personalized journey, and you must find your own creative methods of hooking up with high-powered publishers and showing them a night of bliss they won’t soon forget—ideally one that ensures they’ll remember your face over those of all the other writers they’re currently fucking.
What’s the best way to get started? A good rule of thumb is to fuck who you know.
This is sound advice for beginners, but it’s not an invitation to be lazy: A good writer should always be curious, constantly looking around for new and more powerful people to sleep with. Set small goals for yourself at first. Agents can be valuable lays. Even fucking someone’s assistant can be worthwhile if he or she has an editor’s ear.
But perhaps the best thing a young writer can do is to establish a daily routine and then stick to it. I myself like to have sex with a publisher first thing in the morning. Maybe I wake up at his house and fuck him in the shower; maybe I drop by his office to give him a manuscript and a blow job. Either way, I’m finished by noon, and then I have the afternoons to recharge. I may even get a little writing done in the evenings.
Whatever your method, every day you should wake up feeling as though you just have to fuck a publisher.
Inevitably there will be some bumps along the way, and every writer must learn to deal with rejection. Sometimes your sexual advances will go unreciprocated, or an editor will pull you aside and tell you to your face that what you’re doing is unprofessional. But you can’t let little setbacks like these get you down. Jump right back into bed with the next editor you find and keep sleeping your way toward that book contract.
Another obstacle you’re bound to encounter is writer’s block—that terrifying moment when you find yourself at a book party or a panel on writing, look around the room, and realize you have absolutely no idea who you should fuck to move your career forward. When that happens, the most important thing you can do is to fuck someone—anyone—just to work through your slump and keep yourself out there.
If it turns out the person you have sex with isn’t going to help get you published, that’s okay. Just keep sleeping around until you’ve found someone who will.
One last word to the wise: A lot of writers find it easier to work after they’ve had a few drinks to loosen themselves up. I’ve tried it, and it’s not my thing. Whenever I drink, I start fucking and think I’m doing absolutely brilliant stuff, but when I wake up the next morning, I’m astonished by how bad it really was. However, if a few drinks help you get to that place where you can tolerate a night of sex with a powerful editor—let’s face it, most people in publishing aren’t very attractive—then by all means, go for it.
There’s really no mystery to getting published. If you want it badly enough, you’ll get there. All it really takes is the discipline to keep your butt in the chair, on the bed, or, as is often the case, on a bathroom sink at a bar—and do your work.
- Joyce Carol Oates Gives Questionable Advice, and Other News (theparisreview.org)
- Joyce Carol Oates on Developing Realistic Characters (aerogrammestudio.com)