What Not To Write About

-Don’t write about your boyfriends.

-Or your girlfriends.

-And definitely don’t write about your ex-boyfriends or girlfriends. I don’t want to hear about your personal relationships. They’re trite and boring and I don’t care about what you think of as your broken or unbroken hearts. Trust me, you’ll get over both.

-Don’t write about history. You don’t know enough about it and are too lazy to do the research.

-Don’t write from the point of view of animals or objects that are not really alive. It’s really nice that you know what personification is but I don’t care what your dog thinks of your parent’s divorce or what a stapler has to say about the homeless.

-Really, you should assume you know nothing and when you write you should be writing from a position of unknowingness.

-Do not write from the position of an omniscient narrator. Do you know what that is? Of course you don’t. It means all-knowing. And since none of you are all-knowing, you will not be writing in this all-knowing way. In fact, for the duration of this class I highly encourage you to write in first person.  Because really, all you know is yourselves and your own minds. If that.

-But don’t think that you’ll be writing diary entries. This is creative writing which is another way of saying fiction. You will be making stuff up. I really want you to think about this. Fiction. Lies. You are going to be lying.

-Don’t you dare try and tell the truth in here. I will know and I will fail you and if you haven’t figured it out already I don’t give a shit about you or your GPA or what you think of as your hopeful or not-so-hopeful future. Don’t write about real life. If you do I will know and yes, I will fail you. Am I understood?

-Good. Moving on.

-Don’t write about your parents. Or your family. They love you or they don’t love you, or maybe they only sort of kind of love you, and whether you wanted them to or not they made you who you are.

-Don’t write about love. Any kind—familial or romantic.

-Don’t even use the word love. This is a word you don’t know how to use. Nobody does. That’s why it’s horrible. In fact, it’s not even a word anymore. It’s just a collection of symbols used by inadequate people that fails to mean anything. Don’t use it. Ever.

-Don’t write about war or fishing. You have no authority from which to speak on these subjects.

-Don’t write about the future. This is not a class for science fiction, this is literary fiction and though I’d love to argue with you about the literary merits of science fiction this is neither the time nor place. Just don’t do it.

-Don’t write about Hollywood. Or other countries. Or any other places you know nothing of.

-Don’t write about friendships or the loss of them.

-Don’t write about your first time or about sex at all. Chances are you’re bad at having sex and you’re bad at writing about it.

-Don’t write about the people you think have done you wrong. Chances are it was your fault anyway.

-Don’t write about society or how you think it affects you. Don’t write about commercialism or capitalism and think you know what you’re talking about. You don’t.

-And just so you know, none of you will be changing the world in here. There will be no amazing conclusions or insights reached. You may think you have something new to share but you don’t.

-Don’t write about being bored because it’s boring.

-Don’t write about being happy because it’s even more boring.

-Don’t try and pass off a dream you had as a fiction. It’s not. It’s a dream and it’s a bad, boring story that never really happened and nobody here cares about it.

-Don’t write about growing up. Don’t tell me about your bikes or your front lawns or the concrete streets of your cute little neighborhoods.

-Don’t try and tell me you grew up in a city because you didn’t. Don’t write stories about back alleys or dirty apartments because you don’t know any.

-Don’t write about being sick and don’t ever write about cancer. Chances are that one of you has known someone with cancer and that’s great, you should use that, but don’t address it in this class because you don’t have the skill not to sound like an idiot.

-Don’t write about diseases, you’ll offend the people who have them.

-Don’t write about ethnicity, you’ll offend the people who are them.

-Don’t write about being a woman or a man. We’re all women and men and we know what it’s like to be both.

-Has anyone here been in the holocaust?

-No? Okay, good. Don’t write about that either.

-Don’t write about death. You know nothing of death. Maybe you’ve had a grandparent die, maybe someone really close to you died, but you have no real idea what death means. Don’t try to guess. You don’t want to know the answer.

-Don’t write about flowers, or sunshine, or the mountains. I already know that nature is beautiful, I don’t need you telling me about the tree you saw last weekend and how it made you feel to understand that.

-Don’t write about parties. They’re only fun when you’re at them and even then, only if you’re drunk. When I am sober, or mostly-sober, and reading about how cool and tragic you think you are because you puked over the fire escape at some apartment building where you tried some drug, or tried to sleep with someone and failed, it makes me want to kill myself.

-Don’t write about suicide.  You have no idea.

-Don’t write about writing. Or try to make your story some kind of commentary on stories. That’s what criticism is for, which you should never read because it’s written by people who can’t write stories and thus don’t fully understand what it’s like to have a soul.

-Don’t write about heaven or hell or the afterlife. You are not dead. Either am I. I don’t want to hear about white clouds, puppy-dogs, and lilies of the valley. And I definitely don’t want to hear about rivers of dead people and carrion birds. I’m alive. I don’t care about what happens when I’m not alive. I want you to tell me about now.

-But don’t write about food. It makes me hungry and I hate that.

-Don’t write about traveling. You haven’t been anywhere and you’ve seen nothing. And no, your trip to Disneyland when you were seven doesn’t count.

-Don’t write about your jobs. You have no idea what it’s like to actually work. To show up somewhere every day wanting to leave.

-Don’t write about being poor. You’re not poor. You’re in college. And furthermore, you’re in America. You have no idea what poor is like. Really, for you, being poor is as abstract and unknowable as death.

-Don’t write about college. You really won’t understand it until you’re not here anymore. And even then the only stories you’ll tell about it will be anecdotes you tell your children so they’ll know you weren’t always old and sad and boring.

-Don’t write about anything in your immediate life. You don’t have enough distance from it to write about it objectively. Really, you shouldn’t write about anything that’s happened to you in the last five years. Ten if you want to be really safe.

-Don’t write about what your life might have been like if you’d done things differently or made different decisions. That’s not writing, that’s dreaming, and there is no place for dreams in this classroom.

-Don’t write about babies. They smell and don’t have anything interesting to say.

-Whatever you do, please, don’t write about God. Don’t try to hide God in your stories either. I’ll find him and I’ll know you put him there and I will hate you for it. God does not belong in your stories.

-In fact, don’t write about religion or your lack of religion at all. You’ll just sound confused and dumb. If I wanted to hear what confused dumb people have to say about Jesus, I’d go to church.

-Don’t try to hide things in your stories, I will find them.

-Don’t try to put how you feel about something or someone in a story.

-Don’t put yourself in your story. At all. Ever.

-And never, never, never have a character with the same name as you. The story shouldn’t be about you. You shouldn’t be in your story at all.

-Because it’s not your story. It’s mine. I’m reading it, it belongs to me, and I don’t want to read about you.

-And don’t think that I won’t notice you are talking about yourself when you are. If you try to sneak the truth into your story, any truth, any kind of trueness at all, even if this truth is just a piece of yourself, I will always know.

-Why? Because you are a bad writer. If you don’t believe me just wait a year and then read your story again. You’ll understand.

-Don’t write about music. Music is for listening to, not writing about. You’ll just ruin it with too many words.

-Don’t write about  any other art forms for the same reason.

-Don’t try to explain scientific concepts in your writing. This never works and you’ll only make yourself sound like an asshole.

-Don’t try to teach me anything in your story. You don’t have anything you could possibly tell me that I don’t already know.

-Don’t tell me I don’t know anything in your story because I already know that too.

-Don’t write about emotions. You don’t understand them.

-Don’t write about loss. You have everything.

-Don’t write about confusion. You won’t even know where to begin.

-Don’t write about pain.  You may think that you know pain but you don’t. You don’t know anything. You know so very little. It scares me sometimes how little you know.

-You know, maybe you shouldn’t write about anything. Maybe you aren’t ready yet.

-Don’t write about anything.


-Try to live a little more.

-Find other people and listen to them.

-Learn a few things.

-That might help. Or it won’t. But it’s really your only hope.

-Oh, and I’m failing you all.


3 thoughts on “What Not To Write About

    • Ha, well, just because I wrote it doesn’t mean I believe it. It is, after all, just a bunch of bullshit. But, like I’ve said before (in another piece of bullshit writing) one must never underestimate the power of bullshit. Ha… man, I hate people that quote themselves. Who does that? Honestly?

      One more thing not to write about…

      – Yourself.

      Oh wait, I already said that. :)-

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