The new book How To Sharpen Pencils by David Rees got me thinking about what other guides might be useful to writers. The genius behind Get Your War On did, in fact, start a pencil sharpening business, and he subsequently wrote the instruction manual in the hopes that all of us might one day be free of the tyranny of not knowing how to sharpen pencils.
Since Rees has the pencil covered, I had to come up with something just as essential. My first idea was a book called How to Not Set Yourself on Fire. Unfortunately, this does not gel with my skill set. My second idea, which can’t guarantee you won’t set yourself on fire, might actually prove a tad more practical for writers struggling to make a living. I call it, Harnessing Your Inner Scrappiness.
Embrace the Loss
The first thing you’re going to want to do is let go of any notion that you will make enough money to eat and pay rent. Eating and sleeping in what society deems a decent shelter is for bankers and doctors. Stop fighting this. Just as what you own ends up owning you, once you live nowhere, you live everywhere. You don’t need a roof. Roofs are bourgeois.
Any Item Can Provide Shelter
I once slept underneath a deflated air mattress, utilizing it as a blanket, as there was no blanket. You know what it was? Warm. And waterproof! Sure, cardboard boxes are classic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use almost anything to cover and warm yourself. Give that trash bag a nice shake and tuck yourself in.
Any Item Can Be Clothes
Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you don’t have a personality. Discover your inner flair. Tie a bunch of shoes together to form a cape. Wouldn’t that discarded oil can make a lovely hat? Maybe you want to string used tissues into a scarf. Only your imagination can stop you.
Put It In Your Mouth
Teach your stomach to digest food alternatives. Start with natural substances like leather and wood. Synthetics are something you’ll want to work up to. Putting almost anything in your mouth will help saliva production, which is good for overall mouth health. And yes, there will be a lot of things you’ll be putting in your mouth. Lots of...things.
Befriend Rodents and Insects
Make nice with the scurrying inhabitants of the underworld. Not only do they know where the food is; if trained properly, they can also provide much needed companionship. The faster you learn to put up with all those itchy bites and strange rashes, the faster you can pretend you’re not talking to yourself. Which you are. A lot.
But maybe scrappiness isn't your thing. There are five gabillion how-to guides out there to show you how to, you know, do things. Perhaps you want to draw manga? Or maybe you haven't figured out how to eat stuff. Or yes, and this is probably necessary. Because you haven't figured that out yet.
Image: The Awl