My First List

The last cat standing. Do cats actually stand?

How can I entertain my huge fanbase today? I know! A top-ten list! Everyone loves lists! The entire clickbait industry would be crippled without them.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about top-ten lists: Pioneered by Edgar Allan Poe and popularized in the 1960s by Johnny Carson, top-ten lists have remained a mainstay, some would say a crutch, of comedic writers for decades. With the explosion of the Internet, this versatile tool proliferated into the hands of the masses, who armed themselves for the ensuing List Revolution, second only in destructive power to the Cat Picture Coup. Despite numerous scientific studies demonstrating physiological and psychological harm to consumers of top-ten lists, including insomnia, fatigue, reduced bladder function, depression, seasonal affective disorder, and diabetes, lawmakers worldwide have been sluggish in implementing more restrictive legislation against top-ten lists. To date, Lesotho is the only nation to have implemented a policy of rationing.

The Top Ten Ways My Life Has Changed By Becoming A Writer:

  1. I’m responsible for most of the housework. Men out there: no, it’s really not as bad as your wives would have you believe it is. The secret is not to do it. Women out there: use this article to convince your husbands to do more housework; after all, another man said it was easy.
  2. I dress differently. I lounge around all day in my pajamas and wear my new beret to bed. In fact, most days I don’t even get out of bed (see #13). Actually, this is completely untrue, but most people expect it to be.
  3. I go grocery shopping more often. The cute cashiers all know me by name.
  4. $100 seems like a lot of money. This goes both ways: “Groceries for a week cost $100?! We’ll go bankrupt!” “For this short story I wrote ten drafts of over an entire week, I found a magazine that might pay me $100! It’s a dream come true!”
  5. I brush my teeth more often. Do you know those people who actually bring a toothbrush and toothpaste to work and brush their teeth in the bathroom sink after lunch? I’m not one of them, and I’m sure you aren’t, either. But I do believe in good dental hygiene. I’m one of those people who must exist, but, like the yeti, can only be tracked through rumor and circumstantial clues; in this case, you see that stores sell dental floss, but you’ve never actually seen anyone buying it. I’m the guy. Now that I’m at home, though, I brush my teeth when I get out of bed and before I go shopping (see #11), then I brush my teeth after breakfast, then again after lunch, then, most days, after my tea-time Mountain Dew or Pepsi (assuming I didn’t have it in lieu of milk for breakfast), then after dinner, and possibly one more time after I put away the leftovers of whatever I cooked for my family that day and lick the spoons and pots thoroughly (see #10; waste not, want not).
  6. I know the comma rules in English better. Comma rules are a bitch in absolutely every language on Earth, (nonrestrictive clause beginning with “which”) which is why no one understands them. I can say this with authority because I speak two languages. But being a writer, (introductory adverbial phrase) I must understand them, (I have no idea why this one is here, but it feels right) mostly to point out to other authors how they misused them when I write critiques of their stories.
  7. Now I understand I don’t write poetry. When I was in elementary school, I fought to be allowed into a select group of students who had a poetry lesson with a published poet who came in once a week (Rose MacMurray, God rest her soul, and, by the way, buy her book, which I have never read myself). I was thrilled to be writing poetry. My poetry teacher liked what I wrote. My family liked what I wrote. I read Robert Frost in my spare time. I thought I was pretty hip. When my eldest daughter was in elementary school, we sat and wrote poetry together a couple of times. Flash forward ten years, I’ve just spent two days writing and perfecting a poem (spoiler alert: I will probably put it on this blog next week) and am hunting for a place I could submit it. That’s when I discover that “poetry” means something different from what I always thought it meant. I am humbled.
  8. Except for rejection, my life has lost a whole lot of predictability. Even the rejections have become few and far between in the last couple of weeks. (But I got two this morning!) Besides that, I have no bedtime, I don’t set my alarm clock (which doesn’t mean I sleep in, only that I don’t know when I’ll get up), and I may or may not work on any given day. This is slightly unsettling, and I get upset when a day goes by without my stabilizing one load of laundry per day, no exceptions (see #13).
  9. I now pay a lower property tax. I applied to have my condominium listed as a hermitage, which gives me a sizable (see #10) tax break. This carries with it the requirement of spending no more than one hour out-of-doors a day, which must be documented in a log, but that’s not usually a problem. I fudge a little when it comes to shopping (see #11).
  10. (corollary) I now know exactly what everyone is thinking when I am in conversation with them. If it is the middle of a work day, they are thinking, “Why is this man not at work?” If it is a pleasant conversation with friends, they’re thinking, “He’s lost it. I hope whatever he has isn’t catching.” Why is this a corollary? Because I now avoid conversations with other humans more than ever (see #5). Conversations with myself are great. I’ve heard that some authors carry on conversations with their characters, but they’re just nuts.
  11. My cats have become tax-deductible tools of my trade. How many author’s bios have you seen in which their pets are not featured more prominently than they are? How many authors never include humorous anecdotes about their pets in their blogs? It humanizes. It draws readers. In other words: it’s a marketing technique. I can’t really do that without the pets themselves, so, c’est la vie, I have two cats. (Actually, I’m currently in a “gray area” of tax law, since we were recently forced to sell one of our cats and have not yet replaced him, but I still claim two cats in my bio and on my 1099.)
  12. I read more. I love reading, but I’m taken back to my senior year in high school when I had to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man out loud and at Micro-Machines-Man-speed to keep myself awake and get through it before my essay was due.
  13. I don’t care about corona. Just when you were thinking, “Finally! I can read something that has nothing to do with corona!” and then I just go and stab you in the back like that. I’m such a tease. And it’s not quite true, anyway. I still care about the availability of rice.
  14. On balance, the world in an unhappier place. Sure, I’m happier. Kind of. A lot. In a conflicted way. And because I’m happier, my wife is happier, my kids are happier, my (singular) cats are happier, the cute cashiers at the grocery store are happier, or pretend to be (see #11). In my hermitage (see #5), there is a ruddy glow of health that permeates everything and makes it hard to sleep at night. But think of all the editors out there who are forced to read the tripe I submit and then always have to find something nice to say about it in rejection letters! Think about fellow writers in writing workshops I attend who are in a far worse quandary because they can’t fall back on form rejections! Think of yourselves, dear readers of my blog, and weep! From a utilitarian viewpoint, I am inflicting heavy damage upon society! Through my overuse of exclamation points!

So that’s it. I know it’s a top-ten list, but the scientific studies referenced by Wikipedia show a stronger link between lists and ill health effects if the number of entries is a multiple of five, independent of the number claimed in the article title, so I chose lucky 13 (and a half). You’re welcome.

  • Days since I quit my day job: 270
  • Stories completed thus far: 23
  • Submissions: 69
  • Rejections: 36
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Plug for a really great read: Mysteries & Lore of Western Maryland: Snallygasters, Dogmen, and other Mountain Tales by Susan Fair. When you think of cryptozoology, you probably think of Bigfoot, dragons, and Santa Claus (oops, I forgot the spoiler alert). Ms. Fair demonstrates that there is so much more out there by researching and presenting a book full of mythical beings that all inhabit only her own neck of the woods. (The neighborhood must be a real zoo.) Her breezy style in relating skin-crawling accounts from locals is what makes this more than just an average read.

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