Quit Writing Immediately And Succeed

I was a sophomore in high school when Conan O’Brien started his run on Late Night. I didn’t sleep much then, I saw his show all the time. The first couple weeks were terrible, and then they mellowed into a more pleasing strain of terrible, until gradually I began to find the debacle kind of sustaining. I had turned into a bit of an addict.


I started telling people forget Leno and Letterman (Why was that was a thing people used to have feelings about?), Conan was the only thing you needed to watch after the 11 o’clock news. Everyone thought I was an asshole, as if I were actually doing a belligerent thing by enjoying a show. I kept on saying this for years, enjoying the ridicule it earned me, until eventually people started to agree. It was disorienting for me. It must have been what St. Augustine experienced when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire: what the fuck just happened?

I remember reading later how tough those early days were for the show, its contract extended only a month or a two at a time, that everyone was waiting for the plug to be pulled at any moment. Guests canceled frequently, replaced at the last second by Abe Vigoda, former New York City mayor Ed Koch, and Dr. Joyce Brothers (all of whom have since passed, I just noticed). Eventually they ran out of things to say, so some nights the crew just pretended to beat them with a stick. Ed Koch sang Old Man River as they did this.

You sensed a kind of euphoria in the making of tv no one was watching, knowing that the ride would be over any minute, so if there was something you were hoping to get away with before you died, now was the time to do it. A farting hot dog, a streaker in a phony nude suit, the Stanley Cup costume you foolishly spent two months of the prop budget on, why not show it every night for ten months? When nothing matters anymore, you really can’t do anything too asinine.

(N.B. I didn’t see the point of doing any research for this post.)

I’ve been writing fiction as a daily activity—oh shut up!—twelve years now. I’ve gotten into a lot of ruts, and nothing has ever pumped the life back into me like giving up. I would realize I was an utter failure, that I never possessed a fraction of the talent that I once imagined I had. The only logical thing was to quit before I squandered another hour of my life in writing down very boring lies.

This decision was always very liberating. Once I swore to never write another word, many of the difficulties of writing became trivial. All I had to do was keep in mind that absolutely no one would bother themselves to read this dreck, especially after I threw myself in the river or whatever, so nothing was too batshit or self-indulgent to stain the page with. In a short moment or two, I was amusing myself incredibly.

And now, hardly any decades later, I have a whole stack of completed manuscripts.

What was I saying? Oh right, Kevin the Vampire comes out next week. Let’s say on Tuesday, like a music album did when I still cared about those. That’s October 4th, I guess. You’ll be able to download the ebook for free. If you insist on making money an issue, you can also buy the print or audio.

Honestly I didn’t know I liked the book until heard the audio.

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