Authors don’t have ordinary lives. Ask them – I don’t know any writer who won’t happily tell you in 500 words or less. Whether writing the Great American Novel or how to outwit Bill Maher, authors have their own unique POV (point of view).
As a writer, family therapist, and author of 27 books, I have enough letters after my name and in my life to offer an insider’s POV in twelve rules.
1. Authors are lucky. Most people who hear voices and see imaginary faces are given diagnoses. We get book reviews.
2. Everyone knows that our yearly income matches Stephen King ($39 million) and James Patterson ($94 million). Why disappoint them? Smile. Assure the world that you earn seven figures. No one has to know the exact numbers – it can be $0,000,000 and you’re still telling the truth.
3. People think authors are very smart. Don’t argue – just never admit that you’re terrible at Jeopardy or have trouble figuring out the tip after dinner. Instead, apologize with something like “my head is so filled with serial-killers that I’m not thinking straight.”
4. Authors should never confess to reading anything but the finest literature. If you want to read People Magazine, hide it in The New York Times. Tell everyone that James Patterson’s books are at a third-grade reading level and the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy didn’t deserve to sell 100 million copies. Never admit you read Face Book for ideas.
5. Television is for everyone else. Authors should shudder when there’s talk of reality shows like Fat Girl Dancing and Duck Dynasty. You’ve never heard of Sister Wives or The Bachelor because your TV only gets CNN, The History Channel, and Masterpiece Classics. Downton Abbey is borderline unless you compare it to Jane Austin.
6. News is critical to understanding what goes on beyond your screen. Authors must claim to read The New York Times completely, in print – although you stopped your subscription ten years ago. No one will ever know you read news from your iPad – mostly videos – and usually in a waiting room. You never heard of TMZ or listened to Jimmy Fallon for political advice.
7. Eat sushi at a baseball game. Never hot dogs and peanuts.
8. When authors watch football they talk about how the game is a metaphor for war. Cheer silently and keep a low profile on the pools. Always serve healthy food at your Super Bowl Party.
9. Choose your activities carefully. Playing basketball is for sweaty Presidents. Softball is for employees. Lifting weights is for teenagers. Authors run (never jog), brisk walk (never stroll), work out (with a personal trainer), and swim (never in a pool – only in natural settings like lakes, ponds and oceans). Stay away from golf – you don’t want to look like an old writer.
10. Know your pop psychology. Words make the writer. No one is manic depressive anymore – they’re bipolar. Being neurotic dates you – anxiety disorders are the diagnosis of the day. Crazy pills are passé; we proudly pop anti-depressants, or even better, SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). Your multiple personality character suffers from Dissociative Disorder, and all CEOs are confirmed narcissists. If you want to sound wise refer to Ovid’s Myth of Narcissus and Echo when discussing politicians and reality show hosts.
11. Authors are foodies. Every reader loves stories about artisan ice cream with strange flavors like Strawberry Habanero, Date at the Zoo, and Persian Love Cake. Store-bought vanilla is for the masses who read only James Patterson books. Steak au poivre is far superior to hamburgers from the grill and green dragon rolls shame Mac’s filet-o-fish. Watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is fine but stay away from Cutthroat Kitchen.
12. Most importantly, enjoy. Authors are their own genre.