One of the hardest things about being a writer is the fact that most of us can’t make a living at it. Partly, this is because there are just so damned many of us, and partly, this is because apparently most of us aren’t willing to do what it actually takes to make a living at writing, i.e. writing things people actually want to read and pay for instead of the stories we just have to tell because you-wouldn’t-ever-understand-I’m-just-a-genius-so-don’t-even-try. But we tell ourselves that if we can just bear the day job for a while (I’m well underway on my second decade, personally) success will find us and it will all be worthwhile because we’ll finally be able to afford hitmen to take out all the bastards whoever did us wrong by not recognizing how secretly awesome we are.
Now there are a lot of books, articles, websites, skywriting, etc. out there that will tell you really basic, obvious, and/or completely useless/obtuse advice on making money at writing. I have a sneaking suspicion that the only money ever made from this advice is the money paid for the advice, but I’m cynical. One of my favorite bits of advice, I will say, was a humor piece by George Singleton that appeared in Oxford American, the gist of which was that if, after each writing session, a person went for a walk and picked up a certain number of aluminum cans and sold them for recycling, after something like 30-40 years, s/he could become a millionaire. Of course, eventually, you’d have to walk several miles a day, according to Singleton’s logic, which isn’t a bad thing either, considering how sedentary the writing life can be.
But I don’t really want to talk about making money; that’s a conversation for another day, and besides, we’re artists, right? (Feel free to interpret that as me being too cloud-headed to be practical.) What I want to talk about is some ways of getting revenge against the assholes who make that day job such a trial. I’ve put a lot of thought, some daydreaming, and a frightening amount of planning into this. I hope that it helps.
The obvious option is to model characters from these assholes and then kill the characters in really brutal ways. Perhaps in a zombie apocalypse. Or in certain Poe-esque situations. The drawback with this is that if you publish it, your zest might lead to it being kind of a hit, which could pigeon-hole you as a horror writer. Which isn’t such a bad thing (you elitist asshole), and hey, you might make some money. You can just keep killing them over and over in each successive book. Just spell the names slightly differently each time.
You could also take the reverse approach and create noble heroic types (maybe just with the same names as the assholes) in order to shame them. But let’s be honest; they probably aren’t reading your books anyway. Of course, at the end of the book, they need to be revealed as traitors and be put to death or eaten by pigs or something.
One of my favorite revenge ideas is to write really hardcore porn using the name of an asshole coworker as my pseudonym. Just really dark and weird stuff, like amputees in bondage gear being forced to eat animal feces, or whatever: you’re the writer; you figure out the plot. Of course, after you’ve written it and published it, the ideal thing to do is make sure s/he sees it. Maybe leave a copy on his/her desk or in the break room. It should be anonymous; you don’t want anyone to know you wrote it, especially the asshole, because otherwise you might find yourself in the unfortunate situation of discovering that the asshole is really into whatever sick shit you wrote about.
A much more mind-fucking approach would be to write notes predicting the future for the asshole, and then endeavoring to make sure they come true. If you’re really committed, you could even get an astrology column in a local paper. Start with little things that are easy to make happen: ‘you’ll get a flat’ or ‘someone will eat your shaky-salad from McDonald’s you left in the break room fridge.’ You can work your way up to divorce or cancer, depending on how much effort you’re willing to devote to the project. There are several benefits to this one, other than revenge. It’s a good opportunity to work on plotting and pacing, since you have to make the whole scenario believable.
on the other hanD, if yOu Work for the goverNment, you could hack the asshole’s Work e-maIl and send sligTHly coded messages proclaiming anti-AMERICAn epithets. i don’t know that it reallY mAtters where you seNd them, the KEy would bE some miDdling-tO-high-level Government employee, like an aide to a congreSsman, for example.
Of course, maybe you don’t like the passive aggressive route, or you’re a stickler for proper grammar, and you’d prefer a confrontation. Much like unemployment, it happens, even to the best of us. Luckily, since you’re a writer, you’re really good with words. You’re observant. You’ve gathered evidence. All of this means that you will be able to dress down the asshole/s really effectively. This will probably keep you warm as you wait in line outside the unemployment office. And remember: if they fire you, you can go on unemployment (not so if you quit). That would probably give you the time you need to write that novel you keep telling yourself you’re going to write. So there’s hope.
CL Bledsoe is the author of the young adult novel Sunlight; three poetry collections, _____(Want/Need), Anthem, and Leap Year; and a short story collection called Naming the Animals. A poetry chapbook, Goodbye to Noise, is available online at www.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe. Another, The Man Who Killed Himself in My Bathroom, is available at here. His story, “Leaving the Garden,” was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 for story South‘s Million Writer’s Award. His story “The Scream” was selected as a Notable Story of 2011. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 5 times. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings. Bledsoe has written reviews for The Hollins Critic, The Arkansas Review, American Book Review, Prick of the Spindle, The Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Bledsoe lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland.