Erotica for Writers

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Here in Chicago, we have a series called Naked Girls Reading. No joke. I know what you’re thinking. You’re either asking yourself why this would be a thing, or why you don’t live in Chicago, or whether there isn’t a Naked Boys Reading series. (Only in London, apparently, and can we please fix that?)

If you aren’t lucky enough to make it to one of these events, don’t worry! Here is some porn for writers. Eight porns, to be exact. Writers are a varied lot, so I’ve tried to include something for everyone. Well, almost everyone. Some of y’all are sick.

Porn 1: You know when someone is reading your manuscript, and they like something, how they put a checkmark in the margin? You know how sometimes there’s even a double checkmark? Well, what about a triple checkmark? Quadruple? Now we’re talking. Pentuple. It’s possible. Yeah, baby.

Porn 2: Misplaced commas, bother you, don’t they? Do they, bother you a lot? How much, do they, bother you? What about apostrophe’s? I bet you want to fix that, don’t you? Well you can’t, because you’re handcuffed to the bed.

Porn 3: Grainy lighting on a small workshop room, six cardiganed writers around a conference table. Saxophone. The workshop leader rises and plucks a stack of papers from his briefcase, tossing it on the table. It’s your short story. Yes, it is.

“This work,” says the obnoxious girl in the corner, “it makes me want to quit writing forever. It’s that good. If I can’t write this well, what’s the point?”

The guy you’ve hated since September shakes his head sadly. “I want to find some fault with this,” he says, “but I just can’t. Why do the rest of us bother?”

“Now, now,” the workshop leader says. “Just because this story has surpassed all extant fiction, that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t try. Sure, I had a good long cry myself last night, but think of how Ben Jonson must have felt, living in the age of Shakespeare. Did he stop writing? No.”

A breeze rustles the curtain. You wipe the sweat from your forehead.

“Guys, guys,” you start to say, but your leader presses a finger to his lips.

“No,” he says. “Save that beautiful voice. Don’t waste it on us.”

Porn 4: Six-figure advance. For poetry.

Porn 5:

Dear Ploughshares Forum: I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me, but a few weeks ago I got an invitation to a black tie benefit. I never get to go anywhere nice, so I scrubbed up and walked into the ballroom of a fancy hotel. Someone handed me a drink and said, “Hey, don’t I know you? I think I’ve read your work.” I was floored. I mean, someone read my work? But it didn’t stop there. Across the room, I recognized John Irving. Looking spiffy in a tux, white hair nicely combed. He made eye contact and started walking over. Towards me? I couldn’t believe this. “You,” he said, and I could feel his eyes scanning my writer’s callous, my glasses. “You have promise.” And then he gave me his business card, an invitation to MacDowell, and a Tin House scholarship, and taught me that secret handshake you can use to get in The New Yorker. I ran into the bathroom and toweled myself off, knowing I’d never be this happy again.

Porn 6: Have you been a bad writer? Have you been overusing adjectives? You have, haven’t you, you bad writer. You’ve been using adverbs too, I know you have. Adjectives and adverbs all over the place. I know all about your heavy-handed dramatic irony, and the way you switched point of view for no reason on page three. You know what happens to bad writers, don’t you? That’s right. We take their computers away.

Porn 7: In the window of McNally Jackson, wearing nothing but its dust jacket: your essay collection. Come and get it.

Porn 8: Pour yourself a nice, hot bath. With lots of bubbles, because this is classy. There is champagne, which also has bubbles. Ease yourself into the water. Mood music, weird sunlight. Why is your bathroom so sunny? Don’t worry about it. What’s that in your hand, the New York Times Book Review? Well, well, what have we here? It’s your debut novel, right there on the cover. Toni Morrison, James Wood, and Kakutani reviewing together? This never happens. But apparently they all wanted to review you at once. They’ve declared you the rightful heir to Robert Frost. Which is weird because you wrote a novel, but whatever. “Trenchant,” they say. “Deeply felt,” they say. “Already a bestseller in twelve countries,” they say. “Sublime and elegiac.” Yes, that’s it. Right there. Checkmark. Checkmark. Checkmark.