12/03/2010 11:32 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How to Write Better, in the Words of Mock Amy Sedaris

Writing is hard. But it's easy, too, like talking and baking. Baking isn't hard. It's the easiest thing to do in the kitchen, besides the microwave. Just get some flour and baking soda or baking salt or whatever, doesn't matter, and mix it together. A handful of sugar, a pinch of cumin. Maybe an egg. Check the expiration date, that's important. It's not what you put in it, but what you put on it. That's a kitchen saying. It's about butter, too. And sugar, too. Everyone likes things sweeter than they are. Sugar is like Time magazine's "Ingredient of the Year." Corn syrup is better than sugar, but what aisle is that on? I can never find it.

A headband works: a headband and a mirror over your desk to practice your gestures. Repeat "I am powerful" over and over again while pointing at yourself with your index finger in the shape of a gun.

Writing is hard, but shooting something helps. Shoot a small animal, like a rabbit. Shooting a rabbit may sound mean, but it's hard. Rabbits are fast. Have you ever tried to shoot a rabbit from the back of a moving truck? They don't want to be shot, which is part of the problem. Deer are slow in comparison. And birds, I'm not sure about birds. Probably somewhere between rabbits and deer. Goats are easy. Shooting a goat will not make you feel powerful.

Software, helps. It comes in a yellow box, or sometimes a red box. It gives your computer orders. Erase this and write that. Erase this, write that. That's helpful. I don't really know what it actually looks like though, software. Is it a double helix or something? I know what DNA looks like, which is weird. Anyway, someone told me software is like lines and lines of X's and O's, which doesn't sound right.

Writing is hard, except children's books are easy. They're like 30 words long with 20 pages of pictures. I haven't written one myself. If you're the writer though, you don't even have to draw the pictures. I don't know if everyone knows that. Those writers don't even draw the pictures. The drawings are done by professional drawers. Sometimes it helps if you want to write something for grown-ups, to write something for children first.

Once upon a time, that's good start. Once upon a time a gang of mean girls with big hair and red-plaid tennis skirts come out of nowhere with white metal tennis rackets and attacked your mother in a grocery store parking lot. You're strapped in your car seat, so there's nothing you can do about it. Then there are two pages of drawings. See what I mean. Your mother's body is hanging two feet over into the next spot, which adds tension to your plot. What will happen when someone wants to park there? Anyway, you're the kid in the car seat balling your head off.

Writing is hard, but children's books are easy. Drawing cartoons is a good warm up. Draw a cartoon of your favorite president getting attacked by teenage vampires, or werewolves. That's funny. Like Richard Nixon, when he was president, or whatever, or Martha Stewart. She's was president of a company. That's even better. I love her.

Writing is hard, so just come up with an invention instead. Or, sell an idea to Hollywood. It's just an idea. You can have another one. Hollywood is an idea factory. They have one million writers better than you anyway. Writing isn't where the money is. The money is in ideas. A stranger comes into town, that's a good idea. A man goes on a journey. That's another one. Aliens are good ideas, too. Aliens that eat children and dogs, but not cats. I like cats. Aliens eating children and dogs is good for adult books and children's books. That's called a cross-over. Do a cross-over.

Listen to Helen Reddy, the Christmas singer. She's from Canada. Just saying "Canada" has a calming effect. Try it. Canada is practically invisible, while Mexico is all over the place. Cocaine killings and blood baths and bank robberies and kidnappings, serial killers, a lot of good stuff in Mexico. Canada, nothing. Canada isn't even on YouTube. Has anybody been there?

I said write children's books already, right. Well, writing a children's cookbook is even easier. Cookbook writers don't do their own pictures, either. You probably didn't know that. They just write the recipes, or get them from their grandmothers, or make them up right out of magazines.

Writing is hard, so you should get a cat. Three cats are better than one cat because they get run over by cars and eaten by coyotes. They get cancer, too, which is a big drag. Anyway, if you're a writer you have enough problems already.

Drinking is a problem, but it's good, too. Drunks drive people away, which is good because writers need to be left alone. When you're writing, everyone is always "How's it going?" The cats are always like "feed me." I mean in cat-talk. Canada I don't know about, but cat-talk is real. I have an Estonian cat. He talks Estonian. That a dialect of some other language, I think. The vowels sound Russian, but the double consonants don't. I got my cat out a cardboard box in front of the bank. Do you remember when people used to go to banks? That was in 1985 or 1986.

Writing is hard, so try listening to some Helen Reddy, or Prince, or carnival music. Prince writes children's book, I think. He has the perfect name for it already. He should probably do cookbooks for kids, they're even easier. Prince Does Cup Cakes is a good title. Cupcakes are really big now. Anyway, like 15 words on cupcakes and you're done. Then come the pictures.

Writing is hard because people count your words, too. Editors and agents are always counting every word you say. It's stressful. The contract says this, or the contract says that, they're always telling you. Don't even have a good idea without a contract, by the way. Whether you're in Hollywood or Dollywood, I don't care. Get a contract, then get an idea. Not vice-versa. Not the other way around. That's a recipe for the poorhouse.

Writing is hard, so write a self-help book on writing. If you can't write a whole book, or a children's book, or children's cookbook, then just write a list like this:


1. Bake something.
2. Eat butter.
3. Wear a headband.
4. Put a mirror over your desk.
5. Make your index finger into the shape of a gun.
6. Shoot a rabbit.
7. Get some software.
8. Write a children's book, just the words.
9. Draw a cartoon where a President Nixon gets attached teenage vampires.
10. Sell an idea to Hollywood.
11. Look into the idea of Helen Reddy.
12. Get three cats.
13. Get drunk.
14. Listen to carnival music.
15. Write a children's cookbook on cupcake-baking.
16. Make a list of how to write better.

DISCLAIMER: This is a piece of fan-lit: the channeling of a superior intelligence for the purpose of furthering one's own writing career. I have had no actual contact with the "real" Amy Sedaris. Should you want to channel her yourself, you might buy her new book on the sport of crafting: Simple Crafts: Crafts for Poor People. Joe Woodward is working on a literary biography of Nathanael West to be published in 2011 by O/R Books. It will not be funny. You can find him at TheNathanaelWestProject.