Bad Advice Wednesday: Rock the Boat

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour


You know those moments when you sit silent in the face of the knuckleheadedness of your boss?  When you are in the room and the question–you know the answer!–hovers in the silence?  When the contractor tells you he’s not going to finish but wants to be paid anyway and you stand heavy on the manhole cover of your mind to keep the boiling in check and say “Okay”?  When you freeze on your butt in the bus while the psychopath screams?  When if only you could fly around the world at supersonic speed and cause time to reverse and go to Boston and pick out that whoever it is placing his black backpacks?  And that secondary moment when the right riposte comes to you late (l’espirit d’escalier: a useful phrase from the useful French).  Or you wake in the next day’s night with the exact plan?  Or you over beers inhabit the braver person you might have been, the guy that confronts the villain, the gal who rushes toward danger, the exhausted runner who leaps the fence, attends to the injured and dying?

Well, now folks, there’s a way!  Yes, you too can become a writer!

Or anyway, it’s a great exercise–for fiction writers, pick one such moment from your life (or make it up), and then have yourself (now a character) do that thing you were not able, say those words timely you thought of too late.  This is called making stuff happen.  Remember Flannery O’Connor (in one of her fine letters) saying: “If nothing happens, it’s not a story.”

For you nonfictioneers, same idea, but make it an essay: tell us what it is you should have done, say what it is you should have said– what we all should say–and say it well, for all time.

[Bill Roorbach lives in Maine, where he is the world’s greatest writer by far, though Dave and Monica Wood occasionally surpass him]


  1. George de Gramont writes: