dip pen and inkwell by jasonc photography, flickr

dip pen and inkwell by jasonc_photography, flickr

Here is a test to determine readiness for achieving competency as a literary fiction writer in the United States of America in the 21st century. The method to test the margin between competence and popularity and/or critical success has yet to be determined. Again, the parameters of this test are merely to determine potential competency in the field of creative fiction writing.

This test is based on the anecdotal experiences of the author of this test and could be deemed less than scientifically rigorous. But given the popularity of readers and test takers who self select tests in magazines and online, we decided to put together a series of tests based on varying demographics and experiences each with the goal of helping the readers determine for themselves answers to the mysterious questions often googled such as: What does it take to be a literary fiction writer? Google, we realize, is the much more interactive cousin of the Magic 8 ball, and so we thought: Why not help the reader be more interactive with himself/herself as he/she goes alongside a mentor of sorts, a working writer, as he/she interrogates the soul regarding one’s capacity for literary endeavors?

In addition to this, we offered to pay the book allowance of each test creator for one month, a small sum which many writers cannot afford given the cost of rent, food, and helping other writers and artists who themselves are hungry and without shelter.

Further, we must disclose we are supported by advertising dollars – big pharma, chain retail, political candidates – but do not endorse ads and links that appear on the site.

We want to do our best to help you decide whether you can be an artist. Please let us know your score below and what you thought of this experience.

Test for Artistic Competency: The Middle Aged Divorced Housewife, given certain conditions listed below

This test may be relevant for you if: You are a woman in her 50s, divorced after 20 years of marriage more or less, were married to a conservative who threatened to leave you if you try to work outside the home and were raised by religious conservatives who have always hated that you are a writer and discourage rather than encourage you. You make no money from your literary endeavors but are living on a wing and a prayer.

  1. Imagine this future scenario and ask yourself if, repeated over and over in a host of variations, you can handle it without becoming an alcoholic, or at least a nonfunctional one: You go to a bar to hang out with “really fun people” according to the social meet up site on the internet, all of them highly successful working professionals. You begin talking to a seemingly pleasant man who is about your age. He has come to several group meetings, has salt and pepper hair and beard and a Phd, and teaches history at a local private boarding school. You stand at the bar and talk while you enjoy your drinks. When he asks what you do and you say you are a writer he says: Are you successful? If you make no money from your writing but you are published in literary journals, how do you respond? If you defensively argue bullshit about how art has no monetary measure because its worth is in the non-monetized value to humanity, you are a romantic but also a fool in America. Trust me he will walk away and tell the rest of his monetarily wealthy friends you are a real loser. This is a no win situation, so don’t feel sorry, sister. Have more booze and take your credit card away from where it is sitting on the bar then later hoodwink the bartender into believing he’s got a tab going for you. Order another G & T. It’s so busy he’ll get too flustered and forget. Order as many as you can get away with. In so many ways, you can’t afford to be at this gig, but you were trying to be Dorothy Parker. Give yourself 0 points. It’s a wash.
  2. Add up the number of friends you have now, before you seriously start writing, friends you have now before you even begin posting your writing, publishing it, friends who want to go out with you, aren’t jealous of you or who treat you strangely, friends who like you because they understand you, or at least able to “handle” you. Now take that number and subtract an equal number less one from that. That’s how many real friends you will have left when you start publishing as a literary fiction writer, friends who believe you don’t have anything to say, who don’t believe you suck, who don’t believe you to be full of shit. (This perhaps assumes you will be relatively “unknown” which applies to almost all working writers in the United States today. However, if circumstances change and you develop groupies, friends won because of fame don’t really count in this equation unless their loyalty is proven through ups and downs. This is not part of the current equation because the test does not solve for virtual improbabilities.) I hope you were paying attention in grade school because now we will deal with the addition of a negative number. The one will be added to a negative 10 which is the number of writing friends that will be won and lost over the course of your training and development, friends lost through petty arguments, jealousies, and competitions. However, add 30 to this negative number if you are able to pull off going to a low residency or full residency writing program. Add the same number if you can’t afford it but get involved in the local writing and artistic community as well as the writing community online. If you do both and your attention is divided, the final total number of writing friends and acquaintances of this equation is still a solid 21. If you indulge in unrelated social media arguments and rants – political or otherwise – take away at least 5 friends.
  3. Repeat the steps in #2 but solve for the number of supportive family members, with some variations added: Add up the supportive number of friendly adult family members you have now, before you seriously start writing, posting your writing, and publishing in literary journals and magazines, adult family members who want to hang out with you, don’t treat you strangely, adult family members who like you because they understand you, or feel they are at least able to “handle” you. Now take that number and subtract an equal number minus one from that. That’s how many supportive adult family members you will have left when you begin publishing as a literary writer. Again, it is good you were paying attention in grade school because now we will deal with the addition of a negative number. The one friendly member remaining will be added to a negative 1 which is a retroactive situation in which a previously divorced spouse left you, partly because he hated your writing, so it is a wash, darling. When your child grows up to be an adult and if he/she feels proud you are a writer, consider yourself a diva. If you have more than one child, and/or nieces and nephews who grow up to become adults and proud of your writing, you are blessed.
  4. If you plan on compromising your writing to please your friends and your family, take away all points in 2 and 3. It is not looking good for you, sister. But if you say: Come what may, I will write according to my voice, I will follow what it tells me, I live in a free country and no matter what, I will say what I believe through my stories, you may keep whatever gains you have made in equations 2 and 3. If a few of these gains drop off because of your exercise of freedom, you will not have lost anything, in fact you may gain which leads to the next test question.
  5. If you exercise your voice and speak regardless of risk to career opportunities, dating opportunities, marital status, social life, family approval, religious sanction, legal protection, your soul may be crushed down so that you feel you are operating in the negative numbers for soul vitality but you may – at that point – begin reaching the ground floor of your artistic competency. It is a subjective judgement how much one has sacrificed to reach this ground level competency, but nothing less than total sacrifice in at least a few areas most citizens believe are critical for well being and stability is what is necessary. The only way to know for sure if you will become a competent literary writer in the United States of America in the 21st century is to start writing. If your effort and passion equal infinity, the chances are good you will become a competent writer. You may at least learn how to spell a few words and meet a few nifty people.
  6. Actually, since you are a woman and mostly likely by now have experienced a phenomenon wherein no one cares about your words written or spoken, you have to learn to deal in extreme invisibility scores. You will see a huge downward spiral into the abyss of negative soul points. Give yourself at least negative 30. That said, you are your own most powerful weapon for in your invisibility and absence of indulgence from others you stand the highest chance of all demographic groups of achieving a greater than normal levels of competence. In fact it is surmised by the test creator that you are likely on the edge of a kind of an invisible greatness as contradictory as that may sound. Nonmonetary value you have in spades my friend. Wear it as a laurel on your head. Know this: It is very unlikely the male colleague, the husband, the boyfriend will even notice. In fact your written words will be invisible to them or obscured. Soul crushing is your effectual pen. Bleed it and speak.