I wouldn't dare call myself an expert in creative writing. Although it's something I do daily, it feels pretentious to apply a hierarchical model to the creation of art. Words like "expert" or "professional" seem silly when applied to something as arbitrary as creativity.

Bill Dixon writing at his laptop
The fruits of your labor come in spurts.
This is the classic writer's cop-out, deputized at Thanksgiving when you return home from whichever metropolis you have chosen to sublet a closet-sized bedroom. Family and friends ask you how the "writing thing" is going and you regurgitate the prepared statement you concocted at the airport while scanning the never-ending parade of black luggage as it spilled onto the conveyor belt at baggage claim.

You're a writer and you don't write for The New York Times, The Daily Show, or Two and a Half Men, so you will need an excuse for not achieving the non-writing public's apparent minimum requirement to be called a "real writer."

In both cases, it's generally annoying to have someone peering over your shoulder looking at your "work" before it's done. "You know what show I like? That Breaking Bad!" your functionally illiterate uncle declares. "That's a good show. You should write for them."

Thanks, Uncle Hasn't-Paid-Child-Support-In-Three-Years. When I was digging through the couch cushions looking for change to buy bologna I must have totally spaced and forgot to call Bryan Cranston to let him know I'd put together a few episodes this season and that it would be best to just make the $22,000 check out to cash for accounting reasons.

But I can tell you with no trepidation that I am in fact an expert in masturbation. I mean that in the purest sense. I mean expert as in if there were masturbation murders, I could give expert testimony in the court of law. I mean expert as in Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hour Rule expert. It's not a paying gig but to friends and family, on the scale of professional achievement, it's probably on par with writing.

"At least it's physical," Mom might say. "My son, the professional athlete."

When you consider it, the similarities between masturbation and creative writing are uncanny: 

  • Both generally happen in front of a laptop with countless windows open on your desktop.
  • In both cases you become detached from reality while constructing complex narratives.
  • Both are difficult to do in public.
  • In both cases, it's generally annoying to have someone peering over your shoulder looking at your "work" before it's done.
  • Both are emotionally and physically exhausting.
  • Both take way longer if you're drunk.
  • Both are wildly dissatisfying if not finished.
  • And most importantly, regardless of what your parents think, your friends think or the world thinks, you are going to do both until you are physically and mentally incapable of doing so any longer. Not because you're stubborn and not because you are a fiend, but because your constitution will simply not permit you to stop. It's in your DNA and it's as natural as breathing.

And oh yeah:

  • Both are difficult to do while driving.