How to tell if your child is a writer

From Fran Lebowitz’s “Writing: A Life Sentence,” which appears in The Fran Lebowitz Reader:

Your child is a writer if one or more of the following statements are applicable. Truthfulness is advised — no amount of fudging will alter the grim reality.

1. Prenatal

You have morning sickness at night because the fetus finds it too distracting to work during the day….

When your obstetrician applies his stethoscope to your abdomen he hears excuses.

2. Birth

The baby is at least three weeks late because he had a lot of trouble with the ending….

When the doctor spanks the baby the baby is not at all surprised.

It is definitely a single birth because the baby has dismissed twins as being too obvious.

3. Infancy

The baby refuses both breast and bottle, preferring instead Perrier with a twist in preparation for giving up drinking.

The baby sleeps through the night almost immediately. Also through the day….

The baby sucks his forefinger out of a firm conviction that the thumb’s been done to death.

4. Toddlerhood

He rejects teddy bears as derivative.

He rearranges his alphabet blocks so as to spell out derisive puns on the names of others.

When he is lonely he does not ask his mother for a baby brother or sister but rather for a protege.

When he reaches the age of three he considers himself a trilogy.

His mother is afraid to remove his crayoned handiwork from the living room walls lest she be accused of excessive editing….

5. Childhood

At age seven he begins to think about changing his name. Also his sex.

He balks at going to summer camp because he is aware there may be children there who have never heard of him.

He tells his teachers that he didn’t do his homework because he was blocked.

He refuses to learn how to write a Friendly Letter because he knows he never will.

With an eye to a possible movie deal, he insists upon changing the title of his composition “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” to the far snappier “Vacation.”

He is thoroughly hypochondriac and is convinced that his chicken pox is really leprosy.

On Halloween he goes out trick-or-treating dressed as Harold Acton.

By the time this unfortunate child has reached puberty there is no longer any hope that he will outgrow being a writer and become something more appealing — like a kidnap victim.


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