I should note that every single one of the following anecdotes is true, personally witnessed by yours truly.
Wannabe Writer No. 1: This wannabe is a (former) friend of mine. Shortly after I got my first book deal (a print deal with Random House's now-defunct Cheek imprint), this friend of mine asked my advice on how to write a novel. I told her first and foremost to read as much as she could, to write diligently each and every day (actual PROSE, not blog posts or emails or grocery lists), and not to expect to get her first completed manuscript published.
She then got flustered and upset. "But---but----don't I have to write seventeen character studies and eight plot outlines before I even think about writing my book?"
"Yes, you could do that," I replied. "But it's usually much more productive just to write the actual book." (To which she replied, aghast, that she didn't have time to write a whole book, because the new season of Six Feet Under had just started.) Note: I'm not friends with this person anymore.
Wannabe Writer No. 2: This person is an older sibling of a good friend of mine. This person waxed on and on about how she had recently discovered that she was a BRILLIANT poet. So brilliant, in fact, that she expected to get published by Random House and featured on the Oprah Winfrey show very soon as part of Oprah's Book Club. This nothwithstanding that a) she had never had a single one of her poems published anywhere; b) there is no commerical market for poetry books; and c) Oprah Winfrey has never once selected a poetry anthology for her book club (and if she ever did, she'd be far more likely to pick something by a household name like Maya Angelou or Rita Dove). When I pointed all of this out to the wannabe writer, her overzealous reply was, "But she'll pick ME! And since I'm in Chicago, I'm planning to go right to her office and talk to her about it tomorrow." Uh huh. I'm sure that went over really well, too.
Wannabe Writer No. 3: This person is a distant relative of mine. After working in PR and corporate communications for many years (to wit, this person actually was a professional writer of sorts, though not traditionally published), he decided one day to quit his lucrative PR job so he could spend a year writing the Great American Novel. He'd never tried his hand at any sort of creative writing before, mind you---not even a random short story or freelance journalism assignment. And he didn't read much, either (he spent most of his time harshly criticising well-known published authors, in fact). After he spent a year or so writing a highly autobiographical novel that was more of a therapeutic exercise than an artistic one (which also ended up pissing off several members of his family), he was out of money and desperate. He couldn't even get an agent, let alone a book deal. He ended up suffering a nervous breakdown and moving out of state.
And, my personal favorite, Wannabe Writer No. 4: About a year ago I got a random IM message from somebody I had gone to high school with. (Not a friend, mind you---this person was one of the "cool kids" in school who wouldn't even give me the time of day.) In this long, rambling, typo-ridden IM, this person went on and on about how she'd married someone who was secretly a small-time drug dealer, and was now serving time in prison. She seemed to think that the story of how her incarcerated husband fenced pot and speed from their trailer-park house would make for interesting reading, that it surely would become a worldwide bestseller, and by the way, would I write it for her since "she just didn't have the time?" (Of course, she also expected me to ghostwrite her totally irrelevant life story for free, and to allow her to keep the millions of dollars the book would supposedly make for herself.) I gave her a terse "no" and blocked her Facebook profile.
And tomorrow, I'll talk a little about what it means to be a playwright. Bwahahahahahhhaaaa!