Essentials of Asinine Writing, a Rebuttal*


by Houghton Piker

Get a clean glass and a clean piece of paper. Fill up the glass first, whatever your poison. I prefer bourbon, but that's because that's what I grew up on. You may prefer milk. And you'd be a pansy.** Now, the paper. Use long, yellow legal pads. Nothing else will do. If you use anything else, your work will be garbage. Begin with a word. Then add another. Continue this.

How to
What do you want to write about? Make up something. Let's say you want to write about linoleum. Do a little research. Where does linoleum come from? Linoleum farms? I don't know. Look it up, it's your story. Fill up your minds with reams of information, then let it all spill out like cow guts in an abattoir.

Grammar and Spelling
Grammar and Spelling are two gods that must not be crossed! Go ahead, make your pretty words. But make sure people can understand whatever the hell you're trying to mumble there, buddy. Doesn't help if you just go on, willy-nilly, not paying attention, methaphorizing all over the place, yadda yadda, Vaya con dios, whatever. Read the dictionary!

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow
Think you have no talent? Think you'd be better off editing yearbooks for a living? You're probably right. But the world needs bad writers just as much as good ones. What else are people going to read at airports?

After doing that one word after another thing for three hours, you're certainly entitled to some lunch. Have a sandwich and mix yourself a fresh highball. Then go out on the patio and have yourself a smoke. Then mix another highball. Go have another smoke. Get one more drink. You might want to start calling people at this point, to tell them you love them and all that. Don't. Get back to work, you little genius.

Is it asinine?
Webster's 9 defines ''asinine'' as ''marked by inexcusable failure to exercise intelligence'' and ''of, relating to, or resembling an ass.'' Many people write asininely by accident. Your task is to write this way on purpose. What shall be your measuring stick? Read the scribble over; if your first reaction is ''That's ridiculous,'' or ''That's stupid,'' or, of course, ''That's asinine,'' then you may be on the right track. Keep in mind, however, that what you may think of as asinine may not be asinine to someone else. As Einstein proved, asininity is relative, and dating your cousin is hot. But never mind that. I find that if I read it to my bartender and he laughs and pours me a free round, then I am successful.

Should you write asinine haikus or villanelles or novels or annual reports? Who can say? There will always be a demand for such things. In fact, someone should come up with a journal or a website to feature such things.

A good day's work . . .
is when a pile of filled pages lie next to you as you cringe and moan on the floor, your fingers bleeding from the effort of so much good writing. Don't get upset at yourself if you haven't turned out a little poem or even short short story today. Wait till the whole week goes by and you haven't accomplished a damn thing before really tearing into your own hide.

*This essay, originally printed in Suzie's (June 1997), was supposedly Piker's ''rebuttal'' to Shay Tasaday's essay on essentials. But as you will see, it is less of a rebuttal than Piker's not-too-subtle rewording of Tasaday's ideas. The two men no longer speak to each other. In fact, Piker prefers to refer to Tasaday as ''He Who Shall Not Be Named.''
**If, when you read this sentence and others like it, you imagine that Piker was inebriated when he wrote this essay, then your imagination is top shelf.

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