As mentioned in my director's commentary, I wrote a first draft introduction to "How to Fail" all the way back in 2004 or 2005 on the actual day I first thought of the idea for a self-hurt guide. Below, I've reprinted the original draft of that intro and detailed how little it had changed five years later when it appeared in print form. The strike-throughs denote stuff that was eliminated from my original draft; the boldings stuff that was added.
HOW TO FAIL TO WRITE A COHESIVE INTRODUCTION
They say some men see things that are and say, "Why?" Robert Kennedy dreamed things that never were and said, "Why not?" Well I see my life unspoolingfolding and I just say, "Why me?"
I shit where I eat. I dip my pen in the company inkwell. I bite the hand that feeds me, and I never take my vitamins. Often, I’ll drink beer before liquor, and I always take the easy way out. I frequently take “No” for an answer, but, conversely, I rarely say “No” to offers of greasy food, cheap drinks, and sleazy sex. I hemorrhage the little money I have on frivolous items that are only tangible ‘til they are poured down my gullet and filtered through my poor liver. I rarely capitalize on promising offers. And I’m lazy. My God, am I lazy. Oh yes, I AM FUCKED UP.
I am thirty years old and a failure. But lest you worry, dear reader, dear successful reader, I wasn’t always that way. I once was a success—or at least headed on your typical American path towards success. Examining my life, I can easily show you how to become an adult failure in a matter of years. If not months. (That may require more narcotics.)
I used to be a success—hell, a wild success—relative to my age. A high I.Q., honors classes, a high school class Presidency, good athletic skills and accomplishments, science fair awards, writing prizes, a happy disposition, a winning smile, 99th percentile SAT score, "Most Likely to Succeed" senior year, the adoration and love of my friends, family, adoration of friends and the opposite sex, and scholarship acceptance to a top 50 private American university.
And then it went all down hill, right? Wrong. My successes continued in college where I graduated magna cum laude (Latin for “only drinks five nights a week,” summa cum laude must meaning “only drinks three nights a week”), won more plaudits for my writing, co-edited the school's "alternative" newspaper The Cock of the Walk, made countless friends and acquired sexual partners, and, if I wasn't the BMOC, then I was at least the "Kinda Large Guy on Campus." Though, seedlings of bad habit and eventual thirty-year-old failuredom had already begun rearing their ugly heads.
Oh My life used to be so promising. I used to be and I so idealistic. So Positive of my guaranteed future successes. And, in fact, I still am. Kinda. Oh, I’m jaded as a motherfucker by now, but still somewhat sure of success. I still have wild delusions of grandeur, of wealth, fame, screenwriting relevancy, and Scarlet Johansson on my arm at some cool club in my local urban environment that I’m currently not cool (successful) enough to know about the existence of. It is this megalomania, though, that paradoxically led toward a life of current failure.
Ruining your life is easy when you’re the kind of arrogant, delusions-of-grandeur fuck that always thinks he’s a day away from pulling himself out of the doldrums and becoming a legend—and rich—and. Nothing else matters. Oh yeah, and you’re frequently intoxicated. Living “in the moment” is often a really bad thing, I must say.
I haven’t given up on life per se, but I certainly behave that way. There's a subtle difference between the man that lives his life like each day could be his last on Earth and the man who lives his life like there's no tomorrow.
If I committed suicide my note might read: “I was bored.” Though I couldn’t afford a gun though and have no idea where to buy hangman’s rope (Bed, Bath, and Beyond?) And I don’t even have a bathtub to electrocute myself in. (Manhattan apartments are tiny!)
Current failure doesn’t mean I will be a failure forever, but it’s certainly possible. And Probable.
In the almost decade since I left college I have failed at everything. Job-wise, earnings-wise, savings-wise. I’ve failed at snagging frequent sexual congress, failed at finding love, failed at keeping love, failed at holding down jobs, failed at making a livable wage,. Failed at maintaining many old (now “successful”) friends(hips), at holding down jobs, at making a livable wage, and failed at even coming close to achieving my dreams.
I’ve squandered promising chances with good girls, and risked sexually transmitted disease acquisition from bad girls. My body has morphed from a taut athletic figure into one of decadence—cheap $1 drafts and 10 cent wings from 4 to 7 “decadence”—and sloth. Cheap one dollar drafts "decadence" and ten cent wings from four-to-seven "sloth." And, I’ve gotten into tons of trouble with all sorts of authority figures. Probably Disappointed my loving parents too. If not yet, soon, very soon. Soon as I answer the phone next time they call.
But, but, but, failure can sometimes be fun, you say. At least it ain’t that hard of work. Succeeding’s hard motherfucking work, but ruining relationships by not answering the phone because you’re on a three-day bender, man, that shit’s fucking simple.
In many ways, I am to be admired. You have your nice 62" HDTV and your lovely fiancée (save the first weekend in May ‘0611!), your good job that you never call in sick/hungover for because you’re responsible (responsibility and success go hand-in-hand), your purebred Cornish Rex hairless hypoallergenic pet cat named Sadie, and a promising future of routine, sober, lights off, missionary styleposition, rhythm method, 500 thread-count sheets, Saturday-nights-only “love-making.” And, I’m sure that’s all well and good, but wouldn’t you like to just be a little bit of a failure?
Wouldn’t you just like to get arrested once and have a mug shot? Wouldn’t you like to know the fear inside that you have after a condomless screw session with a girl you met wasted at 3 in the morning in your local urban environment’s dive bar section? Wouldn’t you like to take out stupid cash advances with 1925% APR interest charges just so you can to get wasted? Wouldn’t you like to know the fear inside that you have after a condomless screw session with a girl you met wasted at 3 three in the morning in your local urban environment’s dive bar section? Wouldn’t you like to not remember saying the wrong thing to the wrong person—not remember that—and wake up in the morning with inexplicable bruising, cuts, and gashes? Would you like to have a mug shot? Wouldn’t you like to lose a brand new cell phone three weekends in a row due to massive inebriation and have even the minimum wage workers at Best Buy thinking you a world-class fool? Wouldn’t you like to spend all day Saturday alone watching an “Intervention” marathon on A&E instead of going to Bed, Bath, & Beyond with your fiancée (“You can speak at the wedding, Stu, so long as you promise to not drink beforehand, and absolutely promise swear you'll not to say anything offensive. My eighty-nine-year-old grandma’s gonna be there, dude.”) Wouldn’t you like to just skip shaving on every weekday mornings?!
Wouldn’t you like to have the passionate love/hate relationship with yourself that I have with myself?
Even if one day I become a success, I will always live the life of a failure. because I now realize I have always been was predestined to be one. I will always be brash, and stupid, and impetuous. It's in my chemical makeup. I will frequently be chemically-impaired in environments where that is shunned and around people that will be doing the shunning. It's in my DNA!. I will often screw up shit that’s going good. My RNA, too!!! Even if I become a success one day, all that means is that my fall from grace back to the point I’m currently in will be even faurther. Funnier too, no doubt, to the passive outside observer or the hack who writes my biography.
“Shoot for the stars because even if you miss at least you’ll still end up in the sky.
Fuck that. I’d rather be a failure. And I don't really like air travel much either.
And, that’s the best part about it. As a failure, things can’t get much worse. I mean, yeah, they can, but not much worse. I’m not a ticking time bomb. There will be no climactic point at which said bomb explodes and I kill myself accidentally or get busted for shrooms at Newark International Airport. I mean, yeah, maybe that shit could happen but I doubt it. I’m not Len Bias or Darryl Strawberry or Courtney Love or Keith Moon. I’m just your garden variety fuck up. Failure. I’m haunted by demons but they aren’t very potent demons. They’re lazy, fuckup, failure demons just like their possessor. They kind of just stand on my left shoulder and goad me into drinking massive amounts of booze, impetuouslystupidly spending my little money, falling ass backwards into unpleasant intercourse with fatties and uglies, screwing up job interviews, and into calling the wrong kinds of people “douchebag.”
Thus I have decided to write this—quite possibly the first ever—“Self-Hurt” book, the utter opposite of a Self-Help book, to in which I will teach you gentle soul how to ruin your life as much as I have ruined mine my very own.
There are hundred of thousands of self-help books released per year. Probably millions, I'm almost surprised there's not a special Self-Help Annex at Barnes & Noble Self-Help Annex. Millions of self-help tomes on subjects such as gaining self-confidence to conquering your inner demons to mastering women to not being afraid of your pet cat. AndWhere has it gotten us as a people? Nowhere. Everyone's as fucked up as ever. Probably more so if they're following the "expert" advice of said books. Unconfident, haunted by demons, bad with chicks, and scared of Sadie. So what do you possibly have to lose by not following my advice?
William Randolph Hearst said (I’m obviously too lazy to look it up verbatim): “I am a man that could have been great, but wasn’t.” (Maybe Joseph Pulitzer said thatactually. Or was it Charles Foster Kane? Wait, he's not real, is he?)
Well, I am a man that could have been somewhat decent, but who chose to go to happy hour instead. Who chose to not meet his girlfriend's parents. Who chose to call in sick for work on the day of an important meeting. Who chose to fail.
Speaking of famous folks and famous quotes, there's a funny thing about that RFK quote that I lead off this introduction with. Most people think his bro JFK said it. No, that's not the funny thing. The funny thing is: He didn't originate it. Not in the least. Yet he gets all the credit. Totally something a successful person would do. Hell, Kennedy didn't even quote it correctly. The better written line actually comes from a George Bernard Shaw play, Back to Methuselah, where it's delivered by a snake. A fucking snake.
Gentle reader, ignore the snakes and follow my examples and you too will become a failure at life.
And, here, mentioned in the director's commentary, is the first (and so far only) draft of the screenplay to "How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide": The Major Motion Picture. Written circa 2005 or 2006 I would guess, I made it to about page 50, but this is just the opening scene.
If you enjoyed this, check out these other Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes:
Is your book selling like shit?
Probably because it's well-written. Or long. Or, you're not a celebrity. But that doesn't mean you can't make your next book a bestseller!
If you're writing non-fiction it's easy. Just pretend you hung out with God once and he's for realz, or that you have some quick weight-loss plan, or you know a way to make me a happier person (Step One: Read your book)*. Today, however, we're talking about fiction. Not real-life stuff. Like the time you hung out with God.
When someone tells me their life is "stranger than fiction," I'm not impressed. Most fiction isn't that strange. (And, most people's lives are pretty goddamn boring.) Most fiction is just generic. Which is what genre fiction is: generic fiction. You want to have a bestseller, pick a well-worn genre--horror, detective, legal thriller--and write the most bland story ever. You might think combining several genres will make the blandest book possible, but you'd be wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right but two blands do make something fairly inventive. Too inventive to sell.
Just like in the movies, sequalizations are also king. Especially, when you can add a parenthetical to the title:
BOO COCKY! (A John Glass Thriller)
By book five in your newly-created bestselling series you won't even need to write them yourself any more.
H8 CRIME (The Fifth Book of the John Glass Thrillers)
An Aaron Goldfarb book
written by Sam Stank
Novels about how tough it is to be a girl are swell too. You know, with all the having to wear the right shoes and stay skinny and shop til you drop and find Mr. Right and actually be good in bed. These books especially sell well when they have a hot pink cover. On the other hand, there's never once been a best-selling book about how tough it is to be a guy. Unless you count "Decision Points." Remember, men don't read books so don't write for them.
When all else fails, have vampires making out. Young, toned, nubile vampires. They should be straight, though the men can be effete (and capable of being played by a homosexual actor in the movie adaptation) and the women can occasionally "experiment" in an erotic fashion. They should never go beyond first base though. Any way, vampires surely give terrible head and talk about vagina dentata!
You may say, by the time my book is out, vampires will already be a tired genre. Then what else? Wolfmen making out? Maybe in the 70s, but not in today's wax-centric culture. Zombies?! They don't even have brains--and making out without brains is no different than a loathsome frat mixer. Ghosts? Too non-tangible. Mermaids and mermen?!? Naw, too scaly.
Any how, it doesn't really matter if vampires are a tired genre by the time your book is done. In fact, it's even better. As I said, bland genre stories always sell, so, when all else fails:
Vampires making out.
*Conversely, I'd be a happier person if you read my book:
I was talking to a "famous, rich, important person"* the other day and he asked me a very simple question:
"Why did you write a book?"
What did he mean? I'd been interviewed a zillion times in the past few months, asked a ton of the same questions, most of them boring, a few of them interesting, but I'd never been asked the most obvious one:
Why did you write a book?
I was so flummoxed I asked him to expound:
"It's a lot of fucking work writing a book, isn't it? Why do you do it? Not for the money, right? Bigger speaking fees afterwards?" Why, Aaron?!
Sometimes we get so caught up in our art we never think why we're doing it.
I mean, the guy who writes the spec scripts for potential Nic Cage movies is surely writing them to become rich.
The dude who writes love sonnets is probably writing them to get laid.
The girl who writes in her diary every night is most likely just being therapeutic.
But, why did I write a book? Why did I write "How to Fail"? Hmmmm...
I answered back:
"Yes, it's honestly one of the hardest fucking things I've ever done. And, I'm not sure it would have ever gotten done if my reasons weren't pure. I wrote the book because of only one reason: I had something to say. Simple as that."
But "famous, rich, important person" wasn't going to let me get away with such bullshit. So he called me on that:
"If 'I had something to say' was the main reason, why not just blog? Why go to the trouble of a published paper book?"
Damn, he's good. Probably why he's famous, rich, and important.
Now I really had to delve deep, really look within myself. Why did I write the book?
I suppose "I had something to say" that needed 400 pages to say it. Honestly, if I hadn't found a publisher quickly, I wouldn't have languished for years looking for one, I'd have just released "How to Fail" on my blog, chapter by chapter or something. This is what I've been telling other friends to do who have had an unpublished manuscript sitting in a desk drawer for years. Luckily, or unluckily, I found a publisher and kinda fell for some aspects of publishing I would have never guessed I'd fall for. Covers and page design and book store signings. I'm a devout Kindle reader, but I liked having a book I could hold and look at. And, without paper books, I could have never done the 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour which I feel was integral to getting a "nobody" like me some buzz.
So, I enjoyed it, yes, but in many ways it is more trouble than it's worth. If my future publisher(s) don't make the process less trouble, then I'll gladly just release all my future books self-published on Kindle, which is easily done. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to spread my ideas, like we all are.
Or...maybe I'm just bullshitting myself and I thought the book would make me rich.
So, if you wrote a book, why'd you write it? If you're planning to write a book...WHY?
*anonymous name dropping?