Can a beginning writer actually learn anything from Moore's How to Become a Writer"?
Another element of writing that a person can learn from Lorrie Moore's "How to Become a Writer" is how to write humor. You can learn from her methods.
Notice the first line, which, of course, follows the title, "How to Become a Writer":
First, try to be something, anything, else.
The essence of humor is surprise. Moore creates laughter with her opening line by using surprise. The title and the opening line play off each other to create the surprise.
She also creates humor with the repeated motif of violent death. Everything the speaker writes seems to include a quirky, violent death. The humor grows (as well as the story's unity, of course) with each mention of a new way of killing off characters.
A writer can indeed learn something from the story. Though there is an extensive amount of comedy in a background of great concern and seriousness, however distant or removed it may be, there are nuggets of wisdom to be found. The fact is that real-life writers have often experienced pain themselves. Thus the narrator points out that she has "no words" to explain why her brother suffered a crippling wound in Vietnam (paragraph 22). In addition, in a number of places she indicates that she, too, has encountered personal grief, though she passes over it unceremoniously and un-sentimentally: losing her boyfriend, being thought crazy, losing weight through anxiety, and becoming derelict about responsibility. This serious backdrop enables the author to allow readers to learn from their experiences, their surroundings, and themselves to find all the writing wisdom they need.