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Last Reviewed on November 14, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 549

Ironically for a story whose title purports to tell someone "How to Become a Writer," Moore's story seems to discourage people from becoming writers at all—at least at first glance. The protagonist, Francie, compares it to a disease: at dinner, a date asks her if writers "often become discouraged."

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Say that sometimes they do and sometimes they do. Say it's a lot like having polio.

Being a writer can cause a person, as Francie does, to grow "thin" or develop "circles under your eyes"; in its obsessive and sometimes lonely nature, it can seem to be an unhealthy choice.

Not writing hardly seems more fulfilling, however. Those in the story who do not write are consistently described as having passionless, obtuse faces. Various characters react to Francie's writing and ideas with vacant confusion: her mother's face is "blank as a donut," her college roommate's "blank as a large Kleenex," and a date's "blank as a sheet of paper." The fact that others do not understand Francie's longing to be a writer seems like a shortcoming on their part rather than on Francie's. Moore presents the story's central choice—of whether or not to become a writer—as one Francie approaches with both continuing ambivalence and ultimate devotion.

After all, it is not easy to be a writer: Francie's teachers and peers tell her that she has no sense of plot or idea of what is happening in her stories. She begins to mine her social life for plot points, using her boyfriend's jokes and anagrams of his ex-girlfriend's name in her work. In confronting pivotal moments in her life, Francie describes having sex for the first time and her parents' divorce, but is unable to grapple with the impact of her brother's return from Vietnam "with only half a thigh": this, she writes, is something there are "no words" for. There is a limit to what writing can do—and sometimes, words fail us. But where is this point? And is it more easily accessed through entirely imagined plots, as one of her creative...

(The entire section contains 549 words.)

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