Read Self Help – Stories. Like a tourist guide. First, note the story titles, how cleverly they articulate the theme. Close the book. Sweat because you are not Lorrie Moore. Wish you could kill this yearning to write, wring its wretched neck and bury it in bedrock where it will remain harmless for the next 40,000 years.
Start over. Open the book again. Note how she starts her story in the present tense. You hate the present tense. Acknowledge she is a great writer and you are a single cell amoeba. Learn to respect the present tense.
Start over. Read the first word that starts the story. It is a verb; a command. Read the first paragraph. It is a recipe for how to start an affair. “Meet in expensive beige raincoats, on a pea-soupy night. Like a detective movie.” Romantic. You know the character is reviewing the affair and setting you up. Like a movie. She is writing a screenplay. She is the director. Verbs start each sentence. Make it all inevitable. Just when you get annoyed with this device, she changes.
New character, new paragraph. All the sentences begin with “He”. He is an irresistible chocolate chip cookie. You kiss the cover of the book. You love Lorrie Moore for making you love him even though her short, choppy sentences are driving you mad and you ache for a sentence long enough to carry you away like an airplane to Bangkok. Which she does in the next story. Lots and lots and lots of long, looping, soap bubbly sentences. You forgive her for being Lorrie Moore.
Because she is Lorrie Moore she knows you crave humour; knows you love repetition; knows you love lists. She knows you love the frisson of a crazy metaphor like buttertarts as smooth as a ladybug.
And she lists! Lists! In the middle of a story! See a lavender aura around the book. Feel your bosom heave. Have tongue spasms when you read this: “In public restrooms you sit dangerously flat against the toilet seat, a strange flesh sundae of despair and exhilaration, murmuring into your bluing thighs: “Hello, I’m Charlene. I’m a mistress.” Long to lick the sensory details like a peeping Tom. Beg for a portal to bedrock, to sleep with no chance of dreaming for 40,000 years because you will never be Lorrie Moore.
Tremble as her character drifts from lists of things to lists of lists of failings. Drool like a hungry Labrador Retriever at her wandering plots that sharpen on whetstone paragraphs.
Eat subtext so rich you vow to go on a Tom Clancy diet after you finish her book.
A metaphor 35 pages long makes you fat and hungry. This story about stealing, eating, consuming stuff to fill a hole where happiness is supposed to go. This story where the narrator’s mother is accused of being a loon[i] but you eventually discover who is really gaga.
You wish you could change point of view right now. Switch to first person. Write in the past tense. Reflect. Like she does but you would need a defibrillator to start your heart or an oxygen mask or a condom to protect yourself because you’ve fucked it up badly. So you stay in this awkward place trying to bring your character to life.
Stare at your widowed back yard neighbour’s windows. Try to turn her into a Mooresque character like the writer with cancer in Go Like This who decides to commit suicide and announces it at a dinner party. You read the penultimate paragraph of the story that sounds like Molly Bloom on her deathbed or e e cummings or Jose Saramago blindly stumbling punctuationless, braless, whizzing to death on a flying saucer of pills.
Put down your pen. Go to the kitchen. Eat a cinnamon bun. Do the laundry. Go back to bed. Read Sherman Alexie.
 In How to be an Other Woman, the story begins with “Meet in expensive beige raincoats.” The story is about an affair between a married man and a single woman. The opening sounds kind of glamorous but the word beige makes it feel bland and commonplace. The raincoat keeps coming up throughout the story but as it progresses, the female narrator gradually loses her sense of excitement. The affair becomes beige and the raincoat a cover-up.
[i] “When did my mother become such a loon?” but the entire story To Fill is about the emotional crumbling of the narrator as she steals from her employer to fill her house with stuff, to buy gifts for her hospitalized mother. In the words of Anne Lamott, when Americans get depressed they redecorate to fill the abyss.