Friday, May 8, 2015

Bullshit advice to writers

Today's journal entry. It's nothing I haven't said before, but maybe I need to say it again.

 May 8/15

I keep deleting what I’ve written, then starting again. Just as well, because some of it makes me sick. It’s pretty sad stuff that is only useful for giving me something to do, and to show myself, "see, I'm still writing".

Part of me wanted to keep all of it, but I don’t read back much anyway. I just get tired of it, of myself, of Facebook and its emptiness. People saying “just concentrate on the joy of the writing, and you WILL be a bestseller.” It will just happen by some magic. It’s like “do what you love and the money will follow”. People really do believe that. If you don’t, your karma is off, your vibes are too negative, and you don’t really deserve to be a bestseller anyway because you are committing the unpardonable sin of WANTING to be, to have a decent readership for your books.

You should completely ignore your ambition to be published (because it's kind of stinky anyway, like being a whore), put it aside, write for the pure joy of writing, and THEN, voila!, your work will suddenly, magically sell like mad! A contract will drop into your lap, a Fifty Shades-size one, with no effort, just as New York agents will bust down your door before they even read your stuff. I see this na├»ve belief everywhere, and if you try to counter it with reality and experience, you’re treated like a sour old thing who has no optimism or faith and who DOESN’T believe success is guaranteed if only you stop wanting it.

To me, that's pretty dishonest, because it's a hidden agenda. The "advice" or imperative is "write only for the joy of it", though beneath that, unacknowledged, unadmitted, lurks this sense that being so pure of heart will cause the Great God Publishing to bring his/her wand down on your head and grant your every bestselling wish. In other words, you will succeed so lavishly BECAUSE you stopped caring about such crass, unworthy things as having a readership for your work.

This whole thing about publishing, readership, etc. is highly stigmatized and causes so much embarrassment that people will do just about anything to cover it up. The LAST thing you should want is to have people buy your books. “Stop thinking about the market and start thinking about the joy of what you do!” one of those meme-y things says, and I see a lot of them. “The market” reminds me of “meat market” or an inert commodity that is bought and sold.

A book IS that, yes it is. A commodity that is bought and sold. What else can it be?I say this over and over again: we don’t expect a concert pianist to play in an empty hall. It would be completely humiliating, not to mention a huge waste of training, practice, time, money, and the cost of a Steinway. And we don't tell the pianist, "Oh, just play for the joy of playing, even if nobody ever hears it. " And yet, for writers it's a completely different thing. 

Human language and communication began to seriously evolve with the storyteller who sat by the fire, a circle of tribespeople sitting around and avidly listening. The first thing he or she probably talked about was that day’s hunt, probably exaggerating its glories and downplaying its failures. Gradually it evolved into more elaborate storytelling, exploits. People listened and learned what a human being is, even if in distorted form. It was one of the main building blocks of culture, and it defined humanity as an animal different from any other.

What if no one had sat around the fire? I think we might still be conducting our business with sticks and stones.

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