Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Little Bit of Bitchiness About Writers

You know what really grinds my gears? (© Family Guy)
Unpublished young writers being like, “Oh, you just don’t understand my work.”
Listen, Shakespeare, if we don’t understand your work, the problem is probably with your work. I consider it the height of pretension and general disgustingness when twenty-somethings get all aloof and superior with regards to their ART. What’s that? You’re the next Keats/Joyce? Awesome, in 100 years—when your poor old misunderstood over-critiqued underpaid body is rotting in the grave—you can consider yourself Officially Vindicated. Put that on a bumper sticker and stick it to your cryonically-frozen coffin-that-doubles-as-a-spaceship! (It's 2110, they have those things.) But going by sheer numbers, chances are you’re NOT the next Keats/Joyce, and right now you look like an idiot.
I work in the publishing industry. (Also, I majored in creative writing.) I am a stupid twenty-something, so I don’t have that much street cred, but a year of publishing experience has given me a tiny bit. I have seen first hand the sheer number of people who are deluded by the glamour of the craft, people who think that snow “covers the hills like frosting,” people who think that the bohemian poverty of being young and white in New York is still a fresh and appealing subject, people who—I’m sorry, I know karma’s gonna get me for this one—people who think they’re writers when they’re just not. And believe you me, I struggle every day to maintain a degree of distance and self-consciousness about my writing (and myself in general). I really don’t want to come across as looking stupid. I’d rather stop writing than be the kind of author that I read every day. I’M SORRY!
One of the most infuriating/ack writing moments I’ve experienced was during the workshop of this guy’s crazy, look-at-my-vocab, plot-is-beneath-me, abstractions, adjectives, and general jerking-off-filled story, where most of the class was like, “Um, I don’t get this.” (Totally valid response, in my book.) The author’s friend decided to stick up for him, and responded, “Listen. I’ve read M’s writing before, and you can’t really look for a meaning. You just have to kind of let the words wash over you.”
ACK. Yes I damn well can look for a meaning! I’m the reader, I hold the cards right now! Once you’ve put your story out there, you don’t get to go around peering over people’s shoulders and saying, “Oh, did you notice how I used that comma to convey the main character’s sense of imminent apocalypse?” and “This is the part where the five lemons on the table represent the five ex-lovers of Bill Clinton, who was in office at the time, though I don’t mention that explicitly in the story.” If you’re that much of a control freak—and believe me, I am—go out and have a drink, baby! Relax! AND STEP AWAY FROM THE LITERATE MASSES. Note: have you recently written a creative thesis? This is the absolute worst. You don’t get to bitch about how people don’t get it once you’ve turned that baby in. You’re the one that doesn’t get it. You’re over. Step back. Trust your work enough to let it seep into our consciousness, and see if it leaves a stain.
Trust me, I’m tempted to pull out the people-are-so-ignorant-sniff-sniff card ALL THE TIME, and I know, I know, people are idiots and it’s frustrating being a misunderstood genius in a world of those who cannot spell “children.” I SUCK TOO, DON’T WORRY! Most people NEVER understand my stories the way I, you know, intended them to be understood. Oh, the humanity! However, a) I’m not a total idiot and I’m willing to consider that maybe other people are right and the twisty convulsions of my distorted genius are just confusing crap, and b) when people don’t totally understand what you’ve written, but like it anyway, you have created this magical thing called “dialogue.” For instance, I just exchanged stories with my friend Brooke, who sent back two pages of comments describing her take on my story. Most of her ideas had never even occurred to me (my main character is actually Death?!), but they were so unique and inspiring that I’m sure they’ll transform the story (once I sit back down with it, which will probably be never, because I’m busy blogging). (And eating chips, even though I hear it’s an easy way to get a heart attack ASAP.) (I JUST DON’T GET IT, THIS THING CALLED LIFE!)
Ya dig?


  1. I wish there was a word that expressed how much I agree with you. There probably is, I just don't know it. I guess I could just use some random big word, say it applies, and hope you aren't smart enough to look it up. (That makes me a good writer, and a smart person)

    People like that ruin writing for everyone. Now HARDLY ANYONE can say "I'm a writer" and be taken seriously, unless they are over the age of 50. But congratulations on being self-aware enough to get away with it. (I shouldn't be saying all of this- I'm a teenager, not even twenty something. But I haven't been to college yet, which makes me LESS of a pain in the butt, in some ways.)

  2. Oh, it's the same with photography. If your picture sucks it's good.

    One time I put up a blurry picture, that NO ONE COULD SEE PROPERLY, because I was testing the masses to see if they would say it was artistic. They did, and I un-friended all of them.
    Just kidding. But it did make me cry.

    Also, Joe Jonas says that he wants to be a writer because he "likes to read", and every person I've ever met says "writing is my hidden passion" or "I am a closet poetry writer :-)"
    Which is why I will NOT EVER say that I write ANYTHING without adding "I know, everyone does" or "it's just for fun, I really *do* suck, and I am not secretly trying to get published, while masquerading as your everyday teen."

  3. Ew this is so true. RELATED: I also love people who clearly think they are the reincarnation of [INSERT SPECIFIC AUTHOR HERE]. If they are homeschoolers, it is usually Tolkien, but any famous author will do. I know certain people who post chapters and chapters of the worst, most cliche-filled novels ever (literally rivaling twilight) on their facebook and make all their statuses about how it's going to be an "epic trilogy" and they have the first one almost done and stuff. It's so horrible. REMIND ME TO SEND YOU A SAMPLE SOMETIME, unless it would remind you too much of work.

    P.S. Yes writers are annoying but I'm still super super jealous of your job.

  4. I think as homeschoolers we are especially attune to this kind of--I don't know--hypocrisy? General grossity? Is it because we've read a lot of classic literature (and our sense of our own talents is firmly grounded in that awareness--aka we're scarred for life because everyone else is so much better)? Or maybe your mommas and papas just trained you real good.

    L, YOU HAVE TO SEND ME THAT ASAP. FB statuses about an epic trilogy?! I'm jealous of your newsfeed. ;)

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. It seems to be an American (human) trait that deep down we all want to think that if we bothered to buy a quill pen, ink and paper we too could all be Shakespeare. If we had a professional camera, we too could be that professional photographer etc. I think all people are inherently creative, but not everyone is a story teller. Not everyone who can point a camera is a photographer etc. Writing seems to take the brunt of this societal delusion probably because we all learn the basic skill of putting words on paper. People who aren't story tellers have no idea that writing a story has almost nothing to do with thinking up a plausible plot line and jotting it down. The delusion feeds a tidal-wave of creative garbage which ends up creating a culture of mediocrity. I finally get it. If almost everyone thinks they could be Shakespeare then Shakespeare has to be sneered at and made out to be an average writer otherwise they'd have to accept reality...which is the average person couldn't write their way out of a paper bag and Shakespeare is way above their sneering noses.


You are truly great.