Are we about good with writing advice?
Lemme be clear, I’m not talking about the gems handed down by bestselling authors and English professors (that’s teachers of English, not people who say “Ello Guvna.”)
I’m talking about the many more thousands of articles written by novices, hobbyists, and self-pubbed shmohawks. (Note: not all self-pubbers are shmohawks.)
You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a piece on tips and tricks and advice and hints on writing by people who really have no business advising anyone on anything, let alone the written word.
I’m not sorry to say that, selling 15 copies of Space Sluts or Book III of The Gimmarillion Game Quest Chronicles: Teenage Werewolf Wizard Edition doesn’t qualify you as an expert in the field.
I get it. Most of these “articles” are merely regurgitations or flat-out thefts of writing advice from actual factual professionals, but there’s plenty of just plain bad opinion being circulated by a whole lot of newbies and wannabes that needs to stop.
Problem is, someone somewhere (all of the vagueness) told writers about 15 or 20 years ago that the best way for them to gain a reading audience is to blog incessantly with writing advice and inspiration. (Ironic? No. Keep moving.)
Writing is no longer a solitary pursuit, they say, it’s a community.
And everyone in the community cares about everyone else in the community and wants to see them succeed.
And we’ll all be bestselling authors with movie deals and merchandising contracts and little blue birds will fly out of our buttholes every hour on the hour and explode in the heavens as fireworks that rain down money.
Writers are THE most petty, self-absorbed, self-important, hateful drama queens on the planet. I should know, as I am all those things.
They don’t want everyone to succeed. At most, they want for themselves and a few of the writers they know and like to get ahead. And even then, when a friend does a little too well, they’re thinking, “Fuck those guys. My middle school wombat romance has a much strong story arc. Besides, none of their characters even had cancerous herpes.”
Am I simply projecting? Maybe
And the calling card of the writer community? The inspirational meme: “You know you’re a writer when …”
“You have more half-finished story ideas than friends.” (Oh, aren’t we cute and clever)
“You turn coffee into ideas.” (Yeah, baby!)
“You would rather talk to the voices in your head than the person sitting next to you.” (OMG We’re so creative)
“You talk about fictional characters as if they were real people.” (Don’t forget “quirky”)
What I feel when I see these shameless humble-brags is, “You might be a writer if you constantly share self-aggrandizing memes about how writers are so much better than everyone else.”
Just as bad is the constant pep-talking:
- “Just write!”
- “Keep on writing.”
- “You should be writing.”
- “Shouldn’t you be writing?”
Jesus-fucking-Christ. These writers seem to spend more time encouraging one another to stick with their bad writing than they do actually writing badly.
But never fear. Now there are apps and special groups and programs and games designed to motivate people to do this thing they all claim to love more than life.
“I write because I have to,” they declare with pride.
Yeah, well, I shit because I have to. So what?
Lemme tell you something: fisherman love fishing more than anything else. I have a bunch of fisher friends and family. They’re all fucking nuts and will stand at a pool of water in the woods for 12-goddamned-hours waiting for the end of their pole to go “boink.”
They don’t need a support group to shag their ass up and down to the lake every morning.
If you’re not excited to come daily to the page, if you need a person or robot hounding you to get you to write a few lines, if you’d rather do anything else than put pencil to paper … then perhaps it’s time to consider another hobby.
Maybe try fishing, or romancing middle school wombats, or working on a cure for cancerous herpes.
The truth is—gasp—not everyone has a story to tell.
Contrary to popular cliche, your-mine-our WIP isn’t high art just because we feel compelled to crap it into life.
Most of us are never going to be legitimately published, let alone become bestsellers.
We’re not going to golf with Stephen King, and we’re not going to sip peanut-butter-bacon-pickle lattes with Chuck Wendig at Annie Proulx’s house.
You don’t lie to a bunch of middle-aged fat guys (who me?) about their chances of making the Olympics because, as pant-shittingly hilarious as it might be to watch, it doesn’t do anyone—them especially—any good.
We need to stop sowing false hope and start being honest about this craft that’s become choked with good intentions and unrealistic expectations.
After all, you might be a writer if you spend most of your time alone, reading and writing.