Monday, June 18, 2012

Turf Protection?

This is one of the most demoralizing articles I have ever read. Why would a beautiful and successful woman want to crush other people's dreams?  I've already failed at Ms. Breslin's Number One piece of writing advice, which is to be pretty, but don't many people get lost in books and words precisely because they aren't one of the pretty people? Apparently, no unattractive person has ever sold a novel. Winston Churchill, don't you even think of writing a history of the English speaking peoples! Jane Austen, you'd better get a nose job first.

Here is some of Ms. Breslin's most recent constructive criticism:
 Can you make the words sing? Does your prose have that certain something? Are you gifted at showing not telling, or telling not showing, or creating an entire world that didn’t exist before that is born again when someone else reads your work?
Probably not. Most people cannot write well. This is a fact. This is something that is true. This is a hard thing to accept. Most people cannot write well, and that includes you, and what we can conclude from this is that the person we are talking about here who cannot write well is, in all likelihood, you.

No, my writing doesn't always sing; that's what the second draft is for. And some stories are better than others. Is it any use to point out that there have been countless bestselling novels filled with clunky, songless writing? I tried to give a certain author the benefit of the doubt and read several of his/her novels, but was disappointed by each one and left scratching my head at how these pointless, badly written books could have been turned into so many successful films. More power to him (or her). Susannah Breslin probably would have told the author early in his/her career that he didn't have what it takes. She finishes with a flourish:
This is your roulette wheel, and when it lands on every number but the one you picked, and you realize that after years of work, you haven’t made more than a pittance at what you thought would be your new career, you will call it a day.
Because you didn’t have “it.” And you didn’t work hard enough to become it. And you will see you should have picked something else: something easier, something less complicated, something other than a writer.
 Emily Dickinson, you loser! You wrote for years and never earned a penny. I have given up every Saturday and countless opportunities of doing something more fun. I have called out sick from work so that I could stay home and write while the kid was at daycare. Writing is the only thing that makes me feel like there is a possibility of breaking out of the hourly grind. But because I'm not successful NOW and may never be, I shouldn't even bother. No child should ever pick up a musical instrument because there is no guarantee that his hours of practice will monetize. No artist should ever attempt, mess up, or try again because somebody is standing over his shoulder telling him he doesn't have "it". Frankly, I think Picasso sucks, but many other people think he's a genius. He had "it" for lots of people, even if not for me. Which is worse: spinning the roulette wheel and losing, or never bothering at all? Here is my favorite comment, which echoes my same thought in the title:
The best way to ensure one’s success as a writer is to dissuade as many others as possible from becoming a writer.

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