Maybe a little cranky

By July 13, 2010Writing, Writing life

Writers, go read this, and then come back.

I’ll wait.

La la la…The girl from Ipanema…You didn’t go read it, yet, did you?

Do it.

OK, you’re a writer, you’ve read the post over at Victoria Mixon’s blog and now you’re back.

What do you think?

I’m conflicted. I started out with a rousing HA-heck-yeah with a side of holy-crap-I-hope-that’s-not-me. That’s the standard reaction, is my guess. And this isn’t my main point, but it’s worth saying: If every writer reading that post laughs and says yeah, not me, then who’s making the list? Somebody is making that list.

But I’m more conflicted after the dust from the not-me shuffle settles. Yes, a whining writer is a writer no one wants to be, but can some one tell me how anyone can ever win with the parameters built into that list? From what I can tell from reading the list a total of two times is that the only kind of writer worth being is a Serious Writer, and that’s the sort that has to scramble to make a living. So if you make any money at all at writing, you’re probably—let me check the word choice again—schlock.

Did I read the article wrong? Someone correct me.

I’ll come clean: I also believe that a lot of stuff getting published these days is schlock. Do I think that Sarah Palin is a good writer? Nope, and I don’t plan to read “her” book to prove my point. Didn’t Glenn Beck just “write” a book? No, thanks. Nor do I plan to read any book featuring sparkling vampires. Others kinds of vampires, maybe. (I’ve read Bram Stoker’s Dracula twice. Very little sparkling occurs.)

There are books I’m more interested in than others, yes. Certain books are not to my taste.

But there’s something in the tone of this piece that I don’t think I like. I don’t want to be one of the six types, and I don’t think I am. I hope. Oh, I hope, I hope. But I’m reading into this list a certain “looking down” on other writers. The types of writers I might look down on are categorized by Victoria in her post: The people who want to say they are writers more than they want to write. The people who say they want to write but don’t read. The people who say they want to sell books but don’t buy them. The people who expect the publishing establishment to take whatever dribble they put to paper. The people who think writing a book is a winning lottery ticket.

I feel as though it’s a slippery slope, though, to becoming a seventh type of writer, a judgmental one. A bitter one.

I don’t want to be that type either.

Some serious books (my friend Jeanie coined the phrase “finely crafted prose” as a put down) I can’t stand. I won’t name names, but a prize-winning novel that was just THE END a year or so ago, I had to put down. Nothing happened. I mean EV-ER. And some of the books that fly off the shelves, I can’t read past the first three sentences. But that’s my barometer. Yours is going to be different.

I want to write what I like. Just because I’m not writing the next Great American Novel—of course, who can predict this, anyway?—doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t write. It might mean that I shouldn’t publish, but that’s for the market to decide, I guess.

And in the mean time, while I’m writing my schlock, I don’t feel it’s my place to tell the other unpublished writers of the world that they should stop trying, either.

I think I’ve spiraled away from the post I’m referencing, but that’s fine. I don’t think that’s the message she was trying to send. The tone is accidental, or I’m a little punchy from the rest of my life or the heat. I like Victoria’s blog; I’ll keep reading.

Lists like these are problematic, anyway. Are those the six personalities that don’t succeed in publishing? The only six? Seems like there are a lot of personalities that don’t succeed these days, since so many are trying and so few books are getting published.

The place where Victoria and I agree is this: Stop whining, stop assuming your words are jewels, stop being all the things in that list, and do the one thing you can do to deserve to succeed in publishing:

Write.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Chitownmez says:

    And this is exactly why I read your blog. Always looking at things exactly the way it should be looked at. I felt the same way as you…first, in rousing agreement and then a bit skeptical. I'm definitely on that list, but the difference is that I know my faults. It's the ones who don't know that will be the ones who fail.

  • Aw, Lori, you've got to come back for the comments. I write all these wacko posts about me. I've been guilty of all six of those crimes multiple times, and on any given morning I wake up guilty of at least one or two. And several people in the comments (including me) and on Twitter fessed up to it.We're all in this leaky little boat together. Remember Anne Lamott? We're ALL writing shitty first drafts of shlock.Besides, sometimes it's just fun to say "shlock."

  • Lori says:

    The same boat! That's the phrase I was talking all around and didn't get to. Thanks for doing what you do, Victoria. Now I have to go through the list again and fess up? Oh, it's going to be a long day. I believe I can point to this post alone as whining.Chitownmez, thanks.

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