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Writers are Weird

Great post today (rant, really) on jimhinesblog.  I heartily recommend it.  And it got me thinking....

We writers are an odd bunch.  On the one hand, we constantly seek out community of one sort or another.  We look for workshops, writing groups, online communities where we can discuss issues of process and creativity (I'm involved with two right now -- http://www.sfnovelists.com/ and http://magicalwords.net/), and any other way we can think of to meet up with our own kind.

At the same time, though, we tend toward professional jealousy, genre and subgenre rivalry, and, at times, open hostility toward those who have, in our opinion, achieved commercial or critical success that exceeds our own despite the obvious literary shortcomings of their work.  Clearly, some of this territoriality is understandable.  There are a finite number of publishing slots; bookstores can only stock so many books; there are only a handful of awards given out each year; the short fiction market is shrinking.  We are, on one level, in competition with one another.

But it seems to me that we gain more from our communal impulses than we do from the competitive ones.  Jim's post, quite apart from the humor, raises a crucial point:  our chances of being published and, by extension, being successful with our books, have much more to do with what we write than with any external factor.  Yes, if my books fail, there are dozens of writers-in-waiting eager to take my publishing slot.  But by the same token, if my books are successful -- commercially and artistically -- and one or three or ten or those writers-in-waiting produce books that also show potential for success in the eyes of their editors, all of us will be published. 

I am not immune from the jealousies I mentioned before.  Far from it.  And I am as likely as any other writer to whine about wanting more publicity, better bookstore placement, more prominent reviews.  But I guess Jim helped me see, at least for today, that if I want to claim my successes as my own, I'd better be willing to do the same with my failures.  And chances are that'll be easier as part of a community whose members understand the highs and lows of this profession as intimately as I do.

Today's music:  Mark Whitfield (7th Avenue Stroll)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 1st, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
Good thoughts. To which I'll add:

If you want the writing community to help you, and people tend to want to be helpful, then it might not be in your best interest to be posting continuously about your own brilliance as opposed to "those published authors" who have no taste, talent, or ability--and the stupid publishers (whose doors you've been trying to crack) who put out their stuff.

Second, your taste is your taste. It's going to be difficult to prove that it really is better than anyone else's, whether for your reading, your own writing, or whatever else it is you do.

Third observation, there really does seem to be an audience for just about every style and type of story.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 03:41 am (UTC)
Good points, Sherwood. Thanks for commenting.
Feb. 1st, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
"Writers are Weird"

Feb. 2nd, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
Yeah, I suppose. It's all those voices in our heads...
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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