Monday, February 6, 2012
Quiting the Writing Game
It is easier for an alcoholic to give up drinking than a writer to quit writing. Writing isn't like an addiction; it's more an incurable disease. One doesn't give it up anymore than someone gives up cancer.
I'll continue writing until they pull the keyboard from under my cold, dead fingers. I've been writing professionally for 60 years if you count the newspaper Stuart Meisel and I wrote and sold in the school hallway in 1952-53. It's been 55 years if you count it from the song "My Little White Lamb" my first New York published piece. I have been published somewhere or other in every decade since.
I have written almost every day since I was 12 years old. It may turn into gibberish if I go senile, but someone would have to shoot me to stop me. (Now I fully understand some people may say I already write gibberish. To them I say, "@&#*!" Just typing gibberish, translate at your own risk.)
The Writing Game has very little to do with actual writing. The Writing Game is what you play when fame and fortune is what you think you want. It is the desperate rules you follow to be published and see your name in print. It is the conventions you cow tow to in order to impress an editor. In other words it is pandering to please someone else's dictates of what writing is, but it is not writing.
In every art form their exist a coterie of elitist snobs who claim privy to what is and isn't proper. Well, there is another kind of privy and that is where their opinions really belong. If we depended on the considerations of these mutually declared haut monde of culture we probably would not have the great variety of art we enjoy. Like most elitist these person's main purpose is to keep things to themselves, for to share is anti-privileged They tend to cling to the last best thing or speak mumbo-jumbo to declare something unfathomable as insightful. We must remember these people generally have stood in the doorway of evolving art for centuries and one wonders how many artists they have killed figuratively speaking over the years.
One must remember Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. Kathryn Stockett was rejected by 60 agents before one agreed to market her novel The Help. We probably would never have heard of such people as Beethoven, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, James Joyce or Jackson Pollack if those elitist who think they uphold the pillars of the media had their way during their times.
Now don't misunderstand, I am not trying to place myself on the level of those I just mentioned. As a teenager I was content to dream of being a hack writer of horror stories. Basically I achieved that and had some success as a pulp writer. If anything I have written rises about that level, then fine. I don't care. I've quit the writing game.
I have seen my name in print many times and it is no big deal. I am tired of changing things to suit some editor or to avoid upsetting the politically correct applecart. We have the internet now and the freedom to write what we would write to the best we can write it. If some read my words and enjoy them or think about them that is enough. If people read my words and dislike what I wrote then they are totally free never to read my words again. That won't stop my words.
What finally persuaded me to quit the writing game was some criticism of a story I wrote. It was made by a college professor, someone very much in a position to poison young mind. Her criticism was not of my style or content per se. Her statement was, "You didn't describe if your character was white or black, American or Canadian or whatever nationality or race; therefore, I could not relate to your character."
Is this what we have come to? This kind of bigoted need of superficialities to understand a story? These things did not matter in my story. The main character could have just as easily been of Asian ethnicity. The main character could have been a black man or a Hispanic woman, these random accidents of birth had no bearing on the story. It was about a human being dealing with life. If the color of her skin had a bearing on the plot I would have put it in there.
I thought, "Gimme a break! Are you kidding me?"
No, from now on I write what I write. Read it for what it is worth. If you like it, come back and read some more. If you don't like it, then go away. That is the freedom we all have now.