Monday, November 28, 2016

Writing Circle Jerks

Most people in most writing circles are jerks.  Allow me to demonstrate:
This crossed my Twitter transom, and it took a Herculean effort and some serious teeth gritting to let it slide on down out of the bottom of my feed without a direct response.  So much of it makes no sense to me, and yet I said nothing.  The limitations of communicating through the twit box saved me from shooting off my mouth at the time.  The many and varied problems inherent in this graph won't fit into a few 140 character telegrams.  Twitter just wasn't the right place.
Blogger, now...that is the right place!
One look at that chart tells you everything you need to know about the sad state of literature today.  Three quarters of that pie consists of raw emoting about writing.  Maybe a quarter of the pie actually relates to writing.
Here's my own pie chart:
Granted, my life as it relates to writing includes a massive chunk of time spent doing things for other people in exchange for pictures of dead presidents.  That's life, and it's fine.  It won't last forever.  The point is that writing is an enjoyable experience for me, and when the chance comes along to do it, I grab it.  Contrast that to a 'writer' who actively looks for reasons NOT to write.  Do you really think the material they produce will be worthwhile?  If they couldn't be motivated to write it, why would I be motivated to read it?
Notice that the other half of my chart consists of time spent actually doing something.  If I'm not writing, I'm reading about it, or writing about it.  That last one is a bit ironic, so let me explain.
There's writing and then there's writing.  Typing these words into Blogger is writing, technically.  It's writing in the same sense that writing a letter or email or a technical report at the office is writing, but it isn't writing in the sense of producing a work for sale on the open market.  That doesn't mean that it isn't writing of value.  Quite the contrary.  This post serves as a warm up for me - as soon as I'm done with this post, I'll go back to walking my mendicant priest through the clues that lead him to the final confrontation with a hell-spawned dragon.  Everything I write - from the quickest email to the longest internet rant - has value and makes me a better writer.  It's all time well spent.  It goes in the 'win' column even if it isn't generating words for sale on Amazon.
Before we move on to why most writing circles are full of jerks, let's get a little bit meta.  That last paragraph I wrote?  That's a reminder to everyone that you're getting better all the time.  That's a reminder that writing is a skill that you practice even when you aren't pushing characters through a plot.  That's a reminder that so much of what you do with your 'not writing' time is making you a better writer.  These are all subtle words of encouragement to writers that everything is going to be okay.  That they shouldn't stress out so much.  That they can do this.  It's positive reinforcement for them to continue doing what they are doing.
Notice the active verbs there that have more to do with action than emoting?  That's on purpose.
Compare my advice to that of the jerks shuffling the first pie around the internet:
Notice the small size of that yellow slice?  Writers love to laugh about how much they suck or about how much they hate writing.   You can never fully escape it.  As much as I actively avoid most writer's haunts on the internet, that damn thing still pushed into my feed.  It's small size is my way of telling the reader to stop listening to that kind of loser talk.  That's my way of telling the reader to stop worrying about what other writers feel and get back to what you should be DOING.
Notice there isn't a red slice?  I don't spend time worrying about it.  More to the point, I don't spend time telling people that I worry about it.  At best it isn't true - it's just a po' faced attempt to fish a compliment out of the reader.  At worst, it's an attempt to invoke feelings of inadequacy among other writers.  Either way, it's a pretty lousy thing to say to a writer.
Of course, a writer should be concerned about the quality of his work.  If you're honest, and if you want to get any better.  The day a writer thinks he is a good enough writer is the day he stops trying to get better is the day he starts the long, slow slide towards writing like John Scalzi.  But that's besides the point - the real point is that time spent emoting about the quality of your writing is not time spent doing something about the quality of your writing.
You see what I keep coming back to?  It's the contrast we've seen before between feeling and doing. 
Those in writing circles whose advice focuses on feeling rather than writing are doing their audience a grave dis-service.  They are jerks.
Don't be a feeler.  Be a doer.
Don't feel.  Write.

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