Friday, February 17, 2006


I'm a writer -- er, not just a blogger, but I like write stories and sometimes poems or attempted plays things sometimes. I know what you're saying: "So the feck what, CAS? You're a writer. Big deal. What's that mean in 2006?"

Yeah, it pretty much means I'm irrelevant. My fiction produces no revenue for anyone. Periodically my nonfiction does; I can slam out a pretty good article on some basic science or technology from time to time. But that's not me. I sit around mooning about people who don't exist, and periodically I get into this warped little trance where I have to perch over the keyboard and tell the Ether about it. This is, I'm convinced, a barely controlled form of obsessive-compulsive disorder -- the kind that's channeled into a harmless behavior that doesn't interfere all that much with your ability to function as a semicontributing member of society. These numerous strings of alphanumeric characters that result, what happens to them?

Well, they become bits & bytes, of course, stored on my hard drive. And as such, they are just slightly more real than when they were floating around in my head. If I'm really super lucky, some friend of mine or member of the family will take pity and scan a few lines. They'll say nice things, maybe offer a little constructive criticism, and that's about it. I might make a few changes as a result, and then what? Well, not much.

Don't tell me to "send it out." I have. Various things have gone and come back again from time to time. Sometimes with kind or encouraging words, sometimes with a Xeroxed formletter, sometimes nothing at all. But here's the point, folks: Why even bother? What would happen if the answer was "Gee, thanx for sending that! We love it! We'd like to turn it into a product!" OK, so now you've got ink on paper -- or maybe just more bits & bytes intended to glow on someone's screen. And for me, what? A hundred bucks, maybe? Periodic royalties measured in cents rather than dollars? Yippee. Let's celebrate. I could make more on an assembly line.

'Cuz nice little stories, my friends, ain't worth $hit in 2006. Nor are not-nice big ones. This is the day and age of reality television (cut out the writing staff, more credit and profit for the producers!), manufactured pop music, and movies like "Date Movie" and "The Wedding Crashers." In other words, ladies and gents, crap. The world doesn't want your little story, it doesn't care what you think or have to say; it only cares what you look like, how much money you have, and who you're sleeping with. Especially if you'll go on TV and tell all the juicy details. Or better yet -- set up a webcam in your bedroom and invite all of Big Brother's little brothers and sisters into your home!

Admittedly oversimplified. After all, the occasional worthwhile piece of art does catch the attention of the masses. For, what? A week? A month at best? It's just a product. There are new ones coming out all the time. That's the deal, see? Even if your nice little or not-nice big story becomes a huge freakin' hit -- a phenomenon even -- it hasn't done a damn thing. Two years later they'll be saying the latest steaming pile of crap to come oozing out of 50-Cent's ass is so very much better. Remember "The Matrix," folks? Do ya'? What kind of references do people make about it now?

Irrelevant, see? All of it. Your painting, my novel, Jimmy's short story, Kelly's little song, Freddy's blog, and even Mikey's latest film... None of it changes anything -- the days of artists affecting the hearts and minds of the public are long gone. At its best, at the pinnacle of its success, art is nothing but a product. Why don't we just make shoe trees or grow plums? This is what I'm wondering today. Why don't I trash the lot of it and just take up gardening?

But maybe that's just the writers' block talking.

(looking for a house in Lane County)


Jen S said...

It is not irrelevant. Art, whether it is a story, or a movie, or music, takes an active role in shaping each of us on a regular basis. It is George Lucas making a movie that inspires some people to write about their own far away universes. It is hearing Jimmy Buffet's song about "One Particular Harbor" that makes my body release all the stress it is feeling at that moment and making my mind travel to one of any number of places other than where I am and making me feel happy. It is people writing about life during the Renessaince causing someone to think it would be a nice thing to try and, as a result, changes what she does for a living to walk around in a funny outfit with her boobs hanging out (I never commented on a blog before, can I say "boobs hanging out" on this thing?) selling beer. And it's me driving in my car and suddenly remembering that short story you wrote called Jen-ocide and thinking, wow, I'm not the only person that ever thought about dying in car accident...which reminds me that I am not so different from everyone else. So stop whining and keep writing and "sending it out" because you CANNOT tell me that when you get that letter saying "Let us give you $$$$$$$$$$ money to publish your novel and while we are at it, please write a series for us to publish and Steven Spielberg wants to option it for a movie" you are going to say "ho-hum...why should I bother?" No, you are going to be jumping up and down like the maniac you are (and we love).
It's only irrelevant if you never take the step "to do" because then you don't have a chance in hell to have an effect on anyone.

Anonymous said...

Okay, leaving aside your manic ranting that your (amazing) work will never be loved...

You give it up when you start feeling that gardening would be both more fun, and ultimatly satifing.

You give it up when you begin to think you'll regret all the time spent on it. Not that you won't feel a sad/foolish if you never get published, but that you'll look back on you life an go "Feck! I could have been gardening!"

You give it up when you realize that it really was just a dream about fame and money.

If these don't apply then the question "isn't should I do this" but "what should I do next?"


(BTW, my mom likes to work with first-time buyers, and people with odd tastes and needs. Also I can vouch that she's honest. Do you want her number?)

Kim said...

You can never let it go before you've done everything you can to make it happen. Sometimes what you do to make it happen is indeed unconventional but ultimately successful. I'm at a similar crossroad right now and am going down the proverbial road less traveled to see where that puts me...but I'm more confident in success that way than other ways. Go figure.

So hey, no giving up yet, and how many times to I have to smack you around???