Monday, April 8, 2013

Writing About Writing

I was working on a political blog. And then I sat there, staring at it, and just couldn't work up any vitriol. What's the point? I've yelled about how heavily bastardized our political system is, how useless the lot of you are, how very stupid it is that we keep handing the power right back to the idiots we hate for not doing their jobs. And I'm yelled out on the front, to be frank.

But as I sat here watching the cursor blink, it occurred to me that I've never talked about the one thing it would seem obvious to talk about. Namely, that writing a blog is bloody hard. Hell, writing in general is bloody hard. You know what's funny, though?

Writing is a low barrier-to-entry field in the minds of most, and those who do think it's difficult somehow have this strange idea that the publication alone is what makes it hard. And then there's even more who seem to believe that because so much material finds it's way onto the interwebz, that no part of writing is difficult.

Let's take these in reverse order, hmm?

The idea that "because so much gets published by various means, it must not be hard to do"? I can kinda see where that comes from. I mean look at this:

That's over one hundred thousand books and manuscripts published or put up for sale on Amazon in the last month. Surely, with that kind of flow, writing can't be that hard, huh? Yes, it can. Publishing has simply grown more diverse and less choosy. We all know this.

We all know that any schmuck with an axe to grind can kick up a blog, website, or (for the discerning ranters) self-publish an actual physical document that can be purchased in hard copy or e-book. Anyone. And there are no editors, no agents, no fact-checkers, no proofreaders, no publication one to stand in your way and grind you down. No-one to tell you you suck.

But there's also no-one to catch your mistakes. I work without a proofreader or editor on this blog, and it shows, no? There're little grammar errors sprinkled throughout, little redundant words here and there, moments where my thinking and reasoning gets mixed into my prose and makes a mess instead of a point. There's rampant comma abuse. There's the occasional typo that makes it through spell check and three proof readings. But by and large, I work hard to make sure that such things, though accidents do happen, are rare. 

Now imagine if my blog looked like this:


Or this:

And then he said take me baby and she said ok and they did it hard and it was gud.

Wanna feel scared? That's the sort of thing that can get published, actually, honest to gods published, on Amazon. The barrier to entry is set so low that anyone with a manuscript can convert to eBook and publish. Is it always that bad? Nope. But is a lot of it unreadable uncleaned dreck? Yep.

The idea that it's the cutthroat world of publishing that makes writing difficult is actually fairly easy to address, as it's a transition point. Short story short? If you want to publish traditionally, yes. Publication is a nasty little headache waiting to happen. Self publishing or electronic publishing, as noted above, have trashed the idea of the publisher as a barrier. 

So that leaves the little darlings I want to throttle, the ones who think writing isn't actually difficult at all. 

Shown: My head. (Source.)
What leads to this belief? Why, the fact that everyone and their dog can sit down with the writing implements of their choice and express themselves through the written word. No, seriously. The same culture that spawned SMS language is the culture that believes access to a keyboard makes writing easier. 

"Ahhh," says your friendly neighborhood Strawman. "But what about those kids that can't write for crap in their highschool/college classes?"

They don't believe writing is hard. They believe they can't do it. Some of those kids may realize that they're having problems because it's six kinds of b*tch to write anything coherent. But some will believe the teacher has no clue what he/she's talking about. Though in all fairness, if a teacher goes by "coach," and the class isn't outdoors or in a gym, that assumption may be right.

But right or wrong, what it will lead to is those kids who write fan-fiction and think it's the god's own gift to earth (some is), or think they can slap the next Great American Novel in a month by targeting a word count and calling it good. There are whole books written in the "and then, and then, and then" style of a 12 -year old. Whole published books. Don't believe me?

Go have a look. No, I won't look for you. I don't feel like being reminded of it.

And then there are those who do have a functioning command of the English language, and automatically believe that qualifies them to write professionally. I'll admit, that's pretty much the best entry qualification. But it's hardly the only one.

Take me for example. I've been writing for years. I actually sat down and took the time to get a degree in it, which is by no means the route I recommend. Taking classes on the side would have worked just fine, thanks, and I might have a degree I could use. But I digress.

This year alone, I've written easily better than 11,000 words on this blog alone. That's not counting the 96 daily haikus, the cartoons, the homework, the short stories, the resume's, the cover letters, the emails, or the writing I do for myself. That's just the non-fiction prose I write.

What makes me think that I'm a writer? The fact that I practice. I write often. I read endlessly, voraciously. I sit and think about ways to turn a phrase for hours at a time. Can anyone sit down and be good? Sure! Can you do it consistently? Well, that depends.

Are you willing to actually exercise your ability, your vocabulary, your grammar and composition skills at least once or twice a week? Can you make yourself hold to a schedule and crank out work on that schedule? (It's one of my failings!) And can you accept criticism?

If any of the above = no, then you may write, yes. But you're not writing, not in the sense of the profession.

So is there a point down here?


My point is that I'm more than a little pissed that my profession, the work I strive to do to the best of my ability, is considered the easiest form of artistic self-expression these days because anyone can slap words on a screen and hit publish. I'm pissed that I can't make a living with my degree because the business of telling people what's going on has been eaten by the business of making money telling idiots what they want to hear.

I'm pissed that my generation, the two or three generation before it, and all of those after it so far, have vomited so much crap out into the world that it has to have a kitten or death attached to it for anyone to pay attention these days.

Actually, I'm just plain pissed that writing isn't a profession anymore, as such.

Oh well. Not feeling the kittens right now, so have a bulldog instead.

It's adorable, and it can kill you. Ha! (Source.)
At least that way a few people will have a look, right?


  1. It's just a sign of of the times, I suppose. I'm not making excuses for it, of course, but it seems to me that there's simply not enough focus or encouragement to write. I wrote a letter to a blog over the way they were representing a group of people to their many, many readers the other day and received a rather nasty response. I posted the response for my readers to see and was advised by one of them to just let it go, but I told them I wouldn't for the same reason that we're in this mess: they're just idiots with too loud a voice and too little a clue. There's this twisted idea that this is what literature is now. This is what INFORMATION is now. Frankly, I find it discouraging. I haven't written anything of worth in months and though I feel it inside of me begging to be expressed and let out, I'm stuck sitting here like, "why even bother? I have too little a voice." Not that an audience is my sole motivation for writing, but usually that is the intended goal, is it not? It's just hard to get a fire under your butt. I tried writing a fanfic the other day, a simple drabble, and 8 paragraphs in I was ready to cry. It was bland, emotionless, choppy and I deleted it immediately. Discouragement is a serious illness to a good writer (even though I'm a writer of only some small talent) and I think that also has a lot to do with the problem at hand.

  2. Agreed! This is such a frustrating topic for me that I thought about not reading when I saw what it was about but I'm glad I kept going. The degree field we are working toward is diminishing by the day it is scary but true. As a matter of fact I was having a conversation about the fact that I would quit if I hadn't already invested so much and my husband agreed that it is pointless but it would be like throwing away everything I have put in to just quit now. You put all of my fears and frustration into very well thought out words, although I did spot a typo or two. ;)