Writers are idiots.

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Anthony Ravenscroft
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Writers are idiots.

Postby Anthony Ravenscroft » Sat May 13, 2006 3:02 pm

And therefore I address the following to those out there who share my delusion.

For I do not merely "write some stuff" (though that's a handy line when I want to disengage from an obsessive at a conference).

I am a writer.

Gods help me, I'm a writer...

(An idea occurs to me. It's a swipe from someone I used to work with at the newspaper. That'll be another thread.)

(Obsessive even in the pits of delusion.)

I don't hang out with many other writers. Most of them address themselves & each other as Authors.

I swear, if in an unlikely future of vast success some dewy-eyed noob addresses me with that proper-noun adoration, I'm gonna drop trou right then&there & pee on their shoes.

Here's an example. I am inspired by a woman who, two full decades ago, was my lover. She wanted to know what conferences to attend -- I, of course, instantly flogged Clarion.

Wanna know what she's done since then? Hah -- sh!t-nothing. Half-a-hundred malformed shrieking dying kittens for her Writing Group & yes the caps are there in tone.

I loved her; in some graintable way I love her fragmentarily still; I wanted to grab her by the convenient lapels & ridicule her until she either gives up this nonsense of being a Pro & acknowledges being a Parlour Dabbler & enjoys that for what it is, or she gets Effing Serious Already & admits that 40's dropping beyond the rearview & it's getting a skoshe late in the day to be a Next New Thing.

Anyway... gawDAMmit, that's what I get for rerereading DV...

(Ooooh... another snippet flashed past on the CD player: "We ended up, flesh wrapped in fog...")

Through happenstance & other indications of a malign Universe, I'm one of the chief troublemakers of a tiny Santa Fe book publisher, the Crossquarter Publishing Group, http://www.crossquarter.com/. In fact, I'm right this moment playing hooky on 27 rejection letters & a further 11 quesries that've crawled in during the past week.

Yep, that's right. You have no idea who I am, who we are, yet somehow I get hunted down personally (as in "by name") by a thousand & more hopefuls annually.

The fact that Crossquarter (henceforth CQ, sometimes CPG) has a fiction line is all my fault. As a unit, it's a dog. None of the titles sells as well as my own "how to" nonfictions, which are devious marketing experiments fobbed off with no publicity worth mentioning -- if you want to play along at home, I'm findable on Amazon.com, as are we.

First pass: a reality check for those who "want to be a writer." Go to http://www.crossquarter.com/Query.htm & scroll halfway down, yeah, the "Hard Facts About Publishing" part. I haven't updated it since last summer, but it overall applies.

You'd have to be crazy to write. I agree totally with Ellison that "being a writer" does not in the least excuse boorish behaviour.

The simple fact is that some ass-hats sometimes write something worth reading. Some people who are inherent ass-hats (more a sort of minor but pernicious sociopathy, actually) discover that, rather than learning the give&take of intercourse, it's far simpler to become An Artist. That justifies every form of stupidity, & even allows expansion of one's ass-hat cred.

It's a matter of colouring between the lines.

I despise most "new writing." Anyone else heard "as a convention, the plot is dead"? Likewise, in the past decades, I've heard that linearity, monologue, dialogue, the novel, & narrative (to cite a few) are likewise pushing up poesy. (Sorry; couldn't resist.) (No, dammit; I'm not sorry.)

It's like fencing in a chunk of Oklahoma & getting a deed issued. You get on your horse, & go out to check the fences. Well, hell, any farmboy knows that half the joy of fence-checking is to take in in a deep & viceral way the largeness of that acreage however tiny; when you've walked or ridden a horse or a mule (a "four-wheeler" or "ATV" for you citified dabblers) along the perimeter of twenty acres, you can't help but feel attached.

And, every once in a while, it's fun as all hell to vault a fallen-down section of bobwire & gallop wildly over someone else's space, hootin & hollerin, not giving a firm care who or what or why, just enjoying being off the reservation without a keeper.

If you have no clear, firm grasp of boundaries, you can never know the wild exhilaration of escape. It's that simple.

There's a bigdamnHUGE difference between someone who colors in the picture-book without attending to the lines, & someone who knows the lines are there & takes advantage of Freedom to add a line here, a sly overage there, extending the boundaries -- not merely ignoring them.

I think that image is swiped from something Ellison said to a Clarion student 30 years ago. I paraphrase very loosely, "You learn all the rules of grammar before you even think of breaking them!"

(Dimmed by time & their memory & my own memory, but it doesn't seem a particularly unlikely attribution.)

I'm subscribed to Poet & Writer. And I read it, too. I'm currently on an Extended Snit (better rates) about MFA writers -- especially of course when they start calling each other as Author (infra). In other words, half the typical issue sends me into fits alternating snarling with indignant gut-punched whoops & mad cackling. (FWIW, the rest is often insightful, informative, & pleasing.) Reading the quoted fragments is ridiculous... then I twig that these ludicrous droppings are being held up as not merely a shining example of that Artiste's work... but as how all Modern writing ought to be & will be.

As such, if you're going to admit your delusion & commit to Being A Writer, then your first reading ought always to be P&W, remembering all the while that it offers some truly excellent warning for the attentive.

Art consists in limit.

Yeah, I know, in this world, in this culture, most especially in this nation at this advanced time, Anarchy is God.

And I'm an Anarchist at heart.

But the fact remains that, if you can do ANYTHING, apply ANYTHING as tool or medium, ANYWHERE unbounded by time or Blue Law or Federal warrant, then you can never achieve Art.

Scan & believe, o seeker:

    ORDER
    DISORDER
    CHAOS
    ENTROPY


Some years ago, a vastly underappreciated polymath name of Larry Constantine looked at a similar list. He saw something that, until I read the resultant article, I'd kinda vaguely understood but hit me like a bungstarter when he drew it out.

See, it's a circle. And it goes both ways. Excess entropy creates homogeny, so finely divided that it doesn't really matter that each grain in the Sahara is unique.

Yet paradoxical that we by our every creative act fight Entropy, so that we can remain in oscillatory comfort twixt Disorder & Chaos.

You want to be An Writer and maybe still eat? Hah. Stick to Order. Get & keep a day job. Learn a skill that transfers easily -- I hight bartender, & used to be a data-entry or copier-op dude before those followed typesetter & stenographer.

Being An Writer has to be at least as important as feeding your offspring. If not, back-burner it. Don't give me no lip: it's got to be a hobby until it's safe to be an obsession. There's good reason that you're supposed to be pushing 50 & get the mortgage paid off & have your kids grown & moved out before you study the QBL.

Damn -- I just consciously realised that desciption fits myself. Groovy.

I know very little about writing except what I've been doing to myself for 40 years. Until then, I'd read everything from the Greek myths to Sherlock Holmes, & was convinced that, somehow, these depicted real events.

In a flash that still makes my head spin lo these many, I realised that people could make crap up. Honestly, that had never occurred to me.

Some time back, I was sampling new guitars at a fave store. I've been semi-pro, but mostly a 30-year hobby. This wide-eyed kid sidled up to me as I changed instruments, & finally stammered out, "How did you get so good?"

I shrugged, & unhooked the strap. "I keep a guitar by the TV. I play a little while I watch, & let my hands do what they want. After 20 years, you start to pick up a few things."

He walked away, crestfallen.

I'm not a great musician. Not even very good. I'm merely effective... a skill many great musicians will never achieve. Give me an empty coffee can or anything more complicated, then a few minutes to experiment, & odds are good that I can make you at least tap your toes if not dance madly around the room. In essence, I don't pretend to orchestral excellence, because I'm plenty busy doing polka gigs at the VFW.

And that's how I speak, too.

And how I write.

If you've made it this far, bless you for your masochism, & if you hang around long enough maybe you'll burn out that unfortunate habit.

This has all been a long way of saying I'd like to see a bit more action on this site from my fellow wannabees -- preferably workmanlike Writers rather than artiste Authors. Anyone else in a fatal love-affair with language?

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Robert Morales
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Postby Robert Morales » Sat May 13, 2006 4:15 pm

Funny, I've never met an author - and I've met Borges, Harlan, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, Luisa Valenzuela, Carlos Fuentes, Chip Delany, Mike Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, Susan Sontag, Toni Morrison, John Patrick Shanley, Michael Connolly, Joan Didion, Bill Gibson, and these are just the famous ones among hundreds of published writers off the top of my head. Anybody who calls themselves an author is a MFA bullshit artist; no working actor seriously refers to him/herself as a thespian. But that's beside the point:

Because some snobs pissed you off, you are perpetuating the false conflict between Artists and Craftsman when the real battle is always between Good and Bad Work ... and that battle is waged with every creative endeavor. Get over this self-validation crap - one's worth as was a writer is proved by [i]writing[/i], not a school debate or secret handshake.

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Postby Anthony Ravenscroft » Sat May 13, 2006 4:31 pm

Yo, Bob. Good to see ya. Appreciate the thoughts. Bite me.

I'd hate to think I'd simply stepped all over your unthinking prejudices, & you're merely reacting in a sublogical sorta way to Heresy.

Maybe go back & reread my screed with a good thesaurus. And feel free to start another thread to demonstrate a counterpoint, so that this thread doesn't get prematurely bogged with self-important "no you're WRONG" gasification.

    -- Simply disagreeing with me isn't an argument!
    -- Yes it is.
    -- No it isn't!

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Postby Mindtraveller » Sat May 13, 2006 6:17 pm

Dear Mr. Ravenscroft. What is your problem with the word and?
If you could be me, who would you be?

Anthony Ravenscroft
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Postby Anthony Ravenscroft » Sat May 13, 2006 7:31 pm

What is your problem with the word and?

Dunno; what's your need to defend the poor li'l thing...?

Three keystrokes where one will do. An amusing personal affectation. A remnant of rapping out terse marginalia. Two jobs that used UPI wirespeak jargon. Incipient dementia. Cosmic rays. The NSA mind-control rays.

Take your pick, or make up your own story.

Got a point, or just killing time?

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Postby Anthony Ravenscroft » Sat May 13, 2006 7:40 pm

Mr Morales:

Apologies for local jargon that may easily be misinterpreted, as in
Bite me.

Surface appearances aside, that was not in the least meant as a putdown or a conversation-killer.

If I look like a jerk, it's sometimes because I am, & I won't dispute that potential. But I'm also too lazy to have a whole lot of meanness in me.

The potentially offending phrase is near-literal. As in, don't stand around & snarl -- get in & countercase me until I feel stupid, or until we come to a mutual ground of some sort. Or: don't bluster, when I have the feeling you're more than capable of nailing my argument / ass to the nearest barn door.

At its best, writing is something that gets us onto something near Truth by telling lies, sometimes outrageous.

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Postby Mindtraveller » Sun May 14, 2006 6:38 am

Anthony Ravenscroft wrote:
What is your problem with the word and?

Dunno; what's your need to defend the poor li'l thing...?

Three keystrokes where one will do. An amusing personal affectation. A remnant of rapping out terse marginalia. Two jobs that used UPI wirespeak jargon. Incipient dementia. Cosmic rays. The NSA mind-control rays.

Take your pick, or make up your own story.

Got a point, or just killing time?


Not really. But seeing how passionate you are in your posts, I'd most certainly want to read something of yours that is fiction, i.e. made up, i.e. a short story. Is there anywhere I could do so?
If you could be me, who would you be?

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Postby Eric Martin » Mon May 15, 2006 6:04 am

I don't think writers are idiots, although they are rarely as interesting or relevant as most of them think they are.

Fiction writers in particular (at least those I've met) seem to labor under the notion that they are better educated or better-read than the bulk of the populace. Well, who isn't.

Taken as a whole, fiction writers are marginally diverting, although the vast, vast majority of them come and go like this week's new porn ingenue. Those that do make it big sit at the same table with pop stars, sports leaders and film personalities...millionaire entertainers churning out cereal for that aforementioned populace.

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Robert Morales
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Postby Robert Morales » Tue May 23, 2006 3:54 pm

Anthony Ravenscroft:

I was airing an opinion that your premise is wonky. And that said premise only hurts you, because ultimately it denies you - as a writer - a full range creative and commercial possibilities by ascribing them to different mindsets. What you believe is hardly heresy - far from it, it's the canonical division of high and low art. That's a social distinction, and if you choose to buy into being on the losing end of it, that's really your business ... but I think you're selling yourself short. You write because you want to - and you get off on it. Writing's not inherently masochistic in any way; although how some handle their careers can be.

I urge you to read the Penguin edition of Knut Hamsun's HUNGER (translated by Sverre Lyngstad; avoid the mirthless translation by Robert Bly) - a novel that proves that the lot of writers hasn't much changed since it was published in 1890.

Anyway, I'm neither interested in laboriously arguing with you nor nailing your ass to a dangling participle: I don't have anything to prove. This is just my opinion by way of a friendly word to the wise; maybe you'll find it useful.

Eric Martin:

Art and celebrity have little do with each other, to the extent they're really not at odds - much like intellect and seminoma.

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Agree to Debate Endlessly?

Postby mr.bobbo » Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:30 am

Well,

It's a refreshing screed. However, I'll be the first to chime in with an unease and discomfort beyond my own explanation whenever faced with short cuts like an asperand where the word "and" ought to appear; I'll suggest further that whenever my friends Write Fiction, and I want so badly to administer the old "you are No Writer, my good friend" ritual, it's twenty-five-percent out of sympathy for someone who can't form paragraphs, use punctuation, spell correctly, or LEAVE THE SILLY GRAFFITIESQUE STUFF OUTSIDE ON THE WALLS AND SIDEWALKS.
There's an inner gratitude and relief that no one had to be grabbed by the lapels and shaken for that idea to be slipped on by.

I will agree, though, with the overall theme of the work (to my bestest ability): Some folks are readers, some are writers, and some writers are very, very good with their craft.
But there is a huge gulf between those who do it because to not create is an unspeakable act of self-denial and those who attempt the act of creating fiction because they've been touched by a particular work (or many) in their experience as Constant Readers...which is what most of us will ever be. And, though I've toyed with a story or a dozen, and always try to provide a concise, "readable" post on boards like these (though I DO tend towards being "too wordy," my Old Lady is right about that), I'll step right up and confess right here and now: I'm in the latter pack, fellas. No doubt about it, at this point.
And I'll add, quite an insightful back-and-forth on the responses here; being new on the boards, I just hopped into the shortest (as yet) conversation I could see the whole of, and set about shining it's brightly gleaming toothsies, as it were. Nice thread, and really: nice post. I found a lot there to dissect and be enriched by, for sure.


Okay,
Bobbo
"Is our children being educated?" ---George W. Bush

Anthony Ravenscroft
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Postby Anthony Ravenscroft » Sun Feb 15, 2009 2:30 pm

The ampersand is an affectation I've never seen need to kill entirely. It's easy enough to eliminate in mss with Replace.

My first experience with network communication was on UPI-surplus teletypes, which came complete with the 1" paper tape read/writers. On a good day, these things were 100 baud (tied to the U's central Control Data system), so anything to drop lettercount improved speed. Then I worked four years in a newsroom.

It might rankle ya, but age does have a few privileges, including a smidge of crotchetiness. Your time would be better spent hooking up with the various Pure English movements, or maybe cracking down on emoticons & L33t.

But, WTF -- it's all IMNSHO.

:lol:

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Postby mr.bobbo » Sun Feb 15, 2009 5:44 pm

Okay,

You got me--no excuse for confusing the asperand and the ampersand, for sure...

And, crotchety as it may be, maybe you're getting my meaning. Having an extensive background in commercial radio, I've been exposed to all kinds of news and weather "wire" services and printouts. I was always partial to the AP and TSN product, myself; they were, to a great extent, printed in good-old, speechworthy Modern English. And(!) at(!) the current American level of lazy, hacked-up, ignorant usage and grammatical sloppiness (and this is NOT pointed at you, old buddy), that's a memory that serves to sufficiently make me ache for the days when proper language skills were still harped upon, as it were.

In addition, I've noticed how paragraph indentations are not included within posts on this board...hmm. Something else to bitch about, eh?

Oh well. Again, I find your original post quite cool and well-narrated. Somewhat Ellisonesque, perhaps! Glad that my critical points got through without sounding too crumudgeoned for you; you're okay in my book, fella.


Okay,
Bobbo
"Is our children being educated?" ---George W. Bush

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:09 am

I feel ampersands should be reserved for their particular place -- in titles, headlines, law firm shingles, and the like. They're a little too fancy, a little too rarified, to fit into causual, "conversational" prose.

And how the heck do you get yours out in "one" keystroke? Mine always takes two -- simultaneously, yes, but still two keystrokes of work energy.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby mr.bobbo » Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:13 am

That is a pretty damned good point, David.
"Is our children being educated?" ---George W. Bush

Anthony Ravenscroft
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Postby Anthony Ravenscroft » Sun Mar 01, 2009 12:54 pm

Okay, tomato/tomatoe -- jeez, DL!

The aforementioned newsroom was Atex-based. Lovely system for its day, with a massive keyboard. Amazingly easy to store user macros, so it wasn't unusual to find wonks like me who'd put in stuff like alt-cmd-shift-special-Z because it was all that left-hand bunch.

And all them little hyphens tend to make it "one keystroke" at least as far as I go. I'm a nonstandard typer, so the tip of mky left thumb is curled under & hovers over the Shift key, & adding Shift or Alt or Ctrl just sorta fits right in.

To top it off, I programmed in a dozen different languages with other geeks, & we'd banter back & forth on the net (as opposed to Net) as we hacked, so "#" sted "number," "@" sted "at" -- oddly, "q" sted "?" which was maybe just our local oddity.

Fun to discuss, but such gems are mostly the realm of the Korinthenkacker.


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