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:
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?