What academics think about writers

This is a response to this blog post about a teacher leaving the creative writing MFA programme and spilling their guts about the award. I couldn’t wait to read this – needing to fire up my computer to do so – but on doing so, it leaves me cringing and disagreeing with many things. Read on… (my additions – for clarity – are in brackets):

  1. Writers are born with talent (99% aren’t)
  2. If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.
  3. If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.
  4. If you aren’t a serious reader, don’t expect anyone to read what you write.
  5. No one cares about your problems if you’re a shitty writer (stop complaining and do the work)
  6. You don’t need my help to get published (Publishers are panicking)
  7. It’s not important that people think you’re smart (write to entertain, not to impress)
  8. It’s important to woodshed (operate in a vacuum until you’re good enough)

My advice is for writers to reject the old models and take over the production of their own and each other’s work as much as possible.

Above is my favourite quote from the article item 6, and this is the kicker. Ryan Boudinot is at the top of the writing tree along with Publishers and Agents. Along with item 6, the entire traditional writing industry is being challenged by writers discovering the industry for themselves. Information is now no-longer hidden, sacred and writing – the business of it – isn’t happening by osmosis. A writer trawling http://kboards.com for 6 months will be more knowledgeable about the industry, business of writing, and what works as a modern writer than many in the tradition publishing industry are after decades. (I think it was author CJ Lyons who went to her Publisher with data on who actually bought her books; they were flabbergasted and wanted to know how she obtained it.)

Item 6 on the list above, negates all the rest, and the list should be revisited with that perspective in mind: The traditional Publishing industry doesn’t have a clue anymore, and a writer is able to do it all themselves (e.g: Hugh Howey), or at least decide what they don’t want to do themselves (e.g: print publishing).

So, let’s revisit that list:

You don’t need my help to get published

See my explanation above

Writers are born with talent

Most people aren’t talented. You don’t have to be one of the 1% every 1000 students in order to make a five or six figure salary as a writer these days. Hard work trumps talent for 99% of determined writers. Academics, and the traditional Publishing world needs ‘talented’ people in order for their business model to remain in place. For writers today, you can choose to be the 1% and not wait to get picked.

If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.

That’s bullshit. You’re in an industry which targets young people. Join the rest of the world – who deal with adults 24/7.

If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favour and drop out.

Agreed. However, writers need help existing in todays super distracted world. An experienced teacher (read that as a teacher who hasn’t spent their entire life in academia), should be able to assist with helping students make time.

If you aren’t a serious reader, don’t expect anyone to read what you write.

Bullshit. You’re confusing being a writer with being a reader. A writer needs a vivid imagination and the skills to write those imaginations down. Writers – and particularly the talented few, Ryan is/was looking for – don’t need more books: they need more paper. For most writers (adult ones) I have met, reading is directly connected to procrastination.

It’s not important that people think you’re smart

Agreed. Write to entertain: you’ll still be seen as smart.

It’s important to woodshed

Advice for the 1% again. Item 6 negates item 8. Write, Publish, Repeat: you can find your audience, and market as you go along. Operating in isolation is something we did in the 40s, and every writer since the introduction of the printing press wants to be read asap. We now have the means to do it, so get out there!

Mark

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