“…I have always been so skeptical of the whole contemporary critical scene, in which the text is regarded as some immutable miracle, to be worshipped or dissected as if it were the story itself. What anyone trained as an editor and rewriter knows is that the text is not the story—the text is merely one attempt to place the story inside the memory of the audience. The text can be replaced by an infinite number of other attempts. Some will be better than others, but no text will be “right” for all audiences, nor will any one text be “perfect.” The story exists only in the memory of the reader, as an altered version of the story intended (consciously or not) by the author. It is possible for the audience to create for themselves a better story than the author could ever have created in the text. Thus audiences have taken to their hearts miserably-written stories like Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, because what they received transcended the text; while any number of beautifully written texts have been swallowed up without a trace, because the text, however lovely, did a miserable job of kindling a living story within the readers’ memories.”
About twenty-five years ago, one of my tonsils died.
It became a lump of dead tissue, joined with the other, still living, tonsil only by their shared infection in and around my throat. In the middle of a Friday night, I looked in the mirror and they were touching. My airway was completely closed off.
My wife drove me to the emergency room, where I sat for the next six hours or so, until their ENT specialist could be reached (and, I speculate, sobered out, but I digress). When he arrived, that Saturday morning (looking a little bedraggled), he settled in and looked at my tonsils. He then told me it was an abscess and brought out a tool by which he intended to drain the puss out of the infected tonsils. For all the world, it looked like Toilet-Aid Tongs for Self-Wiping.
This was to be the first of those three surgeries that the doctor’s note mentioned. He was sitting on a little stool with wheels, while I was seated in one of those wide-metal based dentist’s chairs with the attached armature and lamp overhead. After warning me that it ‘might hurt a bit’, he then proceeded to reach into my throat with the tongs.
Aside from genre expectations, I also see a lot of discussion on writing forums about how they want to write what is popular “or else they’ll never sell any books.”
I’m not sure that is wise. For example, with musicians, about 1 in 5 million make a living with their music. Assuming it’s something similar to that with creative writing—does it really make sense to try to tailor your writing to particular audience tastes?
I think maybe, instead, I’ll try this Marketing two-step: i) Focus on getting good, telling stories that I enjoy and resonate with me; and then ii) Hope that gets noticed?
The traditional approach of: i) getting in good with someone in the industry and then ii) writing to spec (which is definitely a worthy skill) is perfectly valid, too. But, if I’m honest with myself, that way isn’t consistent with my personality and current stage of life. Maybe that can happen, eventually, too, though.
In your sense of self, move from fear of destruction to a sense of timelessness.
In your self-worth/self-image, move from all external validation to belief in your inherent worth (and trust it will be recognized by others).
In your sense of control, move from a feeling of scarcity and zero-sum to being receptive to the flow of life and its abundance. You’ve got enough time, there will be enough money—you got this. That is the type of faith that most matters.
And know that, as you do these things, you will be moving away from our ego-driven culture and the path it wants for you. So, be ready: probably you’ll piss off most people. But, if you figure out what type of (societally beneficial) activity your authentic self wants to do and do that, things should work out.
“In sf, we’ve generally fallen out of love with the tycoon—where these business titans appear, they are revealed to be bumbling sociopaths whose unique talent is in ignoring their consciences as they cheat, crush and loot their way to power.”