Someone has declared war on writing and (unpublished) writers. Apparently. Specifically, it's some guy named Tom Mitchell who has declared war on writing and writers, and he did so in THIS article. Friend and fellow writer A. Laramey made his ridiculous screed known to me in her blog post last Wednesday. She said she was conflicted about it. I'm not. It's a stupid rant from a frustrated writer who hates that the 'wrong sort of people' write and let it be known they're writing on social media.
He actually states that he "...realised the full extent of my hatred for unpublished novelists during an evening of drinking craft beer with a friend."
How horribly ironic, him being an unpublished novelist and all. Perhaps he's trying to come off as ironic/funny hipster-ish but, as April said, he misses the mark. By a wide margin.
He looses me completely when he starts in on genre, but I'll start from the very beginning.
This casual plan for a future novel-writing is indicative of the literary world’s failing health. We must wake to this imminent danger. Soon, more people will write fiction than read it. Much like my parents’ inevitable adoption of Facebook, I dread the day Dad announces he’s writing a novel set in an alternative reality where the Nazis won after all. I’d rather bring up my son in the Third Reich than a world in which nobody reads fiction but everybody writes it*.
Dafuq did I just read? People planning to write novels in the future are a symptom of the failing health of the literary world? What? Am I the only one who finds this nonsensical? Not to appear rude, but people not writing would be far more indicative of the literary world's failing health. After all, there must be people to write in order to have a healthy literary world. There must be writers. More, there must be new writers, new voices, new perspectives, else the blood of the literary world stagnates and goes stale. People writing lots is ultimately good for the literary health. Sure, not all of what will be written is good, but that is neither here nor there.
Like many people, he has a fear that more people will be writing fiction than reading it. I'm not sure that that has not already come to pass myself. However, in general, people who write also read. People who hope to write well should read a lot. Those who are serious about the craft soon come to realise this, and they start reading. A lot. Even if they never become serious about their craft, what's the harm? Let them write. What's it to you?
The internet has mutated reasonable people into wannabe writers. Starting a novel is the middle-class equivalent of getting a fake tan and manicure, sure that you’re only an audition away from pop chart success.
And is the desire to be a writer unreasonable? I didn't get that memo. I don't find it unreasonable at all. Anyone can and should write a story if they feel they have the skill and discipline to get it done. Does that mean they're entitled to be picked up by traditional publishers? No. But if it gives them pleasure and purpose to try, what's it to you? If they decide to self-publish, well, good on them. That's a lot of work and expense. Again, if that's what they decide, how is that a problem? They will be tried in the court of popular opinion, if they're seen at all.
It’s like the X Men but if the X Men had convinced themselves of their mutant powers through overuse of the #amxmen hashtag, rather than concrete proof of superhuman ability.
One who writes.
There you go. That's all you need to know about what a writer is and who can claim to be one.
NaNoWriMo’s got a lot to answer for.
He then goes on to express 'almost' pity for agents, who must be flooded every December with ill-edited manuscripts, having to read piles and piles of drivel around the end of NaNoWriMo. This, I concede, may well be an issue. Even still I cannot fault these writers - and they are writers, whether any of us like it or not - for trying.
I’ve been trying to be a novelist for ten years.... #amwriting is constantly trending on Twitter and 75% of Twitter accounts use the word ‘writer’ in their profile bio. FACT. It doesn’t matter if you’re unpublished. The act of putting finger to keyboard is qualification enough. Writing ‘#amwriting’ is qualification enough.
Then there is this sentence:
Being skilful, rather than a braggart, once held value.
So sure, what they're writing now might not be great stuff, but give these 'wanna be writers' a few years, and they'll be the next Steven Erikson (I chose a very good fantasy writer specifically because of the next quote)... if they're lucky enough to be noticed.
And yes, plenty of unpublished stuff out there is utter rubbish (and a lot of published stuff, I might add). There is also plenty of unpublished stuff out there that is absolute gold. Just because a work is currently unpublished does not mean that it is entirely unworthy.
Part of the problem is that the fantasy genre is becoming mainstream. Unpublished writers often write fantasy. Over seven million ‘normal’ people watched the last episode of Game of Thrones, for fuck’s sake.
More. people. are. reading.
And if more people are reading speculative fiction, it means that publishers are going to be hungry for more talent in speculative fiction. That means some of those currently unpublished speculative fiction writers will one day be published speculative fiction writers. Is this what is really bugging Mr. Mitchell? That these speculative fiction writers may be published before him?
I will also add that he paints the average fantasy lover in a terrible light:
... fat middle-aged men with extravagant facial hair and weird dice and cards with pictures of unicorns on them.
(And I have thus far played one game of a tabletop R.P.G. I loved it. I own a D20, and plan on acquiring a full set. Come at me, bro.)
...if the thing has to happen (gaming and fantasy loving), I’d rather it took place silently, without drawing attention to itself. What ever happened to clandestine meetings in your basements? Why must everything take place in Starbucks, pimped through Facebook and Twitter? Dignity, as traditional publishing, as God, is dead.
What a tit. Look, I would be apologetic that the wonderful unadulterated love of gaming and speculative fiction is bothering Mr. Mitchell, but I'm not quite that Canadian. No one is forcing you to join in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. People enjoying themselves... in public (gasp)... makes you angry? You think the harmless partaking in some games is undignified? You need to seek a therapist.
Let me guess, a card game after dinner is fine, BUT THEY BETTER NOT BE MAGIC: THE GATHERING CARDS SO HELP ME (dead) GOD!
Seriously, where are my eye roll gifs? Where did I put them?
And then there is this gem:
It used to be cool to be an unpublished writer. It used to be sexy. The witty, intelligent bookish type, bothering his/her imagination at unreasonable hours, taking Mexican amphetamines to keep the muse awake.... More importantly, the unpublished writer was unappreciated in his/her lifetime. John Kennedy Toole – there’s an unpublished writer, with the suicide to go with it.
I'm not going to, actually. Fuck anyone who reduces serious mental illness, reliance on drugs and tragic loss of life to some twisted aspiration. Fuck that guy right in the ear.
I'll wager, however, that Mr. Mitchell envisioned himself as that sexy under-appreciated unpublished writer; that rakish bookworm with a good heart and tortured soul (excuse me while I barf, please). I suspect that this piece is a reaction to finding out that he is not so special after all, not nearly as unique. And he doesn't like it. What's more, he doesn't like anyone who doesn't fit the embarrassingly archaic and archetypal image of an unpublished writer he's bought into heart and soul. Those people are undignified, are fat and gross, they play games and have fun. It may be that Mr. Mitchell had the sudden realisation that his exclusive club - the club of unpublished writers - has a broader membership than he wanted, and it includes some (in his opinion) undignified types; it includes types that do not match the extremely limiting image of the unpublished writer he has so clearly romanticised in his own mind.
The reality is, anyone can be an (unpublished) writer, and that makes us all less special. I would contend that we most certainly ought to get paid for our work, just as plumbers, taxi drivers and check-out clerks. I would also contend that we are no more special than plumbers, taxi drivers and check-out clerks. Furthermore, just like plumbers, taxi drivers and check-out clerks, we are varied in our interests and hobbies outside of our occupation, including but not limited to playing tabletop R.P.G.s. We're human beings, not gods.
The bottom line? Writer's aren't special. It's time to come down from our ivory towers. It was time a long time ago.
That reality seems a little tough to bear for some.