Brown Stuff


Writing is a struggle against silence.

Carlos Fuentes

Sometimes I’m self deprecating about my own writing.

I say stuff like ‘this is bloody awful, it’s like J.K. Rowling has written it.” This is spoken for comedy effect as some sections of the literary world have criticised her methods of telling rather than showing (for example) and I thought that she was, as an author who had the brass neck to put her stuff out into the world, fair game for the slings and arrows.

I used to be in a band. We would spend hours on end perfecting our craft, adding small melody changes and switching time signatures without disrupting the flow of the music. After all this effort we couldn’t get any gigs because some half-arsed, drugged-up fuckwits (I do not use these descriptors lightly) who could hardly play their instruments, promised the venue manager to bring a bus-load of mates. The money from bar-takings lit up  the manager’s eyes and those of us playing properly couldn’t get a look in.

I felt this way about the writings of Ms.Rowling.

Then I read this piece by Joanne Phillips that gave me a whole new perspective:

“It’s like this: You work on something for months or even years, polishing it, making it the best you can. Finally your book goes out into the wider world – and this is the same whether you’ve self-published or published traditionally. You’ve done all you can to make it the best you can, but even so, someone who has most likely never written a book themselves, maybe never done anything truly creative in their life, who is not a literary critic and has paid £1.99 to download your book, can completely wipe the floor with you – say whatever they like about your writing and you as a person – in public. On one of the biggest websites in the world. For anyone to read. And there is nothing you can do about it, no comeback, you just have to suck it up because you dared to publish a damn book.”

My existential nihilist side realises that the only thing we can do to try and make our lives bearable is to try and be happy. If J.K. is happy writing, then good luck to her. If her writing makes others happy, then all is well in the world.

Then I read Clive James’ review of Dan Brown’s latest effort and my opinion has come full circle. My existential nihilist side realises that I am not happy, and I am not the only one. Slogging out your guts only for your efforts to be ignored when those who are less talented are being put on a pedestal is galling at best and downright offensive at worst. And it’s not just me I’m angry for, it’s the army of talented writers (both published and unpublished) with ingenious ideas and a real talent for their craft.

So remember, it’s a harsh world, and if you put your work out there, for all the world to see, then you had better grow a thick skin and be prepared for it to be shot down if it’s a piece of shit.


2 Comments to “Brown Stuff”

  1. Hi Alan, thanks for quoting and linking to my to post. You’re right to be angry, and I’d add to your last point prepare for it to be shot down even if it isn’t a piece of shit, because creative merit is so subjective, and some people will get really personal because of the most random things.

  2. I agree Joanne, slings and arrows are often fired by those who don’t understand your work or are even jealous of it. Critical thinking doesn’t filter out personal feelings for many people and the gift of the internet allows such lunatics to vent their unrestrained anger. I’ve been a victim of it myself, and I’m sure I will be again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: