Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beyond inspiration

There are plenty of writing books out there intended to make you feel good while you're sitting in a coffee shop thinking about writing. I know, I have a few. Inspirational books are pretty much useless. If you need to work to be inspired, I suggest you stick with your beret and your analysis of Joyce and Faulkner.

All the writers I know, the real ones, ooze sweat and blood and ink, and when they're not working, they're thinking about the fact that they're not working. It's another reality of my experience that these hard-working writers are typically among the most generous. They are so busy that they can't NOT help writers. It's part of their world, an ingredient in their winning formula, and a symbol of their gratitude for all who have gone before. Yeah, I know, it doesn't make sense--never give away what you get paid to do.

Yet the contributors to "Write Good or Die" are doing exactly that. Even more incredible, they are basically creating competition for themselves. No matter how many times you tell yourself that more and better books means more and hungrier readers, you are still encouraging the creation of new successful writers. Given the realities of the publishing business, there is not room for everyone on those bookstore shelves or publisher rosters. The last thing established writers should want is for new writers to learn from them, their mistakes, their triumphs, their career paths, their techniques. But here they are, with more arriving as we go. I think all these people are crazy, and I love them for it.

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