For the past week, I did what I said I was going to stop doing and that is browse the various internet sites, blogs, etc about writing, blogging, the “Traditional vs. Self-Publishing” (endless) debate, and all other things related to the writing process. Strange, being that this is what I mostly write about here. I will still read articles about books - new novels, book reviews, perhaps about old books that I never heard of before, or simply seeking out other interesting authors and books to read. But while doing this, you can’t help click a link that leads you to someone crowing about something or another, most of the time, it being someone screeching off about what other people are doing wrong. This always, it seems to me, comes across as XYZ writer’s opinion being the only one that matters and as we all know everyone has an opinion, thought, idea, including myself right here. The only difference I can see, really, is that here - on this blog - I try to accentuate the positive aspects for those who are brave enough to actually sit down and create something. I’ve always said that what I write here is from my own personal experience. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything - nor will I ever claim that. This here is literally a chronicle of my own experiences, thoughts on the books I read in which I hope others may find interesting as well, promote my own writing (as well as what I think is the interesting work of others), and perhaps share a thought or two on what I come across about the writing process, publishing, reading, or whatever else. I am fully aware that I am merely one voice out of tens of millions out there doing the very same thing and if I get a couple of readers along the way, all the better. I do what I do for my own, personal, creative reasons, and those that appreciate that and like what they see here, thank you. But obviously one is free to simply ignore me and this blog and my books, my thoughts, my writing, or whatever else.
I’ve said many times over the years that there are plenty of books and authors that simply don’t grab me. There are others that I will plainly state that I think suck. There are plenty of stories and novels in which I think are an utter waste of time to read. That is the normal, natural thing for anyone. You can’t possibly like everything you come across; but I made it a point when I began this blog to not waste time on crowing about the books and writers I don’t like and try to accentuate those I do with the hopes that maybe since I enjoyed it, someone else may also. Of course, there’s no control over that and my opinion may not mean dick to anyone. What I won’t be here is the “hatchet man”, the guy who tells you how “bad” everything is while offering no alternative whatsoever. And, holy shit, there are plenty of blogs and other websites for that sort of thing if that’s what you’re looking for.
With self-publishing beginning to lose it’s “stigma” there are also no shortage of websites and blogs concentrating on this subject - a subject that I am growing increasingly weary of from day to day. For me, personally, I couldn’t care less whether a book was traditionally published or self-published. Give me some good writing and a good story. Give me something to remember, something to think about after reading it. That’s all I care about. What name is on the spine of a book doesn’t matter to me because one can easily make the argument that traditionally published books can also be bad as some of the worst self-published books out there. The irony of this whole debate is that those who often crow about how awful the state of contemporary literature is via the Big Six publishing houses are the same ones who decry any and all self-published books by saying that since it wasn’t published by any of the Big Six, then it must be horrible. I like that: The Big Six are publishing crap but unless you’re published by the Big Six then no one will take you “seriously.” I can’t wrap my mind around this argument and in the end I think it has less to do with the quality of a work than it does giving a platform for people to bitch.
In my own mind the Big Six and self-publishers are publishing both crap and interesting books. Not everything is going to be great. Not everything is going to grab you. You have to actually use your own mind and actually decide for yourself - something a lot of people these days simply do not want to do. They want to be told what to think. Some want to hold opinions that will endear them to a certain group of people. Some just don’t want to be socially embarrassed. It seems like high school to me - a whole group of people who are simply dying to fit in with the “cool kids.”
These websites and blogs have shown me how fickle and petty writers can be. I suppose the fact that I did not come up in a “literary background” allows me to see things from a bit of a distance. I wasn't, and am still not, surrounded by other writers and my thoughts on writing and literature matters are based on my own thinking and observation, not what I’m “supposed” to think. In other words, I make up my own mind, decide for myself, which is how it should be. I’m not “embarrassed” to say I like Stephen King or that I may not have found a work that everyone is supposed to adore to be to my liking. We’re all individuals, right?
The websites and blogs that I have been coming across as of late are mere platforms for bitching (much like this particular blog post may appear to be but I suppose I’m allowed one every now and then). Most of them written by other writers who have their own work out there or soon-to-be out there, or are seeking to get their work out there. To my mind a lot of time is spent on pointing out how others are doing things wrong or badly rather than offering something that may actually help a would-be writer or even provide a little insight for those already writing that may guide them in a direction that he/she had never thought of before. Blog after blog, website after website of how other people suck, other people are doing things wrong, other people are wasting their time, etc. If this much energy was put into what they are actually doing rather than complaining about what others aren’t doing then perhaps they’d actually produce something. The one common denominator I see in all of these sites is, “Everyone else sucks and is doing things wrong - except for me.”
An example: On a recent forum I was reading yet another tiresome debate about “Traditional publishing vs. Self/Indie publishing.” The blog post itself was the usual fare, offering nothing new to the discussion. It was the comments that intrigued me more than anything else. I read an awful lot of comments that said things like, “I don’t want my stuff sitting along side some piece of shit.” or “A badly written self-published work makes all self-publishers look bad.” Let’s take a look at the first one. Are you kidding me? First of all, if you were traditionally published, your work would be sitting along side a piece of shit too. Secondly, what the hell do you care whether someone else’s book sucks? It’s your book you should be concerned with. People do have minds of their own and are able to distinguish between what they like and don’t like. Perhaps someone will find the book you think “sucks” is better than yours. You have no control over what people will think of your work, so stop with the nonsense. The next comment: If someone reads a very badly written self-published work and then thinks all self-published work is therefore bad, what about traditionally published work that they think sucks as well? Does this same formula apply? With the immense glut of written works out there, you can’t possibly come to this conclusion with any honesty whatsoever. With the tens of millions of books out there the world over, chances are you are going to come across plenty of clunkers among the great and/or good, interesting works.
I firmly believe that half the world’s problems would disappear if people simply learned to just mind their own business and stop obsessing on what others are doing and concentrate on what they, as an individual, want to do in this life. The same goes for the arts. Focus your attention on what you are trying to accomplish and stop worrying about what other people are doing. Just shut up and write, try to make your work the best it can possibly be. Come to it honestly and offer it up to the world and let the chips fall where they may. We lose control over our creations once we put it in the public sphere. I have no illusions about my own work. I know some people like what I do, just as I’m sure there are some who have read me who think I suck as well. I can’t control that and neither can anyone else. It’s a natural feeling that everyone wants to be adored and admired by everyone but the reality is that simply isn’t going to happen. So take that energy and that fire and focus it like a laser beam to your own aspirations and for God’s sake stop worrying about the inevitable shit that will enter the pipeline. Why give it any attention at all if that’s what you feel about it? Give us something to appreciate, something to possibly enhance life a little bit.
So I am going to follow my own advice here and try very hard to keep away from all this crowing, pettiness and childishness and simply concentrate on trying to write the best work I possibly can - and with any luck, others may appreciate it and get something from it. That’s the best we can all hope for, isn’t it?