Writing as a vocation, not artsy-fartsy pretentiousness

I’ve been getting very annoyed by the efforts of many self-described ‘experts’ to bemoan the growing number of self-published books, and the lack of intellectual rigor they see in them.  Frankly, I think it’s BS from start to finish.  It’s yet another example of social justice warriors taking over a field and demanding that it conform to their expectations, rather than to reality.

This morning, I approach that topic in my monthly column for Mad Genius Club.  If you’re interested in the subject, click over there and see what I have to say, then join the discussion.  I suspect it’ll get interesting!



  1. Many seek to emulate the past when writing was only really possible for those with independent means, i.e., supported by the labor of others. They loath the fact that capitalism made writing more egalitarian.

    "In the precapitalistic ages writing was an unremunerative art. Blacksmiths and shoemakers could make a living, but authors could not. Writing was a liberal art, a hobby, but not a profession. It was a noble pursuit of wealthy people, of kings, grandees and statesmen, of patricians and other gentlemen of independent means. It was practiced in spare tim e by bishops and monks, university teachers and soldiers. The penniless man whom an irresistible impulse prompted to write had first to secure some source of revenue other than authorship."

    Mises, Ludwig von (1956). The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality

  2. Well, I'd say if people want to pay to read your book it is a success, no matter what a traditional publisher says.

  3. If the publishers, like other media gatekeepers, hadn't used their jobs as an opportunity to pull the cultural rudder hard over to the left, self-publishing wouldn't have become necessary.
    A Tom Clancy or a Robert Heinlein couldn't get the time of day from a major publisher today. (Clancy, notably, had to get published by the tiny Naval Institute Press, and brought up by President Reagan, before anyone from NYFC would come calling.)

    This is nothing but SJWs cutting off their noses to spite their faces, then complaining that they can't smell truth any longer, and their pocketbooks are now suffering.

    Ask the recording industry how that's worked out for them and their industry when suddenly everything commercial became ghetto rap, and people could self-release direct to customers.

    Boo frickin' hoo.

  4. Back when I was trying to sell magazine articles, I joined a couple writing sites, but soon dropped out. It was all about lifting your pinkie as you sipped wine and pretended to be a writer.

  5. "All the things that would feed you as a writer – lectures or writers’ groups – cost something …"

    Yes, they most especially cost you valuable time.

    My experience with one of these groups showed me that they're full of "literary strap-hangers" who will rarely miss an opportunity to exfiltrate cast-off bad ideas so they can attempt to sell someone on them.

    But what that experience showed me as well was a group of people who had been acculturated into believing that they could slide along greasily from school to school to advanced academic situation, or perhaps jump right into a "publishing business slot" in a "literary field", eventually becoming a writerly version of Chauncey Gardner from Jerzy Kosiński's "Being There".

    They're still waiting for wonderful things to happen after all these years.

    Ever wondered how it is that many of the "young writers" who are successful are in their forties? It's because they've had to take Rilke's idea of "living a different life" to heart: they've had to make a life at something else before approaching writing from a different perspective.

    But if you want a look at how nasty this "official business" is, take a look at the history of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, especially in reference to Frank Conroy's "strenuous boosterism" on behalf of Certain Interfering Agents. (Go ahead, Google it: look for the piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education.)

    That'll help clarify what's really going on: some of these writers are waiting for their Deep Literary State pay-offs, even if they're unaware of where the money and influence is coming from.

    "Meaning, sense, and clarity" — it's a good laugh if you've ever read Vitruvius's "The Ten Books of Architecture" …

  6. Shortly after the dinosaurs left Earth for greener pastures, I had an interesting discussion with a high school english teacher. The class had just finished "Macbeth" (for a 17 yr old high school senior, a rollicking sword and sorcery adventure). She was querying the class on the motive for the Bard writing the play. Among the usual "feel-good" comments about exploring the human condition, I opined that he wanted to put some coins in his purse. From her reaction, you'd have thought I said "Hail Satan" during the morning prayer. How dare I assign such a base motive for the "Saint of Avon." My reply was that "even playwrights have to eat." Needles to say, I wasn't her favorite student after that.

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