Writer Vs Cynicism

See full issue for 2017 09-04

I have a lot of writers on my Facebook feed, and they tend to be grouped into two camps. One is the free spirited artsy fartsy type who is always sharing memes about how wacky and unique writers are. The other is the all business type who tends to share colourless articles about publishing trends and grammar dogma.

Never the twain shall meet?

Perhaps, perhaps not. The latter group certainly has practical value, and they tend to be the ones more likely to actually make a living on the written word. Though, not necessarily as novelists. More likely by supplementing their income with editing and writing to brief. I tend to respect these people, because money talks, but I've never been entirely at home with their rather open disdain for the other type. Cynicism is easy, after all.

But those first types, those care free hippies, they do kind of get on my nerves now and then. Because I can’t shake the uneasy feeling that they’re more interested in being recognised as a writer than actually writing. And that doesn’t really help anyone. It’s like when a bunch of kids form a band and put more effort into their lyrics than actually learning to play. (Yes, that was me.) Eventually that enthusiasm will lessen, and there won't be a quality product to show for it.

But still, that enthusiasm, that romanticism, it’s necessary I think. At least to those who want to write novels. This idea of novels as art, rather than formula, is what keeps the home fires burning. It’s the last thing the robots will take from us. Those that explore what it means to write outside of what is expected by the instruction manual, they keep a pathway clear for others to travel to greatness. The tragedy that they may never meet their dreams is offset somewhat that others can change the world with their stories.

I sometimes dearly wish I could dance in their meadows, but, alas, I am too self conscious. They are a useful reminder to me to fight my cynicism, though. Cynicism is easy, after all, and nothing worthwhile ever came from anything easy. Cynicism is easy, but a novelist must be sincere.

So I try to pour out a little circle of salt for myself in the middle ground. The business types have a lot to teach me about living up to expectations, and the hippies have a lot to teach me about surpassing them. I want my novels to be successful, but I never want to be some formulaic genre dabbler hunting demographs like a vulture picking at bones. I have to maintain that silly little egocentric belief that I have something worthwhile to say, if not something that hasn't been said before, then at least something that is from a place of sincerity.

So, by all means, express your eye rolling at these amateurs as you pay the bills by touching-up someone else's art. Continue your didactic musings from a plain that has surpassed ego and found critical certainty. I’m not even being mean here, please do. It’s necessary. But so are the other guys.

We’d all do well to remember we need each other, and that one should have enough education not to look up to anyone, and enough wisdom not to look down on anyone.


Steve Wetherell

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