Author’s note: I sincerely hope that your first reaction to the above headline was a strong desire to punch me in the face.
If you read my last post (a rant on narrow-minded people brilliantly disguised as a discussion of ethics) then you’ll be glad to know that I’m still not entirely off that topic. I want to keep writing about it because I need a break from fiction and writing about something helps me figure it out in my own brain.
I guess the thing I want to figure out is how a handful of high-horse “Artiste”-types manage to get their head so far up their own ass. (Sometimes what you’re trying to figure out is what you’re trying to figure out.)
My first attempt to participate in an online writers’ group earned me a handful of fresh, new enemies. I was blocked, trolled, called names, the usual. That was because I made the mistake of talking about making money with our craft; my response to that outrage was covered in my last post.
What I still wanted to talk about was the extra layer of self-righteous, exclusionary, judgmental crap that floated to the surface of our conversation. There were only a few people (maybe five out of a hundred) that were going off on this tangent but it was still pretty sad to see people saying things like:
Most new writers are crap.
99% of all books that come out now are worthless.
Readers are stupid because they like “Twilight.”
Anyone who still writes about vampires is a shitty writer.
Amazon has ruined literature because everyone with a computer wants to publish a book (and does.)
Literature is dying because so many crappy writers are polluting the market.
I wouldn’t want most readers these days to read my work anyway. (Yeah, some asshat actually said that his writing was too good for most people.)
These are just examples of the kinds of sentiments that the “select few” were spouting. They united in a self-serving little phalanx and built a platform on these ideas. Some of them even went on to brag about how proud their literature professor would be to see them standing up for “real literature.” It really was like watching a bunch of dizzy idiots wank each other off.
I have a lot of problems with those statements and their underlying ideals. Excusing the fact that they’re nothing but opinionated bullshit, they’re spiteful and delivered in poor taste (unlike when I refer to dizzy idiots wanking, that’s pure class.) They make whoever says them look ignorant and childish. In other words, they’re not the kinds of things that people who are trying to put on “the intellectual act” should be saying.
Yet these pseudo-intellectuals think this is exactly what smart people would say. True aficionados of literature would sit around stroking each other and talking about how terrible other writers are. Good job, professor! You learned them good.
What I wanted to point out here is the largest fallacy in that entire way of thinking:
What you’re complaining about is not happening to “literature.”
It’s happening to the world, and it has been going on for a long time.
You think it’s an atrocity that anyone can write something and self-publish it, yet this is not a trend exclusive to “literature.” It’s the new way of our ever-changing world.
How many people do you know . . .
. . . are in a band?
. . . paint oil paintings?
. . . take photographs?
. . . play basketball in the park?
. . . write poems?
. . . film their own videos?
There have always been more amateurs than professionals because everyone is an artist in some way. Art is far older than currency. Art is older than code of law or stone tools. There was art before anyone could pay for it.
So it has always been, but now there’s a small difference. The internet made it so a person no longer has to wait for some overruling power, patron or corporate entity to deem them a professional artist. You’re a professional as soon as you make something and sell it. Between the strata of amateur and professional is a new layer: “independent.”
And the “Artistes” are all pissing themselves because there are people getting into their club without first spending time in the barrel with a hole in it*. Not fair! That person sold a million books and I didn’t? But I have an MFA! *Choke gasp* they’re ruining everything blargh. And so on.
The independents will not kill a medium. Never will they, nor do they want to. Amateurs and indies are responsible for proliferating and propagating a form of art more than any other group of people. Their participation doesn’t diminish it, rather their attention and love gives it means and cause to grow. Who talks about books and reading more than indie writers? Who talks about bands and shows and equipment more than indie musicians? Who goes to the theatre and discusses movies more than an aspiring filmmaker?
YouTube has not ruined the film industry, Etsy hasn’t shut down any art galleries, and touch football games in the park didn’t cause any pro teams to go under.
I just hope more of these “Artistes” can get over themselves and realize that they smell of fear and sour grapes. When you belittle a bunch of your fellows and then take a streaming whiz on the people who you hope will someday buy your work, you’re not impressing anyone. You’re just digging yourself a grave and looking like a complete tool belt in the process.
- J. Paul
* The “barrel with a hole in it” is a reference to a joke that my uncle told me. It’s dirty, but I’m going to PC it up as best I can:
So a guy shows up at a fishing camp in Alaska to work a six-month rotation as a fish-gutter. The foreman is showing him around and he sees the barracks and the commissary and even a little movie theater. At the end of the tour, the new guy asks the foreman:
“Most of the workers stay here for half a year and this place is in the middle of nowhere. I don’t see any women around . . . doesn’t anyone go crazy after a while?”
“We’ve got that covered,” said the foreman. “See that barrel over there? The one with a hole in it? You just stick your unit in that barrel any time you want and you’ll be taken care of.”
The new guy nods approvingly, “any time I want, huh?”
“Well, any time you want except for on Thursday,” says the boss.
“Why? What happens on Thursday?”
The foreman claps him on the shoulder and grins, “that’s your day in the barrel.”