Of all the advice in all the world
There has to be a way of writing that doesn’t involve production.
Well, I’ll write. But there has to be a way of doing it that doesn’t involve the regular stuff. I could say this for the rest of life’s occupations. Strangeness seems to be reserved for the privileged few.
When I found out how stories get selected to be published, how poems get picked for magazines and journals, how certain people’s ideas develop a special sheen, I realized that there are no sophisticated systems, just the ones we accept.
I was walking in the dry heat and thought, I would rather spend my life negotiating what kind of weather I submit myself to than what kind of publication I submit my work to. I thought this, knowing that domestic life is full of bizarre little thrills and the writing life—the production piece of it—is not.
The romance of writing, as I saw it, was that you would have to do it in obscurity. You’d construct your little articles and stories and things and put them in a drawer. And then perhaps, an acquaintance who had some connection to worldly things would say, “Well, I’d like to read them,” and you’d reluctantly hand over your pages. Or there’d be a contest advertised in the papers and you’d think, well there’s absolutely no chance, and send off copies anyway, why not.
Those earnest processes were what I imagined writing would be when I was 11. I could maintain my general aversion to competition by entering a profession that only seemed to dabble in it. Of course, this was wrong. Lots of writers are competitive and thrive off the notion that the odds are against them to ever have their work appreciated by more than 20 people. The world of writing is full of people pretending that they were accustomed to obscurity before their words exploded into the popular consciousness. The young, middle-aged, and old agreeing to interviews about craft that seem to be in another language. Standoffish critics of repute smiling on at their rapturous niche.
I have nothing clever to say about the popular consciousness. Did you know that publishers choose what to publish based in part on authors’ social media followings? If I were a gatekeeper I hope I’d be delighted by all the randoms, not weary of them. Imagine letting obscurity be your enemy rather than your comfort. If they don’t know, I am the authority. You can pass the pages back and forward amongst a group of friends who have nothing against you. They’re intended for nowhere. You’d let them fly off in the wind, if it looked right.