When I started writing, it did not take me long to figure out that the laws of logic disintegrate in the universe of writing, and I think that’s probably as it should be, because writing is art and art is the domain of the heart, not the head. So it kind of makes sense, the non-logic, and yet it’s still frustrating as hell.
That being said, here are (in no particular order) ten things that are completely beyond my comprehension:
- The difference between “new” writer and “emerging” writer. Someone tried to tell me once that the difference was publication. Well, maybe that made sense in 1987, before Al Gore invented the internet and you had to type and print out your manuscript on your IBM word processor and pack it in a manila envelope with a SASE and mail it off to the stodgy print journal with a two-word title that combined a fancy place name with “Quarterly”, and then wait the better part of a year to hear from them, but what about now? If I get my 100-word story published online at Blowholes and Gunwales, or one of the real 4,000+ publishing entities that show up on Duotrope, am I emerging? I think not—but where that line is exactly, I have no idea.
- The difference between “author” and “writer”. I know what the difference feels like, but not how to define it. For instance, I call myself a writer, not an author, and I won’t consider myself close to being an author unless I sell over 1,000 copies of something, or until something I wrote is turned into a screenplay. Even then, I’d probably stick with “writer”. To me, “writer” feels simple and honest, while “author” sounds presumptious. Maybe that’s just my understated Midwestern thing again, but you know what? I’d trust a garbage man over a sanitation specialist any day.
- Writers who flip out on editors over rejections. As they say on ESPN, C’Mon, Man! How long have you been a writer anyway? Rejections are the staple of a writer’s life. Fact: the Geneva Convention requires that anyone who jails a writer must give said writer two rejections and a glass of water daily. Suck it up, angry little writer. The Send button is your enemy. Move on. Vow to win them over next time, with better work.
- Writers who don’t participate in the community when it’s time to support others, and yet expect the community to go nuts over their latest project. I’m trying to be better at this myself. I’m a terrible Fictionaut member, for example. I log in rarely, but when I do, I feel like I need to read and comment on at least three other pieces. It’s an amazing tool, this Al Gore internet thing. It lets introverts safely experiment with extroversion in the dark recesses of their own homes.
- Why just about every third story of mine involves artificial limbs.
- How I can manage to get print acceptances from journals with less than a 1% acceptance rate, and yet get routinely rejected by an online journal with a 35% acceptance rate.
- Why, according to VIDA stats, there are still many more men than women being published, interviewed, reviewed, etc. in literary circles. I am consistently blown away by the amazing writing that women are putting out there (I’d name some, but there are just too many). If these “gender-unbalanced” venues (see VIDA’s website) publish based purely on excellence, as most claim to, then these stats should reach 50/50 in no time.
- Fictionalized nonfiction. Thank you, James Frey, for trying to convince us that nonfiction could be partially true, mainly true, vaguely true or almost true. Nonfictionalized fiction would have been the safer choice.
- Why Jonathan Franzen doesn’t understand that he presents poorly and makes everyone want to not like him whenever he opens his mouth. Yes, he can write. Yes, he has some money now. He can now buy a small European country (Franzenbourg?) and write in seclusion and hire actor Thomas Haden Church to play him at media functions.
- Why it took me until 2009 to start writing, because I can’t imagine not doing it now.