Don’t Be That Guy at the Party
Everyone is a writer these days.
In our postmodern world, you can be anything you want. Some people think that means literally anything—like the lizard-man, the human Barbie, or the 52-year-old man who identifies as a six-year-old girl. Can you say, creepy, boys and girls?
In the postmodern world, you don’t have to wait for someone else to validate your dreams; you can pick yourself. And, apparently, a lot of people dream of writing—which is a much better dream than the creepy guy’s, I think.
While I don’t appreciate everything about postmodern subjectivity, I do like the fact that some of the commercial gatekeepers have been thrown out on their ears.
New opportunities exist where they didn’t before. Now, more than ever, creatives, artists, and culture makers can actually make a difference, and make a living doing it.
The problem is this: when you leave the door wide open so everyone who wants to can get into the party, sometimes strangers, or your neighbor’s crazy aunt, or creepy guys who want to be little girls wander in.
This is similarly true in the writing world. As I see it, there are three kinds of people milling around the party right now. Not all of them are bad, or weird like the creepy guys and gals, but you should be aware of them if writing actually means something to you.
I’m talking about hacks, marketers, and copycats.
First, there are the hacks. The hacks are those who call themselves writers, but shouldn’t.
They usually care little for the craft of writing and have little writing experience, but like a slick, used-car salesman, they know
a sucker an opportunity when they see one. They’ll teach you all the shortcuts you need to know to make a fast buck and a big name off a cheap book.
Second, there are the marketers. The marketers write for the sake of marketing, instead of marketing for the sake of their writing.
These aren’t necessarily bad people. But you should be aware that much of what they peddle can be learned for free if you’re willing to do your homework. The good thing for them is a lot of kids don’t like homework.
Third, there are the copycats. These aren’t bad people either. They are usually just beginners who write about writing because they don’t know what else to write about—and it’s usually not very good.
Of course, it’s natural to write about writing when you’re on that journey. Some accomplished writers do find their niche there, and have the skills to make a living doing what they love. That’s all good. But copycats get stuck being meta-writers. To warp an already cheap cliche, they make a whole ministry out of preaching to the choir.
A good writer is none of these.
He is good because he writes stuff worth reading, and he writes it clearly. To do that, he has to keep his reservoir full of goodness he can draw from, and he has to practice his craft, religiously–like a-minimum-of-500-words-every-day religious.
If you want to be a writer, then don’t wait for someone else to give you permission. If ever there was a time in history where you might succeed following your dream, this is it.
But if you let your reservoir or pen run dry, don’t be surprised when they kick you out of the party.
About Scott Postma
Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He helps people cultivate their capacity to perceive and appreciate the good, the true, and the beautiful by sharing rich insights into the arts and humanities, meaningful perspective on faith and culture, and valuable tips on writing and teaching. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.