Don’t quit yer day job
I have no idea what a new writer would do now – attempting to burrow into a market that’s in free fall and a literary “culture” that drastically limits the numbers of books that are published or that will ever be visible … It is possible that published writers will no longer ever leave whatever other employment they use to subsidise themselves. Meanwhile, the increase in poorly conceived and exploitative creative writing courses will continue, and increasingly the writers who teach on them will end up training potential writers to teach other potential writers to teach on other courses and round and round they all will go….
Well, you know, there’s always plenty of gloom to go around. (Thus “banjaxed.” We are, in fact. Always.)
The alternative to the MFA pyramid scheme is horrifying: “It is possible that published writers will no longer ever leave whatever other employment they use to subsidise themselves.”
But is that such a bad thing?
Thomas McGuane, who has made a point of remaining engaged with the working world through his ranch:
I have a primary interest in the world and feel if the ratio of world to word is high, that rightness and concision are honoured, I may safely avoid the often suet-filled oeuvre that characterizes the writer who has no other interests … Any writer can disappear up his own ass in a New York minute. You’ve got to have a life. Otherwise every noun in the book looks like it came off Google.
(For an example of disappearing up your own ass, consider this, from John Banville: “The world is not real to me until it has been pushed through the mesh of language.”
Really? Tell me, Johnny-boy: if you had an unfortunate encounter with Langley’s serial groin-kicker, would you feel that the impact of her running shoe into your dangly bits was not “real” until it had been “pushed through the mesh of language?” Or would having a testicle shoved through the mesh of your internal organs do it for you?
The world is real. The words only aspire to that level.)
John Metcalf, speaking of nouns:
The real poetry — the names of materials and tools in the trades. Visit hardware stores.
Better yet, work in one.
Not making money at writing may be a blessing.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.