Friday, August 1, 2014

Dramatic Waste

As you may have discovered while reading this chair on blog posts, I am perpetually concerned about my failures as a writer, about the lack of attention we short fiction writers receive, and how we move like mist through the literary landscape, affecting nothing and leaving no trace of our passage. C'est la vie and I shall lie in the fictional graveyard beneath an unmarked stone of mediocrity*.

Or so I believed until I read this beautiful article by Stephen Marche that revealed that I am not alone, nor have I been the only one to feel and be treated this way. The trail of sorrow extends deeply into the past and has afflicted countless well-known writers as well as an a googolplex of scribblers like me.

This got me to thinking about the situation.  I write a lot but sell roughly 20% in a good year.  That means that 80% of my output will never be seen by the public. The membership of SFWA is about 1800 souls, only about a quarter regularly publish stories or novels.  The rest might make an occasional sale after becoming members or have been slaving for years on the Great American SF/Fantasy Novel. Prolific writers such as Laura Anne Gilman and Michael Swanwick crank out a continuous stream of shorter works while people like Gail Martin and Brian Sanderson build massive tomes of longer length. But they are at the high end of the genre's spectrum. At the other end are those who sell only a small percentage of all they complete,

What is the cost of all this wasted creativity?  Are we writing for nothing but to amuse other struggling members of our writing groups or produce drafts that line the liter boxes of our cats (all serious writers have cats, it seems.)  What is the point of wasting all our brainpower on pounding out useless words when there are other, more serious problems that would gain from greater attention? I can only conclude that we writers are masochists, enjoying our suffering while publicly proclaiming our dedication.  Despite all the angst, all the soul searching, the all-too-obvious futility of writing, we continue to scribble, scribble, scribble on the sands where the incoming tide washes them away. The only conclusion I can reach is that many of us cannot resist the call of the machine, the caress of a pen in hand, or permit a blank sheet to remain unsullied.

A writer has to write.


*I recently declared in a ReaderCon forum that my unsold stories were forming the basis for my post-humous success (which, incidentally resulted in several people inquiring about my health.) 

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