For God’s sake, can’t you think of anything that’s not important, not important at all
In this day an age of click bait, catchy headlines, and cat gifs it’s become harder and harder to write substance.
It’s a never ending battle between wanting engagement, and wanting to write something of value, something worth the read.
As a writer, I’m not interested in your superficial listicles, quick news blurbs, or stringy rants on topics that aren’t worth the rant.
As a writer I desire clear engaging writing that will push you to think and contemplate what was once unknown or disapproved.
I think the battle between the superficial and the in-depth is best described in one of Ayn Rand’s short stories about a writer who’s trying to get a best seller out the door.
“The Simplest Thing in the World,” an essay included in her book, “The Romantic Manifesto” paints an image of the inner fight inside the writer’s head to create a popular novel, or write something of meaning and purpose. Ultimately ending in the writer making a choice; compromise principles to write “popular fiction,” or stick to his values, refusing to give into the popularity game.
Here’s segments of that story that caught my eye, and I think, communicate the battle between the meaningful and the commercial.
“Everybody’s told you that that’s what you must do. You’ve asked for a job and nobody would give you one. Nobody would help you find one. Nobody had even seemed interested or serious about it. They said, a brilliant young man like you! Look at Paul Pattison, they said. Eighty thousand a year and not half your brain. But Paul knows what the public likes to read and gives it to them. If you’d just stop being so stubborn, they said. You don’t have to be intellectual all the time. Why not be practical for a while, and then, after you’ve made your first fifty thousand dollars, you can sit back and indulge yourself in some more high literature which will never sell. They said, why waste your time on a job? What can you do? You’ll be lucky if you get twenty-five a week. It’s foolish, when you’ve got a great talent for words, you know you have , if you’d only be sensible about it. It ought to be easy for you. If you can write fancy, difficult stuff like that, it ought to be a cinch to toss off a popular serial or two. Any fool can do it. They said, stop dramatizing yourself. Do you enjoy being a martyr? They said, look at your wife. They said, if Paul Pattison can do it, why can’t you?
Don’t try to be so complicated. Be simple. She’s simple to understand. That’s it. Be simple about everything. Just write a simple story. The simplest, most unimportant story you can imagine. For God’s sake, can’t you think of anything that’s not important, not important at all, not of the slightest possible importance? Can’t you? Are you as good as that, you conceited fool? Do you really think you’re as good as that? That you can’t do anything unless it’s great, profound, important? Do you have to be a world-saver all the time? Do you have to be a damn Joan d’Arc?
Why must you always know the meaning of everything? There’s your first mistake — right there. Do it without thinking. It mustn’t have any meaning. It must be written as if you’d never tried to find any meaning in anything. not ever in your life. It must sound as if that’s the kind of person you are. Why do people resent people who look for a meaning? What’s the real reason that…
You’re all right. It’s all right. You’ll write this story later. You’ll write it after you have money. It’s all right. It won’t be taken away from you. Now sit quiet. Count ten.
Don’t think of the fantastic, don’t think of the unusual, don’t think of the opposite of what anyone else’d want to think, but go after the obvious, the easy.
Can’t you turn it off — that brain of yours? Can’t you make it work without letting it work? Can’t you be stupid? Can’t you be consciously, deliberately, cold-bloodedly stupid? Can’t that be done in some way? Everybody is stupid about some things, the best of us and the brightest. Everybody has blind spots, they say. Can’t you make it be this?
Dear God, let me be stupid! Let me be dishonest! Let me be contemptible! Just once. Because I must.
Drop it. You’re not settling world problems. You’re writing a commercial story.
Henry Dorn sat very still, his hands folded in his lap, hunched, seeing nothing, thinking of nothing. Then he pushed the sheet of blank paper aside and reached for the Time’s ‘Help Wanted’ ads.”
As a writer, I will not subjugate myself to meaningless dribble in the name of a livelihood or fame.
Writing shit is just that, shit.
Making money off of your own shit is a sad existence, and one that I have no desire to participate.
I view my craft as a conduit for spreading and explaining ideas, values, and ethics. I’ll be damned if I let it be turned into a “click here” advertisement for nothing at all.