You’re not getting a warning, or a cut. This NEEDS TO BE READ AND SHARED. More, I think than any of the other recent rants I’ve done. There’s strong language, so you know, use discretion. Or something.
I am pissed off. Obviously. Again. I’m actually starting to question remaining a part of the active, vocal writing community of as-of-yet-unpublished writers on twitter and other social media sites. (I’m the most active on twitter, so that’s why most of my rants stem from things that I’ve seen there.) I disagree with so much of the garbage that gets passed around as gospel truth of being a writer in any stage of the game. I feel that SO MUCH of it is HARMFUL and the fact that it gets so much traction worries me.
Yes, the old adage “suffer for your art” has been making the rounds again. Kind of. It seems to me that this well-known turn of phrase has evolved with the times and has become a bitter new sound byte that has more than just passive encouragement in mind.
I keep seeing writers talking about how, in order to be a writer, one must “cut yourself open” and “bleed onto the page.”
This is advice that see from EVERYONE.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the figurative “blood, sweat, and tears” going into the creation of art. Your art is your baby and oh boy, is there EVER blood, sweat, and tears when we’re talking about childbirth. You are working on a craft that requires discipline and as with anything else that is worth achieving, then yes, you need to apply yourself and it’s hard work. Hence the figurative blood, sweat and tears.
What I’m seeing is a lot of posts that are speaking as though you have to LITERALLY CUT YOURSELF OPEN to write a great novel. I’m seeing posts talking about how you must ACTUALLY SUFFER HORRIBLE TRAUMA to be a good writer.
These are tweets and posts on the various social media sites that say things like “all great stories are born of terrible experiences” and “I write because it makes me whole where the past had left me wounded” and all sorts of shit like that. These posts continue on saying that you must SUFFER and you must BLEED into your story. They say things that sound like advocacy for self-harm. They say things that follow up this self-harm style PSAs with things that suggest that as a writer you’re “naked to the world” so you shouldn’t be afraid of your wounds.
Or something. I have no idea anymore.
The amount of insane babble that is coming from the writing community makes me want to throw up. Or shit in people’s coffee. Or piss on everything that they love. But NEVER HURT MYSELF.
Why the FUCK would anyone tell someone that the only way that they are validated as an artist or a writer OR AS A PERSON is if they suffer for it? Yeah, life sucks. So does writing. Suffering and hurting yourself isn’t the way to deal with that shit.
There is absolutely NOTHING, ANYWHERE that says that you have to suffer or bleed or harm yourself to be a writer. NOTHING SAYS THAT THIS IS A NECESSITY TO BE A WRITER OF ANY CALIBER, GOOD, BAD OR OTHERWISE. There is NOTHING HARMFUL ABOUT WRITING. Look at all the adjective that are used when you’re talking about writing or being a writer: weaving, creating, birthing, crafting, building. Do ANY of those words seem to be destructive? No, no they do not.
STOP TELLING IMPRESSIONABLE (YOUNG) WRITERS THAT THEY MUST SUFFER, CUT THEMSELVES OPEN, BLEED, OR OTHERWISE BARE THEMSELVES TO THE WORLD TO BE A WRITER WORTH ANYTHING. Because, while you mean it figuratively, while you mean that you should be drawing from past experiences and write what stirs YOUR OWN emotions, what scares you, makes you uncomfortable or literally bares your own soul in writing format, there are thousands of people who WILL TAKE THIS COMPLETELY LITERALLY. There are hundreds of thousands of fragile minds and delicate egos THAT WILL BELIEVE THAT THEY MUST LITERALLY SUFFER TO BE A GOOD WRITER.
If you tell someone that they must suffer to be a writer, then you do not deserve to call yourself a writer. I don’t give a shit if you have published ten books or zero. I don’t fucking care if you’re J.K. Rowling. If you tell me that I must suffer to be a good writer then, I’m gonna fucking boycott your sorry ass. (Chuck Wendig refers to bleeding into your book in an extremely figurative manner. He also tells us to write until our fingers are bloody bony nubs, which I think is a very accurate way of describing how hard writing can be, so you can see where my line is drawn in this, okay?)
We’re supposed to be helping each other. We’re supposed to be a supportive community. Writing isn’t about suffering. Writing isn’t about having a coping mechanism. Writing is about expressing yourself and telling stories.
And yes, we all have to “suffer” through Writer’s Block, through rejection, through self-doubt, through good and bad criticism and life getting in the way and blah blah blah. That’s fine. That’s what it means to suffer for your art.