Monday, November 24, 2008

In Which I Rant

The Milwaukee Writers Workshop met this past Sunday. As is typical, I got into a discussion with one of the members about something writing-related. That day's topic: the literary elite. Oh boy do I love this conversation - and my opinion on the subject has changed since the years when I was in college.

My basic thoughts:

  1. Yes, there is a literary elite.
  2. No, they don't sit around discussing how bad your writing is. Nor do they even talk to one another about bad writing.
  3. There are better things to worry about.
There was a lot of brew-ha-ha surrounding a discussion of the literary elite in reaction to Jason Sanford's essay in the New York Review of Science Fiction. Without perpetuating the argument, I will say a few things in line with what our discussion was at the group.

The "literary elite" that we think of today was born out of the canon that was put together in the early part of the last century with the standardization of education and schools here in the States. It wasn't intentionally meant to drive a wedge between various fiction genre (save maybe for the overwhelming mass of pulp that was being published at the time), but it did, and that mentality has stayed. Unfortunately, yes, there is a sense of superiority with a great deal of scholars in this country when it comes to "literature" and "genre fiction" or any other type of fiction that doesn't fall into their parameters of what makes fiction become literature.

In today's age of marketable fiction (competent fiction with little sense of art to it), it's difficult to see past one's own bitterness about not getting published. For a long time, I was very jaded by the "literary elite" because I felt like my fiction was being overlooked simply for it's status as genre. Well, I was sorely mistaken. My fiction was being overlooked because it was bad. Maybe it's because I'm published now, and I can more fully understand the process of getting published and why the concept of the literary elite isn't as prevalent as most people believe. Yes, that sense of superiority by a lot of authors is down-right aggravating, but it can be overcome.

If you continue to have fiction returned to you with rejections, then it's probably not that the editors at those publications are snobbish twits who mock your writing; it's probably a matter of your needing to polish your work more thoroughly, have it looked at by a good group of writers, and maybe do some studying. Very few people get published right away; even fewer people make a name for themselves as writers; even fewer become obscenely wealthy. Write because you enjoy writing.

"Better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self"
-- Cyril Connolly.

No comments: