Put your vocabulary on the top shelf of your toolbox, and don’t make a conscious effort to improve it.
-Stephen King, On Writing
I quote Stephen King here because I’ve somewhat stolen his title. It’s very similar, at least. Though where my content will differ to King’s how-to-write book is in its truth; King talks in half-baked analogies. I tell things as they are.
I’m going to talk about writers.
Have you ever been in a room with a group of writers talking about writing? I have. I do this weekly, in my Creative Writing seminars for University. Before my university life began, though, I had a rather inflated sense of the worth of my writing. I thought to myself, “I have seven years experience! This course will be a breeze.” I, rather naïvely, thought that I had the far superior hand in that room. My opinion has changed.
I now cherish modesty.
And I don’t mean false modesty. Ask me, “How do you think your writing is?” seven months ago, and I’d have shrugged and said, “I think it’s okay. I’m reasonably experienced.”
Ask me now, I’ll go, “You tell me. You’re the reader.”
However, I’m not here to quote literary critics at you (notably, Foucault and Barthes in relation to the point of the reader); I’m here to talk about writers.
I’ve been in 6 seminars now, for Creative Writing. And something I cannot ignore is how… pompous writers are. Every time a writer talks, he talks with a royal ego. He talks as if we care. I have news for you, mate, we don’t care. I can’t even pretend to be excited at your plotline for your story, not at all. E-mail it to me. Because when you speak to me about it, you get that little half-smile as if you’re embarrassed, but you continue to describe everything in relentless detail.
Do me a favour and keep it to yourself.
Even the phrase, “I’m a writer,” I find annoying. What do you think someone is going to say upon you telling them that? “Oh, really? What do you write? Tell me more! Tell me everything!”
No one will respond like that. It’s because your writing only interests you. I learned that very quickly. I asked myself, “Why is no one reading my Wattpad stories?” and, after being in those 6 seminars, I realised why; no one fucking cares.
It’s so arrogant to just, “be a writer,” I feel. 98% of the population want to write a book, but few of them ever do it. That’s 98% of the population that can say, with a smug grin on their lips, “I’m a writer,” as if we should actually give a shit. I don’t give a shit.
I only care if you’re better than I am.
Actually, let me examine myself. I did so earlier. I’ve definitely said to people, “I’m a writer,” and expected them to care. Occasionally, people do ask me what I write. Perhaps they’re a colleague and they’re bored, so they might as well listen to what I have to say. Perhaps they want to be your friend so they’ll lend you an ear for a minute or two.
What I have discovered, though, is that people stop listening long before the self-titled “writer” realises. When the writer gets onto talking about, “So my first book is about a girl who saves a dragon from a car compactor, and the dragon is actually from another dimension, and it’s kind of sci-fi fantasy,” I can’t listen past the word “first”. I sit there and wish it to be over. It’s sort of like when people talk to you about their dreams. You’re an amateur writer, sit on your skinny arse and shut up.
I sound a little pompous myself, I’m aware. Telling people what they should and shouldn’t do. But it’s what I feel. I examine my own writing and, now that part of my ego has been stripped away simply by university, I can identify my writing as… nothing special. I’m nothing special.
You are also nothing special.
Next time you want to say something “as a writer” just be aware you sound smug to the other person. I’ve said “as a writer.” I said it in Buttons and Anal Potato Prints and I know I’ll say it again. It’s impossible not to if you want to give an opinion as someone who creates prose for fun, for a living, or for a hobby. If you create prose, you’re a writer. But being a writer doesn’t make you special.
No one wants to know your characters, your plots, your worlds. Don’t talk like they do. I guarantee you people are bored.
I want to return to King’s book, just one more time, because I want to make the extra point that how-to-write books are often garbage. King’s is, and the other two I have are. One of them is a required reading for my Creative Writing course (I won’t name it now… I have an article to write on it separately). The other I accumulated about a year ago because the title made me laugh: How Not to Write a Novel (Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark). They are garbage for the same principle that writers are pompous.
Namely, the writers of these books are so pompous that they think others have to learn from their immense knowledge. I warn you; if you read King’s On Writing because you want to learn how to write, you’ll talk like King. And that is not a good thing. As a writer, (so soon!) you want to find your own voice, your own style, your own narratives. Don’t write like King, for God’s sake. Find your own damn voice.
Just don’t assume people want to fucking hear it.