Pop Rocks: What Does Dorothy Parker Know About Writing Anyway?
She was okay. I guess.
The other day, a colleague of mine brought up a quote by legendary writer Dorothy Parker, best known as a founding member of that group most often used for purposes of derogatory comparison (" look like the Algonquin Round Table"):
"I hate writing. I love having written.
Parker was speaking of the often laborious process involved in creation, as opposed to the satisfaction of seeing the finished product. It's true that much long-form writing involves any number of drafts, edits and rewrites, often resulting in a finished work that looks markedly different than the author's original concept.
But - mad respec' to Parker - I find myself with a different take, for while there are things about professional writing which drive me nuts, the actual act of doing so is relatively far down the list.
Admittedly, my experience with writing items longer than the occasional short story is limited: a couple of screenplays sitting in a virtual desk drawer (a file folder called "Screenplays;" so creative), one non-fiction book and one novel I'll be finishing Real Soon Now. And to an extent I agree that the effort required to maintain consistency and tone and make the thing marginally entertaining is occasionally formidable.
But I don't think I'd ever say I "hate writing."
Yes, yes...Parker was probably using a device known as "sarcasm" to make a statement. And anyway, there are a number of facets to the writing experience I'm quite prepared to complain about.
I Hate That I Can't Make A Living At It I know -- personally or through the magic of social media -- scores of professional writers. Of those, a bare handful are actually doing it full time as their sole source of income. For every Stephen King (a fellow who has a few thoughts of his own on the subject) or Stephenie Meyer, there are thousands of aspirants trying to break in to the biz, and the realities of modern-day journalism and publishing mean the vast majority of them aren't going to make it.
I'm not going to turn this into a screed on the economics of the industry, but often the only way to eke out a living at this is by freelancing for multiple outlets and constantly hustling for work. This all sounds like it should lead into some bullshit "hard work pays off" spiel, but the reality is many writers are forced to give it up thanks to little things like being able to pay rent and feed their families. Which leads me to...
I Hate That So Many Opportunities Go To The Undeserving I think it's great the internet has allowed so many people who wouldn't otherwise have had the opportunity try their hand at writing. What I hate is how our culture of celebrity worship has allowed Bristol Palin, Nicole Richie, Larry the Cable Guy, Tila Tequila and Flavor Flav (among many others) to
write hire a ghostwriter to pimp them on the national stage. Unknown writers face enough obstacles as it is without having to deal with competition from realty show freaks and opportunists.
Or maybe I'm just jealous I'm not enough of a train wreck to score a book deal. Time to lose my kids in a poker game.
I Hate That Fewer And Fewer People Respect It It isn't just a matter of not knowing the difference between "there, their and they're" or an increasing lack of proper grammar in online communication, it's that nobody cares. Point out somebody's mistakes and you're called a "Nazi" (to be fair, many forms of internet behavior will get you called a Nazi), and even allowing for the character limitations of Twitter or the lexicon of texting, I still see alleged adult English speakers who apparently lack even a rudimentary understanding of their own language (e.g. any Houston Chronicle comment thread).
In 30 years we'll be lucky if we're not communicating solely through a series of clicks, grunts, and muddy handprints.
I Hate That I Have Less And Less Time For It In case you were wondering, I'm not one of those few (those happy few) who can sustain their families on writing income. I appreciate every opportunity I've been given, but it's my day job that provides insurance for my family. And both of those are the reason I often find myself staring midnight in the eye as I struggle to complete a blog entry quickly enough to allow me six hours of sleep before getting up for work the next morning.
I have three kids, which is totally self-inflicted and doesn't beg for any sympathy, but the fact remains I'm essentially unable to be productive on the writing front until the last one goes down around 9:00 PM or so. It also means little time to pursue other projects.
And what's my reward for shepherding ungrateful toddlers to their beds? Recapping Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
Who knows? Perhaps if I was able to do this full-time I'd be more inclined to agree with Mrs. Parker, and then I'd be able to full realize another quote of hers:
I've never been a millionaire but I just know I'd be darling at it.
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