on August 1, 2009 by eldar in Evolutionary Marxism, Comments (0)

“Are you a writer or a writer?” A question to aspiring authors.

You work hard, you work really hard. You put your soul into your writing and aspire one day to be a great writer like Alexandre Dumas, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Lord Byron, or Count Leo Tolstoy. Or maybe, Mark Twain or Edgar Alan Poe. But day after day, month after month, editors, agents and publishers continuously reject your work. Stephen King writes in his “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” that he had a nail in a wall that he used to hang rejection slips in the times before he became famous. You picked the largest nail you could find for your rejection slips, and it still seems to be not long enough… Then you come to the local “Barnes & Noble” and see row after row of complete junk written by so called “successful writers”. Ever wondered why?

Surprisingly, the answer may lay in the writings of such an unexpected character as Carl Marx. No, no, not about exploitation and class struggle, though it feels pretty close when you get another rejection slip, but in his theory on economy. His theory is very much a Darwinian one: there are jobs, there are people; there are no jobs, there are no people. In XVII Century England there were a lot of “jobs” for peasants, so there were a lot of peasants. In XVIII century England there were no jobs for peasants, but a lot of jobs for industrial workers. So, a lot of peasants went from peasantry in the countryside to cities to become a proletariat, the new working class. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So, what kind of “jobs” are out there for writers?

Consider what any course on writing says today. “Think: What does the editor want? He wants you to entice readers to buy the magazine (that nobody really wants to read!) He wants you to attract the readers.” You see? If you are a “successful writer”, you are not exactly a writer. You are on the marketing team! Lord Byron and Leo Tolstoy were writing to people’s souls, and they put their souls into their writing, just like you do. The problem is, the editor is not you-know-who, and he does not want your soul. He wants to sell his magazine. He wants money!

So, essentially, when we say “writing”, we are talking about two completely different professions. One is about an ability to tell people what you want to tell and — the really important part — having something important to tell people. That’s Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Lord Byron, and Count Leo Tolstoy. Or, you are a freelancer, marketing consultant, expert at putting the words into a publication that make it sell. After it’s sold, it might as well hang from a nail in a restroom, it does not matter anymore. It does not matter as long as it sells.

So, what kind of an author are you? In the end, it’s your choice. By the way, if you consider the number of copies that Lord Byron sold in his lifetime… well, he would find a problem looking for a publisher today! What can I say? You are in good company.

P.S. This is a repost of my March 2007 article from my old free blog on Blogger

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