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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Judging A Book By Its Sobriety

Writing is fun. Being a writer is bullshit. This dichotomy is one of the things writers don't talk about, don't write books about, don't tell students about.

Somewhere on here there's an article about the dirty little secret that every writer you've ever read had/has a spouse or a parent that allows them to eat so they can spend fuckin' forever grinding away at that magnum opus that nobody gives a shit about. If you're a "writer", odds are good you're also wasting your time from an economics standpoint. Stephen King will tell you that Tabby basically underwrote his career through Carrie. Anne LaMott will mention in passing that her dad's agent read eight of her books and oh by the way she's divorced from the guy who put food on the table while she did it. It's the dirty little secret: the people who don't have a benefactor are competing with the people who do but nobody mentions the benefactors. The two successful screenwriters I came up with were both in a position where they could live in $3k/mo apartments for two fucking years without having to earn a penny so they could sit there and write. Must be nice.

The other dichotomy is nobody gets into writing because they want to perform in front of an audience. Nobody sits down to write a book so they can carry it around under their figurative or literal arm to dozens of trained professionals all intent on saying no. Nobody sets out to prove themselves over and over and over again only to be sent a "not for us - sent from my iPad" email on Thanksgiving evening (true story). But once you get accepted by an agent you're a god. But once you get rejected by a publisher you're scum. But once you get published you're a god. But once the book gets panned you're scum.

And it's all so goddamned capricious.

If you ever want to see into the soul of any performer, ask them what work they're most proud of. It won't be one you've heard of. It'll be that thing they believed in, that they put their heart and soul into, that the marketplace crushed. And maybe they'll have rationalized why it got crushed, and maybe they won't, but it's still the central fable of their lives, be it written or a work-in-progress. It's the thing that allows them to make peace with the capriciousness.

Some people don't make peace with the capriciousness.

Hemingway was absolutely at the top of his game. Pithy mutherfucker. "There's nothing to writing. You just sit at the typewriter and bleed." Said the guy who tried on 47 endings and 18 titles for Farewell to Arms. David Foster Wallace? The closer he got to death, the more personal his writing became, the less interested his audience was in what he had to say.

The stories I write for me? Nobody wants to read them. The stories I shit out because someone throws a buck at me? ZOMGBUSINESS. That'll fuck with a mind: You're auditioning for genius but for some reason what they love the most is derivative crap. You'll notice nobody ever calls Danielle Steel or Dan Brown tortured geniuses. You may not think Amy Winehouse would have been different 20 years sober, but you don't care if David Lee Roth is different 20 years sober. Amy Winehouse was "serious." Diamond Dave is not.

So if you're a serious artiste you're left grappling with the cognitive dissonance that if you get paid you're a sell-out but if you don't get paid you starve (unless you're one of the lucky dilettantes we don't talk about but we all know and us serious artistes all know they aren't serious anyway, just lucky). And if you're a serious artiste you know that validation is nothing but validation is everything but validation is illogical but if it matters it MUST be logical and somehow

if you let yourself go

and turn off for a while

and give it to the bottle, give it to the powder, give it to the needle, give it to whatever

it doesn't


so much.

Writers, as a species, are sensitive. Writers, as a species, are introverts. Writers, as a profession, must have nerves of steel and an endless appetite for rejection and writers, as a profession, are chronically, criminally underpaid and undervalued. And if that writer has a tendency towards dependency, that dependency is what allows them to power through that cognitive dissonance. It's the thing that allows them to write for an audience.

Would Amy Winehouse's material be different if she were sober? Who knows. King's certainly is.

Inebriation allows writers to plow through the bullshit of being writers. Lots of writers can do it without substance abuse. Some can't. For those who can't, the proximate cause of their substance abuse is the bullshit of being a writer, and the bullshit of being a writer definitely colors their writing (lookin' at you, Charlie Kaufman).

    who wants to be a great writer if you are only a great writer when you're fucked up? what an awful fucking curse you know?

Said every writing drunk in the history of writing, ever.

And then they poured another shot.

tacocat  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Some David Foster Wallace essay says writers are introverts and observers and outsiders and that's why they write. Be cause of the separation and observation and sensitivity.

I don't usually say it but Stephen King is sorta shitty since he got sober. More shitty since he got got hit by a van for some reason but he was a beast when he was doing cocaine and drinking a fifth every day and terrified of himself at the same time.

I'm a late comer to the writing thing. I don't tell people I'm a writer. Or an artist and I have a BFA in studio art. I keep that to myself for other reasons than to tone down the pretension. I've made a little money as an artist and you're right. What sold was shit that led to a depression death spiral. Literally. Kinda. I've learned that I don't want to make art for other people. I don't want to write for other people either but language is so much more powerful and relevant than "fine" art. Banksy has a quote about the most creative artists now being ad designers and he's not wrong. I need art as an outlet seprarate from income. Having no encouragement as a writer until I was 22 and no success until I was thirty four tempers my outlook on writing as a profession. I'll still do it. But I've got a couple things I want to finish and if they don't suceed the way I want I'll be fine having fun trolling the TJ Millers of the world on Twitter because I just enjoy the challenge of satisfying myself.

I know you're anti This American Life and anti podcast but Ira Glass makes a good point

And nobody tells people the truth when they're starting out because the truth is terrifying. I was savage as fuck in undergrad during critique. I think I made girls cry. But if I was a teacher I'd be a lot more tactful and constructive.

Writers, artists, musicians, what have you are between slightly and massively more self aware than regular folks. It's how you get better. By being brutally honest with yourself and confronting that which most people ignore. Inwardly and in the case of some classic literature in the world at large. Goddamn right that's a lot to take in and it makes a lot of people want to numb themselves to the reality they accept it a way that most people are content to ignore.

    Write drunk. Edit sober.


Yeah. Not so sure about that anymore but I took it to heart at one point. The image of the bohemian even reinforces the idea that you gotta die for what you love if what you love is some higher damn calling to expose the flaws in society because your ability elevates you above the plebs. Or whatever. And that idea is about 150 years old maybe. Still an easy trap for young artists to fall into. I did it. And I should have known better at 22. But I started to drink when I was like 12 and I didn't know anything else and in ten years of use I lost the ability to give any shits about ever fitting in to a world I'd been trying to escape since before puberty so I was angry at everyone and everything including myself but I had some kind of outlet which is fortunate and probably makes me way more optimistic of a person at 35 than could be expected given my life experience. I was surprised (and disappointed) that I was the more upbeat person in my last relationship with a person who lives a very charmed life while I'd slept in the pews of an unlocked church in February because of being a fuck up.

Whatever. I've been veering off topic for a while. This tiny box makes looking at where I started a polemic usually more trouble than it's worth but I know I'm drifting

_refugee_  ·  264 days ago  ·  link  ·  

yo he wrote tommyknockers drunk up his ass and you cannot convince me that book is anything but one of his worse. that is not the only book i can think of where i know he was still drinking/drinking a lot and it's crap.

once you get famous you can glide on shit that would never get a new writer in the door. see: basically 90% of bands who have one hit and then put out shit you know your neighborhood local band could've written just as easily.

king was terrible drunk at points too. that's what i think gets missed in discussions like this. yes he wrote some great stuff drunk. but also some AWFUL shit that wasn't even worth getting published except for his name.

he wrote the green mile sober. AND the girl who loved tom gordon, which is a bit of a lesser known but honestly, the kind of creepy where i still think about that novel randomly some days. because it sticks with you - and a creep/horror like that, to me, is a hallmark of a successful horror story. rose madder is a personal fave and that was sober -- but i know very well that the strength of my preference for rose madder is generally unusual among king fans compared to his other works

I've been reading some of his newest stuff but really am not 100% caught up, am not even 60% probably. some of it i've really enjoyed. it might be different - but king always made a point to write differently, about different things, in different genres, when and where he could.

i think lately, a lot of the horror has gone out of his writing. and a lot of the extraordinary, the magic.

but if you sense a gradual decrease in his quality of work over time (excluding outliers like the awful tommy knockers and, come on let's admit it, subpar dreamcatcher, etc etc - i can talk king for a long time) --- i can sense the same in U2's output over the past several decades. U2 hasn't put anything new or interesting on an album in at least 15 years. writers i think can be the same -- i think we can see this in artists across all genres. they peak at some point. if they live long enough, they come down. if they're lucky they're madonna or king and they can come back with killer albums after 5 or 10 years of successful duds.

but madonna hasn't done anything interesting lately either

tacocat  ·  264 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You're not wrong. Even the ending of It is like an example of alcohol induced psychosis

I think I like his stuff less after he got hit by the van. I don't know that either event is linked, just a casual observation I've never thought too much about.

kleinbl00  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I don't tell people I'm a writer. Or an artist and I have a BFA in studio art. I keep that to myself for other reasons than to tone down the pretension.

LA taught me that I hate the fuck out of anyone who calls themselves a screenwriter. The ones who aren't repped because they aren't, they're pretenders. The ones who are because they were doing better than me. It's entirely possible I would have gotten further down there had I accepted the mantle but even when I was at William Morris I still introduced myself as a sound mixer. The raw, supplicating indignity of being a screenwriter was a bridge too far. Still is.

tacocat  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Honestly I don't tell people I'm an artist mainly because that is immediately followed by being asked if I can draw almost all the time. Yes I can fucking draw you ignorant ass. No I don't want to do tattoos. If you're not self supporting on it then what right do you have to call yourself anything?

I freely call myself an artist to impress women though. It can be a conversation starter if nothing else

_refugee_  ·  264 days ago  ·  link  ·  

ya know, klein, when you get it, you really fucking get it

also i read this from facebook a few weeks ago and it strikes me as relevant to what you're saying arts industry report asks: where are all the working-class people

rezzeJ  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    So if you're a serious artiste you're left grappling with the cognitive dissonance that if you get paid you're a sell-out but if you don't get paid you starve (unless you're one of the lucky dilettantes we don't talk about but we all know and us serious artistes all know they aren't serious anyway, just lucky). And if you're a serious artiste you know that validation is nothing but validation is everything but validation is illogical but if it matters it MUST be logical and somehow.

Since you mentioned David Foster Wallace, this reminded me of something related that he said:

    It’s like, if you’re used to doing heavy-duty literary stuff that doesn’t sell well, being human animals with egos, we find a way to accommodate that fact by the following equation: If it sells really well and gets a lot of attention, it must be shit. Then, of course, the ultimate irony is: if your thing gets a lot of attention and sells really well, then the very mechanism you’ve used to shore yourself up when your stuff didn’t sell well is now part of the Darkness Nexus when it does, so you’re screwed. You can’t win.