15 Jan 2015

some thoughts on the art of writing, because there’s a lot of garbage out there

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Learning how to be a good reader is what makes you a writer…Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation.’ You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle.’ All that matters is what you leave on the page. –Zadie Smith

I’m going to say something that’s a bit controversial: there’s a deluge of terrible writing on the internet. What I love about the online space and the advent of digital technology–the democratization of voices and the ease in which unknown greats can rise above the din and find shelter with a receptive audience–has also given way to the sense that everyone who has a piece of virtual real estate can call themselves a writer and live this carefully curated “writer’s life,” replete with a gleaming laptop, unsullied notebooks, and a weathered coffee mug. I never quite understood this notion of a romanticized writer’s life because when I attempted such a life it was rife with financial anxiety and the paralyzing fear that I wasn’t any good–I always thought I was second-rate. While there are so many resources devoted to the art of making one a better writer by refining some of the technical aspects of the craft, for me the art of writing is simple: you’re either an artisan of language or you’re not.

There’s a scene in Good Will Hunting when Matt Damon’s character tries to explain his enormous gift:

Will: Beethoven, okay. He looked at a piano, and it just made sense to him. He could just play.
Skylar: So what are you saying? You play the piano?
Will: No, not a lick. I mean, I look at a piano, I see a bunch of keys, three pedals, and a box of wood. But Beethoven, Mozart, they saw it, they could just play. I couldn’t paint you a picture, I probably can’t hit the ball out of Fenway, and I can’t play the piano.
Skylar: But you can do my o-chem paper in under an hour.
Will: Right. Well, I mean when it came to stuff like that… I could always just play.

Writers can dissect the process of how they architect and develop characters, scene and story, but ask them how they’re able to create music with a strange combination of words and they go mute. How do you explain that you’re able to see the world and translate it in a way that moves people? That there’s beauty in the arrangement of words, how a writer’s able to describe an object or emotion that puts someone else’s heart on pause. Writers are downright surgical about how and what they write, and every one of them will tell you that they write from a compulsive place, from a desire to tell a particular story. They don’t write because they want to, it’s because they have to. And while a writer can study craft and technique, at the end of the day you either can play or you can’t.

Last year I was in a slump. I witnessed mediocrity get rewarded with microfame and book deals. I watched brilliantly-crafted novels go unnoticed in favor of poor fiction with its grating, overwritten prose and characters void of complexity. I read a lot of lists and scrolled through what seemed like a labyrinth of quizzes, wondering, does anyone feel anything? Are we simply a character in a sitcom? Are we reduced to a top-ten list that’s meant to define the whole of us? Are we happy with this? Are we content with art that is compressed, regurgitated and made to go “viral” with a string of keywords and a nonsensical image? (I harbor a desire to torch anyone who doesn’t use this word sardonically). I read scores of blogs written by people who care only to publish a book because it would bolster their “brand,” as opposed to having a fervent desire to create art, to tell a story that will leave its indelible mark.

Basically, I read a lot of shit on the internet. A towering inferno of it.

And yes, mediocrity has always existed and has always been rewarded (I would argue not as handsomely). And yes, life is cruel and unfair. And yes, great writing will always, inevitably, find its place in the world. But it’s hard, as someone who writes tough, dark books and reads them as passionately as I write them, to know that this democratization has also opened the floodgates of shit, and it’s upon the reader to sift through the rubble to find what’s meaningful. To see that which is good. Also, I wonder whether we’ve been exposed to so much shit that what we think is good is no longer? I don’t know how to answer any of this–I just wonder.

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Illustration Credit: John Alcorn, via

Last year I purchased and read a lot of books. Many of which were remarkable. Many of which were shit. I’d nearly given up hope (call it end-of-year dramatics, and I acknowledge my proclivity toward it) and then I started the year off reading a succession of good fucking books that made me feel the way books should–they gave me hope.

Likeable characters bore the fuck out of me. If I want a shiny, happy life I only need to scroll through popular Instagram feeds rather than spend 300 pages cuddled up next to it. I read to get uncomfortable, to learn, to gain perspective and be transformed in some way. And reading has made me a better writer, not simply for the techniques learned from authors I admire, but for how good books drive me to go deeper with my scalpel until there’s nowhere else to go. If given the chance to write from the perspective of a nice girl who gets her heart broken and perseveres or from one of a sociopath, know that I would choose the latter. I’m fascinated by people who harbor a degree of darkness, characters who are flawed and complex. These are people who have been through war and are still dressing their wounds. I sometimes like novels that are unresolved or bleak because sometimes this is life, and the reading of this gives one wisdom, makes them see the world differently.

After I read Sonya Hartnett’s What the Birds See, I joked to a friend that I should move to Australia because they would be receptive to the kinds of books I want to write. I’m fascinated by children, how they’re untouched and innocent, and I’m even more fascinated when I see them interact with adults, because adults always find ways to ruin the worlds children have built, brick by brick, intentional or unintentional. There is no Santa Claus, that overheard argument, the parents who fall out of love as quickly as they took up lovemaking like cross stitch–Hartnett writes about the vulnerability and breakability of children. I set down her book and nodded my head and said, these are the kind of books I always seek to write: dark, elegant, fragile and visceral.

I followed Harnett’s novel with My Brilliant Friend–the first in a tetralogy of Neopolitan novels about a lifelong friendship–and consumed it so voraciously that I immediately ordered the second two books. Next up is Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Almost Famous Women–more tales about eccentric, beguiling and flawed, yet beautiful, women (notice a pattern?).

Terrible writing will always frustrate me, but I’m trying to train myself to sift through and discover the voices that seek to shout above the din of listicles and storytelling that solely serves as a traffic-driving authenticity device. But this is often my flaw–I’ll fixate on the shit at the expense of what’s really good and pure.

Work in progress, people. Work in progress.

313 Comments

  1. “…the democratization of voices and the ease in which unknown greats can rise above the din and find shelter with a receptive audience, has also given way to the sense that everyone who has a piece of virtual real estate can call themselves a writer”

    PREACH. And I cringe a second time when they call themselves “journalists.” Buying a URL and having basic Photoshop skills does not instantly render you a writer or a journalist.

    Thank you for writing this. Loved. As always.

    Posted on 1.15.15 ·
    • Thanks, Alyssa! People often balk at the snobbish quality of my statement, to which I respond that not everyone is an artist and people simply need to accept it. And while that shouldn’t stop people from creating or doing the things they love, I do balk at people who self-identify as writers, put on the mask of a writer’s life (which is hardly glamorous) when their main job is collecting income from affiliate links.

      I had dinner with my friend Chris last night and we spoke about this at length. This is one of the few topics that sends me into a rage blackout, and I’m trying to remind myself that the only way I can get through this is to keep putting out good work into the world. Right? I have to believe that or get smothered by the towering pile of shit.

      Posted on 1.16.15 ·
      • I enjoyed your blog. I’m just beginning to post my writings and thoughts. I don’t think about what comes out of my head and heart… it just does. After taking Artist’s Way, I was inspired to write without abandon. I’d be interested in your critique.

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  2. “Likeable characters bore the fuck out of me. If I want a shiny, happy life I only need to scroll through popular Instagram feeds rather than spend 300 pages cuddled up next to it. I read to get uncomfortable, to learn, to gain perspective and be transformed in some way.”

    Haha, yes! I have to admit, I sometimes apply the last part to eating.

    Reading books took a backseat last year, so I plan to change that. I was looking for something to read this January and immediately thought of checking out what you’ve been devouring. The novels you described sound intriguing, soI’ll check them out at the bookstore later. 🙂

    Posted on 1.15.15 ·
    • Joy,

      I’m so thrilled! I really loved these books, and I’ve actually just ordered (and received) the remaining two Ferrante novels. There are SO MANY GOOD BOOKS coming out in 2015, I’m just giddy.

      Warmly, Felicia

      Posted on 1.16.15 ·
  3. petra wrote:

    amen xoxo

    Posted on 1.15.15 ·
  4. blondeusk wrote:

    Great post – thx for sharing 🙂

    Posted on 1.15.15 ·
  5. So beautifully put.

    Posted on 1.15.15 ·
  6. Beautiful post!

    Posted on 1.15.15 ·
  7. ashgal25 wrote:

    This is great and I totally agree with your desire to read books which compel you to look deeper. But looking on the positive side, maybe really shitty writing and books exist so we can really value and treasure the brilliant and beautiful writing? I know it’s not an excuse to produce simplistic lackluster writing, but I believe this applies to many things in life eg. We have to experience the bad, depressing moments so we really treasure the ecstatic, exhilarating days. Just a thought 🙂

    Posted on 1.16.15 ·
    • Oh, absolutely! I think you can apply this axiom to all aspects of life–one can’t perceive good or great if one is not exposed to the bad or mediocre. I think my issue lies in our willingness to accept mediocre as a stand-in for great, and the mask people wear of the writer’s life, which feels stolen from real writers who have something real and profound to say.

      Posted on 1.16.15 ·
  8. It is interesting here in France as there is still such a huge respect for someone who is a writer – so much so that the word “écrivain” is only used to describe someone who has published books successfully and even that, mainly fiction. Even when I was working professionally as a travel writer here, I was not at all a writer but a “journaliste specialisée dans des voyages do longues cours” or a journalist specialized in long distance travel. Even now that I just have my blog, I don’t know what to call myself because if I say that I am a “blogeuse” well a) most people just look at me blinking with incomprehension and b) that implies that it is my business or a brand which isn’t the case at all. So, I like that respect even if it leaves me in a blurry zone.
    PS. Thank you for the book suggestions, I need them!
    PPS. I almost added this yesterday and I see it is really true: I seem to only be capable of leaving long responses to your writing! Thank you for always giving me a spark of thought…zzt, zzt! 😉

    Posted on 1.16.15 ·
    • This IS fascinating. In the U.S., one only need a computer, internet connection and publishing platform, and VOILA, they are a professional writer, journalist, etc. Part of me misses the exclusivity of writing and publishing, even though it was perhaps too exclusive. Now, I feel we live in the extremes. Where a culture used to be accessed by few is now accessed and driven by all, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. 🙂

      Posted on 1.16.15 ·
    • Heather in Arles, I think the word “écrivain(e)” is also reserved to a certain quality of fiction. They will call someone “auteur(e)” before using “écrivain”… It seems this word remains something to thrive for among authors ;-). If it makes sense. I do love my mother tongue sometimes.

      Thank you for posting this. And for the book suggestions: they’ll have to be on my Kindle because budget is tight right now…
      For the rest, it’s nice to have someone else’s perspective, and realize I’m not the only one who feels the way I do about some of the crappy stuff that gets recognition as if it were the Holy Grail.
      I don’t consider myself a writer: I enjoy writing. Hell, I don’t even consider myself an author. I scribble and try… But I do feel compelled to tell my characters’ stories. It’s not like I think about it so much as them stomping their feet until I let them out on paper. Most of what I write will never be read and that’s fine with me.

      I have to say though that I find it really hard to read books, or see movies/series, that turn sociopaths and other criminals into heroes (or anti-heroes, same difference for me). I find it a sickness of our societies to elevate such people to the rank of stars if you will. The violence they carry isn’t healthy. I can see why showing their many facets is more interesting than a Mary-Sue finding true love but still.

      Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  9. I have met many expats who calls themselves writers yet, they hate writing and don’t read. Okay. Everyone here is a writer. Everyone.

    I’m trying to read Ferrante’s The Days Of Abandonment in Italian and it’s taking me forever.

    I’ve heard great things about her Naples Trilogy. I think I will read those in English. Maybe in a few years I can devour Italian literature but for now I want to focus of the joy of reading her work.

    Posted on 1.16.15 ·
    • I have a friend who read them in the Italian and while there is a difference, it’s not dramatic. I think you’ll enjoy the English translation. 🙂 xo

      On Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 7:51 AM, love.life.eat wrote:

      >

      Posted on 1.16.15 ·
  10. that was nice.. indeed…

    Posted on 1.16.15 ·
  11. What a great post!

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  12. Wow! Those were some harsh words…I went through a plethora of emotions just while reading this single post. The main two, however, were doubt and hope…oddly enough, two sides of the same coin.
    Doubt:
    I often doubt my ability as a writer. As I read your post, I thought, “Second rate? I hope I’m not second rate” Then, after recalling my current number of downloads on my latest works, I thought, “You know, actually…maybe I should be aiming for second rate.lol.”
    I’m kidding, of course. I can’t sell out. Sometimes though, my self-doubt causes me to consider giving up altogether. But I can’t.

    You talk about writing as a gift–like it’s either something you have or you just don’t.
    I believe this is true too. My full-time job is a tutor; I also teach part-time at a community college, and I agree that technique, style (whatever you want to call that unnameable quality that makes your writing a work of art) is nearly impossible to teach. (I say nearly because while it is usually impossible, I at times have one or two students who dabble in writing–they practice it on their own, wanting to get better and try on a new style–and they do.) However, this is rare.

    But your article does lend me some hope–hope that maybe my publications are just buried under all the crap that’s out there, waiting to be discovered…and some day, some way they will be.

    Either way, I can’t give up writing.

    I’ve always been told to write for your audience. Try to predetermine what they will like and go from there, marketing it toward a specific group. This is too left-brain for me! Besides, there are several classical authors who didn’t even have an audience for whom to write, yet their works were discovered after their deaths and now they are staples in world literature. Therefore, I say write for you, write for your mother, write for the little girl down the street–whoever or whatever inspires you. Personally, I write for my characters. I feel that I owe it to them to tell the world their story.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • Kayla,

      First off, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Admittedly, I have very strong opinions and express them just as vociferously as I think them. Chalk it up to passion, I guess.

      But a couple of things are important. Writers should never be complacent. I remember reading a piece about Beckett, and in the shadow of his mentor James Joyce, he wondered if he was second rate–especially after Waiting for Godot was such an initial colossal failure. While the extremes may make us doubt, I think writers have this healthy (I’m reaching here) tension or anxiety about their work and their potential. I think it’s important to be honest and assess your writing, have a group of trusted peers working with you (if that’s possible) and take the feedback that will take you where you need to go. I am my own harshest critic and cruelest editor, and it’s made me stronger and more precise as a result.

      I’ll challenge anyone who says write for an audience. A writer writes out of compulsion, from a need to tell a particular story. And while we have audience in mind, it’s kind of like a small voice in the distance–it should never, ever dominate the actual work because you’re not writing for your truest self. Writing and the business of writing (publishing) are so different.

      So I say introspection is always healthy. 🙂

      Warmly, Felicia

      Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • Kayla,

      Hemingway said to choose one person as your audience- a family member, friend, co-worker, someone you met at the grocery. Write to that audience and don’t worry about the rest!

      I identify with you in that I carry around much self doubt. Perhaps it is as in my work in the medical field (a field I was born into and did not exactly choose). I give injections and work with needles every day and people often ask me if I get nervous while sticking people. My answer is, “The day I stop getting at least a little nervous before stabbing someone with a needle is the day I need to stop doing it.” Perhaps, if a writer stops feeling nervous about the work or ever believes his/her work is flawless is the day to stop writing.

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  13. tiefsa wrote:

    You’d better avoid my stuff.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  14. Rae wrote:

    I don’t think it’s controversial, I think most people know there’s a lot of poorly written crap on the Internet, they just don’t think it’s *their* crap. But yeah, the hard truth is that this is the same in any field – people who shouldn’t get recognized are and people who should be aren’t. I still have hope that one day though an impartial robot will take over the world and judge everyone fairly on merit. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to do what we can.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  15. I enjoyed reading your post. I often feel the same way when I see crappy writing… I also get a twitch when I see out of place grammar and punctuation.

    But I have to ask the question: are we just becoming literary snobs? I remember one time a friend was berating me for liking Matchbox 20 because it’s not real music. Or another time when another friend took me to an awesome steak restaurant… the best steak I had ever eaten and he just shrugged and said it didn’t even make his top 10.

    I think we need to be cautious when we realise that we’ve refined our literary palettes so much that we disapprove of those who don’t meet our lofty standards. I don’t think that such a literary aristocracy is the way to keep good writing alive. If anything, it makes it less and less accessible.

    I mean, there’s nothing wrong with a likeable character. You may think they are boring, but they are also real. Most of the people I interact with are quite likeable, indeed.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • Thanks for the comment — it certainly gave me pause…in good way. Candidly, I was a literary snob for years, and then something happened. Maybe I got older, expanded my repertoire–who knows. All I know is this: all that matters is a good story and the power of the voice that tells it. I don’t believe wanting standards, striving for our best is snobbery, rather it’s what any artist sets out to do. If I think about the kerfluffle around Donna Tartt, and how all these highbrow critics scoffed at the fact that she’d gotten a Pulitzer (Lorin Stein from The Paris Review comes to mind), was a glaring reminder that snobbery is a dying breed, and I think these folks know it. Rather, I worry about the opposite end of the spectrum. If we simply accept mediocrity and dare to call it great simply because someone made an attempt.

      I think this is a healthy conversation to have, and I don’t have answers but I like the fact that we’re all asking questions.

      On a separte note, I found this piece interesting: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/books/review/among-the-disrupted.html?_r=3

      It’s a parenthetical, but an interesting contribution on how culture is affected by digital technology.

      Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  16. Bexter wrote:

    I love this post so much! It is so easy to forget that writing truly is an art, that has been celebrated for centuries, and that frustrates the life out of me!

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • Thanks, Bexter! That means a lot to me 🙂

      Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • kalique01 wrote:

      Amen

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  17. It is overwhelming … and yet, how many great writers give up because the voice in their head tells them that their writing is rubbish. At least the modern world gives immediate feedback to writers … and if you keep writing every day, you’re a writer. Readers decide what they enjoy. The writer’s job is to write the best content they can within their constraints. That said, some kind of “sifter” app would be great. Kindle reviews are not a good guide … they can be too easily gamed.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • Kirsty,

      Thank you so much for your thoughts. While I agree that it’s important for anyone to stay the course, I will have to respectfully disagree that anyone who sets down to write is a writer. I also wince a bit over calling what we do creating content. Susan Sontag talks about it elegantly, and her thoughts give one food for thought: http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/01/16/susan-sontag-against-interpretation-content/

      I completely agree, however, that a mechanism for sifting would be extremely helpful–especially in an age where attention is an all too precious commodity.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      Warmly, Felicia

      Posted on 1.23.15 ·
      • Great read. Thanks for sharing the Sontag link. Now pondering this quote: “Perhaps the way one tells how alive a particular art form is, is by the latitude it gives for making mistakes in it, and still being good …”.

        Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  18. P.S. Maybe it’s a good time to remind ourselves that we never have to finish what we start … including a book. If it’s boring or just not our thing … return it to Amazon for a refund within 7 days. Gone are the days when buying a book committed us to reading it from end to end to get value for our money … thoughts?

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • kalique01 wrote:

      I agree, times have changed and though we no longer need to finish what we start, I for one always pick up a book and read the first and second chapter and if the characters do not live up to the story line, I just put it back on its shelf and on to the next…… Kalique

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Kristy,
      Yes! Amazon is certainly part of the problem with their lack of “sifting” but they are also assisting readers with that return policy. I remember NEVER buying books until I had borrowed them from the library or a friend first and skimmed them, or read them entirely. (I am one of those weirdos that loves re-reading the good ones.)

      Furthermore, everyone has different tastes. One man’s trash…

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • Hi Lena, I agree – especially about the returns policy. There are more books out there to sift through, but readers can be much more adventurous and try new books, risk free.

        Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  19. A friend of mine who is a writer said that there is that garbage and I am sure that is mine. Perhaps my style reflects my distorted brain chemistry. I am reaching here…lol

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  20. So true. I especially like the concept of a towering inferno of shit. Unfortunately a lot of it makes it into bookstores and libraries. I have an old saying: “The foulest beast in the forest, marking his territory, is making better use out of a tree than most books in the library are.” People either have it or they don’t. No amount of head-scratching and creative writing class taking and revising is going to make a marginally talented writer into a great writer, or an awful writer into a “medium” writer. It either flows, and flows with skill, or it doesn’t. I’d love to crank out some mediocre but popular crap that allowed me to quit my day job, then spend my free time writing something that I hoped was good. If it sucked after a couple tries, then I’d have to look in the mirror and say, “Fuck me, I guess I don’t have it after all.”
    I guess, too, if people want to call themselves writers, far be it from me to piss on their parade, but I’m not going to call MYSELF one until I make a living at it, or, heaven forbid, someday write something that gets great reviews but doesn’t sell worth a runny crap. Until then I have a regular job and I’m a part-time, lazy blogger, NOT a writer.
    I like your style, and your writing flows.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • I like your style too 🙂 I really enjoyed reading your comment because it was so fucking HONEST. And real. Thanks for stopping by.

      Posted on 1.23.15 ·
      • Felicia,
        I am courious as to the criteria you would require would-be writers to call themselves “real” writers. I am certain everyone has their own opinions and would probably categorize “writers” into sub-categories (novelists, journalists, bloggers, etc.) but lets start with general guidelines. What makes someone a writer? If they are writing (ever day, or every week, or in their free time) at some frequency but do not meet your criteria, what are they if not writers?

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
        • Lena,

          Thank you for your comments, much appreciated. Being a writer has nothing to do with the frequency in which one writes or the kind of genre they write in, etc, you either are a writer or not. There’s no other way to explain it, and I think people are searching for complexity when frankly there is none. Writers know they’re writers because they write out of a need to understand the world or tell a story. The act of composing story and creating character comes as naturally as someone who paints or sculpts or practices any other kind of art. This is not to say that one need not practice their art or grow or learn more of the technical aspects of discovering voice and style. Every author I know cringes at their early work, which is natural. But they all agree on this one thing–they always knew they were a writer.

          Murakami says it so simply and succinctly:

          *Another fan asked the author how people can improve their writing skills.*

          *“Writing talent is similar to the art of chatting up a girl. You can improve to a certain degree through practice, but basically you are either born with it or you aren’t,” he wrote.* Cheers, Felicia

          On Sat, Jan 24, 2015 at 9:52 PM, love.life.eat wrote:

          >

          Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • kalique01 wrote:

      I love the way you put it, and yes I also believe it either flows or it does not, it is like singing , dancing or drawing, you can take as many seminars, classes or hell even have a masters in art, that does not make you an artist, so yes I include myself in the plethora of those that wish that one day there work will be recognized and gets great reviews, but until then I put it all out there in the hopw some one says damm thats good lets publish….. Dreams do come true…. Kalique

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  21. Sang N. wrote:

    ” And yes, life is cruel and unfair.” Erm, wan’t this just another myth thats come to being because propaganda said so? Isn’t it the case that the dictatorship of selfishness, the age of the me, of the self obsessed, excessively consumerist, inflexible, unequal society that has been purposely framed to benefit only a few, unchallenged, to focus on the self, above all else, departing distunctly from egalitarian ways of early civilisations, is that not what got us here?

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  22. Wow. Absolutely wow. I flipping love this post and I completely feel you! I have been wanting to write a few books and haven’t yet, mainly because I hadn’t gotten to the point where I could write and not relive.
    As I waited and processed and healed, I read. A lot.
    I feel I am ready but I have started a blog first. I had one on a different site, but I didn’t like the site and that blog was not what I wanted. I started my new one here with the tone I am hoping to use for my first book.
    I am doing it this way to avoid the boring stuff like you mentioned. My life has been very dark and full of pain and trauma. Its a life long journey, but my hopes are to inspire and bring even an ounce of hope to someone as I write about my journey thus far.
    So thank you for this post and info. I for one find it very knowledgeable.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • Amy,

      Thank you so much for commenting. You should know that there’s beauty in writing after catharsis. I too had a traumatic childhood, and writing about it, writing through it, gave me a certain kind of closure. Even if you’re not at the place to construct the narrative that you want, I encourage you to write for yourself. Write selfishly. Write bits of dialogue, sounds, smells–all the things that take you back, good and bad, because this is also part of the process.

      Writers always say that you don’t always need to be writing to actually write.

      Warmly, Felicia

      Posted on 1.23.15 ·
      • I really appreciate the encouragement. I am beginning to write. I, strangely, am looking forward to writing it out. I think it’s because I can tell I am ready to. I have just started my blog on wordpress and have a few posts. I was on eblogger but I closed that one today, it was too dark and depressing for me. Not the intent I was going for. I am very pleased with what I am currently working on.

        Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  23. jsnake125 wrote:

    When you say likable characters, “bore the fuck out of me” and how flawed characters fascinate you I ask, Can’t they be both. For example in “To Kill a Mocking Bird” the character Scout is very likable, yet at the same time can do things that show flaws like mocking Boo Radley. While a character with no flaws at all is boring there are lots of intresting well liked characters with flaws.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • Oh, of course! I’m not saying that likeable characters aren’t interesting or powerful–I just happen to like stories where characters have a darker, more nefarious, nature. It’s more personal preference than weighing the validity of one archetype over another. Hope that clarifies. And yes, I enjoyed Scout in TKAM. 🙂

      Posted on 1.23.15 ·
      • jsnake125 wrote:

        Okay I understand your reasoning now and I’m glad you enjoy Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.

        Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  24. This is a fascinating post, and one that really resonates with me. I’m currently seeking an agent, and working with other unpublished writers in critique partnerships. I have two crit. partners whose work is superior to much of the published novels in the same genre, but who still aren’t published despite innate talent and very hard work. It’s difficult to accept the fact that a lot of truly dreadful stuff sells. You mention the issue of audience, and I wonder if that’s part of the problem of crappy books. Whereas most writers in the past have written for audiences who shared a number of characteristics, values, etc. with themselves, nowadays much fiction is written for “target demographics” defined not by any deep philosophical kinship, but by age and gender alone–YA, chick lit., etc. Mass marketing has made this an imperative for writers who want to make a viable living. So I’m wondering if our changing conception of the literary audience is at least partly to blame for the “dumbing down” of literature.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
    • Really salient points! I hadn’t thought of it from this point of view. Thank you, Brenna!

      Posted on 1.23.15 ·
      • You’ve sparked an incredible conversation here! I shared your post on Facebook and got lots of diverse responses, too. Spirited discussion is always a good thing!

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  25. robotcara wrote:

    “this democratization has also opened the floodgates of shit”
    I laughed out loud at this, and I completely agree with you about the amount of best-selling and praised shit writing. Although I have to admit that reading articles like this always make me a bit self-conscious about my own writing.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  26. Cool

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  27. Wow! You’ve got a point. No matter the fancy technology that we got, quality writting nowadays is hard to come by. Even on the net.

    Pssst..feel free to visit me toos at http://www.twentyfirstcenturymomma.wordpress.com

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  28. Well put and amen!!

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  29. Wisdom.

    Posted on 1.23.15 ·
  30. Great post, so honest and brutal:) exciting to read:)

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  31. Judging by the stacks of good books that I will never live long enough to read, I don’t think there is a shortage of good work, but you do need to be critical in what you chose. I find that it is important to know what you are looking for as a writer (whose writing do you admire, what will work for what you need to say, etc). I have become so much more selective and have stopped feeling guilty about what I do look for – spare writing, internal conflict and NO neat endings. I read journals, know places where I can engage with keen readers online, try to listen to and meet writers at our writer’s festival (it was a thrill to meet my favourite author and talk to him about the craft last fall) and enjoy intelligent interviews with writers, even those I might not want to read. And I read with a pencil in hand to mark and take note of passages, language and other observations about the work as I go. Finally, although the ability (and desire) to write is a gift, it requires a lot of practice and the willingness to produce a lot of garbage that will be thrown out along the way to finally producing the gem you have in mind. (I’m still working on that one…)

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • You make so many wonderful points here. It’s really about being judicious about the kind of work you allow into your life, and, on the flipside, focusing on personal practice to write the best you possibly can. Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  32. chileshem wrote:

    In my country, there is literally more garbage and mimicry that often times I have questioned whether or not I should continue to write, but because it is a compulsive power within that pushes me to the paper, I have written, but have been timid and shy, and have constantly questioned whether or not I should share my work.
    I started my blog only two days ago because I had to get my voice out there somehow, and after reading this, I feel more inspired, not for acceptance, but simply to create and dream and write more.
    Great post!
    Appreciate it!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Take comfort in the fact that not all work needs to be shared. Sometimes it’s a joy to write selfishly for oneself. I think you’ll know what feels right to share and when you should share it (and why). Congrats on starting a blog–such a wonderful way to tiptoe your way into the world. 🙂

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • chileshem wrote:

        Wow! Thank you!
        You say such meaningful things ao easily, I feel inspired.
        Thank you so much.

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  33. Your passion for writing is refreshing. I must say though one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  34. these reasons is why I have yet to call myself a writer. I have yet to truly touch the keys of that piano even if my heart is filled to bursting with words that yearn to be heard…

    With this digital age, people seem to forget that books are fundamental to our species and instead opt to be sucked into the chasm of social media. It is creating a generation that just sucks.

    I tell my children to read and read well.

    Sifting through horrid, paper wasting grotesqueness is so frustrating that, at times, I find solace in old favourites.

    Thank you for this.

    C. J.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  35. While a lot of what you say is true… I do like the concept of everyone writing. Why? The more people start writing, the more is the number of readers… And yes, most of them (or us!!) might be writing utter crap, its always the good ones who keep the lime light… As for some people like me, we write just to express feelings and perceptions and not to claim our existence as ‘writers’!!

    Btw, i have been writing for 10 yrs but i find it difficult to start a blog… 🙁

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  36. Congratulatuons on your freshltlypressed! Please check me out at mylifeasmaeganhagan.wordpress.com

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  37. Sudiksha28 wrote:

    Beautifully written. :’)

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  38. joserd76 wrote:

    Plenty of garbage.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  39. This post is exactly my sentiments

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  40. A writer’s voice, a character’s voice, is the foundation of great writing. A bunch of writers could all be given the task of writing out a first draft from the same plot outline, yet how different they would all turn out! You are so right when you say it is how you string the words together that makes a piece compelling and that process I think, comes naturally from our inner voice. A great post!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • So true! I remember taking a class with the writer Aimee Bender and we had to complete a similar exercise. The joy was in the seeing the varying interpretations–how a writer brings context to bear.

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • That must have been very interesting. I attended a writing group last year, and it was amazing how people also seemed to lean to a favourite genre in writing. One girl was clearly a romantic thinker and writer, another a science fiction thinker and writer. In every ten minute writing warm up it seemed to shine through either in both voice and content. Human nature is so interesting 🙂

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  41. mandagomes wrote:

    Great post! Very well written.

    http://Www.thebeautyofwanderlust.org

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  42. Demetrius wrote:

    I still have a long way to go. And I thank you for exposing me to all these little things that will help me eventually.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  43. mirrorgirl wrote:

    I agree that reading is important if you want to write, and also that there must be talent there. Maybe the people who love to write and write have something in common?

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  44. I think the best point you make here is on the distinction between writing, being a writer, and needing to express one’s self through the creative arrangement of words…I wish more people understood these distinctions…

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  45. headleya wrote:

    I recently started a blog about my interests, namely, writing something of worth. I was incredibly nervous about uploading fiction and writing posts and i wouldnt say this has helped ha ha BUT I do agree with so much of what you say! I recently discovered that writing is not a romantic pursuit but a healthy mix! You can be a romantic and a realist, they are not as exclusive as some may think. The thing is, you are right, if we don’t write things that are truly meaningful then what is the point? I know that some may say meaning is up to the audience to determine though?! You are an educated audience, you have read widely and do know when you are being short-changed. There are some great authors who have written dross followed by a masterpiece though- so always give a second chance I say!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Thanks for sharing! I think a blog is a wonderful distribution tool for one’s work, as it allows for feedback and communication with others who are drawn to you because they’ve connected with something which you’ve written. 🙂

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  46. headleya wrote:

    Will be reading those novels you mentioned and will come back to you!! I will be reviewing Emma Healey’s novel, Elizabeth is missing, written from the perspective of a woman with dementia, much hype- 9 publishers fought for it. Am very curious- she said said you should redraft possibly 12 times before sending to a publisher. I write about hearing her on my blog beachhutbogger.com slave or master. You can also hear her on bbc meet the author this week. It is pretty raw and very interesting apparantly-will find out this weekend!!!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Thanks for sharing the reco, much appreciated!

      On Sat, Jan 24, 2015 at 8:39 AM, love.life.eat wrote:

      >

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  47. shambo48 wrote:

    Yes, I’ve read quite a reasonable amount of books but, have not written anything seriously except for my own personal blog. Your article has encouraged me to consider writing. It helps me to brave the fear of rejection from readers. Reading ‘….good books drive me to go deeper with my scalpel until there’s nowhere else to go. Thank you

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  48. This post was beautifully written. You have a command of language and a sweet and sour authenticity.

    When I attended Pace University in downtown Manhattan, I would visit little shops and boutiques. Later, I would walk to Soho and often purchase articles of clothing and trinkets from street vendors. I still own some of the things I found 10 years ago on those street corners and in those alleys. A lot of those things I had to hunt for. I had to sift through “shit” to find my treasure. I remember other shoppers finding my “shit” and it being their treasure.

    Sometimes someone will read a poem I created and say, “Too deep for me.” The truth is, not everyone appreciates a colorful vernacular or wants to Google everything you’ve said. In my humble opinion, there SHOULD be a writer for every reader. I’ve seen “garbage” change lives even if it wasn’t my own.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  49. johnberk wrote:

    I agree with your premise, although I believe that art is something that is highly subjective and thus we cannot just claim that this or that book is bad. But you are totally right that all the top 10 lists just make us more similar. This is such a powerful movement in the contemporary art that it is almost impossible to overcome.
    I would like to point out one more thing. If you talk about some kind of a typical writer, you should also mention the typical reader – sitting next to a fireplace with a good quality book in his hands. But it is a complete misunderstanding of the process of reading. I listen to audiobooks before I go to sleep. I read when I’m using a public transport. I try tons of books I never finish and just delete them from my ebook reader. I never ever go to a library or book shop. I do not need them. Everything I need is to be found here…

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  50. This is a great post and I love all of the points you made, but if you’re going to critcize writers I think what you wrote should be grammatically correct. I’m not being rude or mean, so please don’t misunderstand me. It just takes away from the great point you are trying to make.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Sabrina,

      You’re not being rude at all, and I appreciate the feedback. I frequently review all of my posts before + after publishing, so you’ve encouraged me to give this a once-over again.

      Cheers, Felicia

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • Awesome, I am glad! Keep on writing, girl! It’s a craft that takes a lifetime to master and I’m still learning, too. 🙂

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • Evie wrote:

        This post is very well written and pushed me on to read when I, more often than not, wander away from most posts without finishing. Grammatical perfection isn’t something I require of my reading material. I want quality content such as this post describes so well, and I don’t care if something is out of place unless it begins to distract me from that content. An expectation of perfect grammar implies that no one without an inherently perfect knack for grammar should be considered to write well. Writing isn’t math. An editor can sift out grammar mistakes, an editor can’t make bad writing, good.

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  51. I like your style, you have a great voice and you are funny. But you are a giant snob, dont take this as a big insult, most writters are, I guess it is a trait many writters and english majors share. The beauty of the internet is that what you think is shit is gold for others, and that is beautiful. You have the right to complain about it, and will probabky receive 500 comments saying “bravo” from others that think you need to earn the right of calling yourself a writter or an artist. Nut you are missing the point.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Richard,

      I appreciate your comment and feedback, but I think there’s a difference between being a snob and having high expectations of art. I don’t apologize for insisting that art be great.

      And you are indeed correct–I do have the right on my blog to complain about it.

      Cheers, Felicia

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • Yes, demanding that art is great makes you a snob, because you are deciding what “great” looks like based on an elitist point of view. But let’s agree to disagree, I don’t want you to hate me, cross my heart I like the way you write, and will continue reading. I promise to keep my big mouth shot though 🙂

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
        • Haha! It’s all good. There’s no hate here. Hate’s a really strong word. I actually like a healthy dialogue.

          I’m not deciding what is great for the world, but what is great for me, namely the standards I set for what I perceive to be great writing. Great writing isn’t relegated to any particular genre–it just needs to be good. And I do fervently believe that not everyone is an artist nor should they be.

          But hey, disagreement is good. I appreciate you coming by and leaving your thoughts.

          On Sat, Jan 24, 2015 at 9:39 AM, love.life.eat wrote:

          >

          Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  52. ….And let’s hear it for the passionate readers, too. Many of us have no desire/illusion to be writers. So……..without any personal act to grind, as one of those readers with no novel burning to see the light of day, we too mourn the marketing of the ordinary, at best, as extraordinary, having been suckered too many times into the buying of books erroneously publicised on the back of ‘comparisons to (insert title of truly excellent book with, perhaps a marginally similar subject matter or setting) .

    Not to mention the often extraordinary gushing by properly good writers who surely, should no better, claiming an often poorly written piece of hack writing as exceptional. A clearly incestuous world, professional book reviewing. And, the writing of books where the author is surely looking at their bank balance – TICK a lot of shocking in some way forbidden sex; TICK a lot of opportunity for graphic violence; TICK some setting/subject matter similar to a recent successful film adaptation of another recent book.

    There are of course, as there have always been, brilliant books out there. But, more and more the overhyped new release by a first time author which sets off, pre-publication, mega-bucks bidding war, is unlikely to be that brilliant book. The mega-bucks bidding will have come because there is SOMETHING (and probably not the excellence of the writing) which is going to shift high volumes.

    I certainly don’t expect every book I read to be life-changing. But I do expect that books so publicised, should be.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Ah, I have so many, many thoughts about book publishing. I worked for a few years at a major house here in the U.S., and while I do believe that editors are extremely passionate and go into publishing because they love books — the business of books is a flawed one.

      To your point, I’ve seen so many writers advocate for crap and publishers marketing crap. Yet, I’ve seen the reverse, too. On Facebook, I’ve seen a community of writers who rally around tough books, indie presses and the like. And within that, I sometimes feel that this fight for the great is subsumed by the overwhelming voices pushing the mediocre.

      My god, I wish I knew the answer to all of this. But at least people are passionate enough to discuss books, which means hope does exist.

      Warmly, Felicia

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Fanci,
      No disrespect, but it’s “axe”, not an act you grind, like sharpening an axe.

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • Hah! Thanks Lena – I’m afraid this was an unspotted by me typo. I really should read what I type before posting but only glance to see if there are squiggly red no such word or spelling typos. I often find (if I do check back) that I appear to have written rubbish. Sometimes unconsciously, and sometimes I thought it made sense at the time!

        Posted on 1.25.15 ·
        • For the iPhone app the squiggly lines do not exist in the comments! In this modern age we have grown incredibly dependent on spellcheck! I am the world’s worst! I will want to use a “big word” and think I am spelling it wrong. (It always looks wrong on the screen.) As a result I will “dumb it down” or use another word that does look correct when I type it. I have typos all the time, but I hate when I don’t catch them!!! So, I was doing you a favor in my strange, twisted mind. Ha!

          Posted on 1.25.15 ·
          • Favour happily accepted Lena. And just be grateful that post was done at the PC with proper 10 digit typing – comments done on the phone, with the in screen keyboard, meant for baby fingers, and with a supposedly helpful predictive to swipe a word up into place, has the habit of producing completely different words in the text from what I swiped. These things are programmed I’m sure by people with a sly sense of humour. My favourite, recently was someone who wished me a very nude day! Followed extremely quickly by a further text saying Nice! I meant Nice!.

            Posted on 1.25.15 ·
          • I understand. I have an iPhone 5. I can’t stand those new massive phones the size of picture frames, but I also hate my laptop and can’t afford to splurge on a new one. I lack a proper work space in my current rent house. Therein lies the problem. It is simply more comfortable to rest in the armchair with my iPhone, baby-finger-sized, in-screen keyboard and all. Perhaps I should write one of famous letters to some philanthropic celebrity to solve this problem for me. The best crap I have written recently have been complaint letters, earning me $300 in facial regimine products and a $1500 refund on my Kohl’s charge card. Ha! Talk about getting paid to write shit!

            Posted on 1.25.15 ·
    • I think part of the problem is that it’s all about money. If a writer commits to eschewing gratuitous sex and violence, how on earth is the author to get his/her book published? Particularly if the author is a “first timer?” Indie presses have helped. It makes me sad to see so many authors self-publishing and trying to sell their books (often for download rather than the kind with pages and a cover) on Amazon. It seems to me that one should be able to make a living from one’s labors. I guess I’m just naive.

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • Guac,
        You arent naive. You’re hopeful, abd as long as there is hope there will never be defeat!

        Posted on 1.25.15 ·
        • And… Not abd. Sorry!

          Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  53. Complacency in any facet of life is detrimental. This is a true fact, as is people’s innate resistance to change.
    Darkness is explored through verse, because it totals more of the human experience than radiance. That’s why we need Instagram. And mindless cat blooper videos. And drivel on the internet to read. We need escape from our humanity. We need laughter. We need silly. We need shiny. These are no longer produced in mass volumes within communities, so they’re being punched into our psyches through our online crap writing and content.
    Cuddling up to reality for most means turning on the news and watching darkness throb everywhere on the planet.
    The point in this article that “some people just can” is oversimplified. Some people just want to. They hone their skills in arenas of interest and they become great. They work to attain mastery.
    Sometimes a writer’s body of work consists of just one book. Are they less of a writer? Are they more of a writer if it is a masterpiece? All Harper Lee gave us was To Kill a Mockingbird. Margaret Mead wrote 3000 words a day.
    Sometimes an athlete gets only one shot at the Olympics. But to say they “just can”? Natural ability without execution is usually just delusion. Innate talent needs to be honed, no matter how much someone has been gifted with.
    Writing for the internet is not the same as putting yourself in the running for the Pulitzer. But it is needed, as are all the books in a library.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • I don’t think we disagree, and I think perhaps you might have misread my post or misunderstood its intention. There’s a difference between a natural writer who has gifts and who has to work to hone them. No one expects to wake up like Nabokov. Everyone has to put in the work. I’m talking about people who don’t have a gift versus people who do. This is innate.

      This post isn’t about volume or the body of one’s work as a measure of validity against another. Marilynne Robinson is no less of a genius because she writes so infrequently versus a Joyce Carol Oates, who churns out a book a year.

      Simply put, I’m writing about those who can write and choose to nurture and grow their craft and those who just don’t have the gift.

      Hope this clarifies.

      Cheers, Felicia

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Agreed with 100%.

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  54. kronomulus wrote:

    Thank you. . .and. . .and. . .just, thank you!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  55. Amanda M wrote:

    It seems today that authors are rewarded for quantity instead of quality. I like your bravery and calling bull shit exactly what it is.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  56. autumn9799 wrote:

    Wow… Look at the conversation your post evoked. Impressive. I imagine sitting outside a Paris cafe during the 20’s immersed in thought provoking exchanges such as these. Was beginning to think they no longer existed. Good for you. Shared your post with a published professor, thought you might like to hear their response: thank you for this one!  she’s got a real academic pedagogy of writing/reading there without sounding puffed up.  I like that.  There’s not just garbage on the internet, as she knows — garbage everywhere.  Not everyone can tell a story damn well in any genre (my collected Lucille Clifton arrived yesterday!).  Thank you.  

    Will continue to follow you, your are indeed a breath of fresh air.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Loved this, especially “puffed up.” 🙂

      I just mentioned in another comment that although there are many who don’t agree with my point of view, I’m happy that everyone at least is passionate enough to have a view. This is what makes me think that books, and stories that are powerful, have a future.

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  57. normapadro wrote:

    I personally believe that all writing and books are very important. It doesn’t matter how they are written. No word should ever be perfect. What matters to me is just being able to understand anything I read. Words are like puzzles to me. I love reading words.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  58. In the painter’s attic lay a hundred paintings, scorned by the artist for the tiny flaws that only he can see – I don’t like the perspective in this one, look at the awful trees in that one, and this one just didn’t speak my dream. One of them might be the next Mona Lisa. The Internet has become the attic for a hundred thousand writers, hoping that each piece they publish will win them fame. Democratization has made it easy to publish, but so much harder to discipline the writers fervent desire to be published. To borrow the line from Ratatouille: yes, everyone CAN publish, but that doesn’t mean they should!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • John,

      I wish WP would find a way for me to easily embed images, but here goes nothing:

      A friend posted this in response to this New Yorker article on the virality of content:

      http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/05/virologist

      Although not directly related (I’m taking the circuitous route on this one), a lot of what you’ve said about literature, and this letter to the editor speaks to the cancer that has become ubiquitous.

      Hope you find the pieces of interest.

      Cheers, Felicia

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • It’s good that we’re all on the same track. Publishing in Shakespeare’s day was not that different from this day, except that now so many more people think they can write. Each of us screws our courage to the sticking place and rolls out our wares to an unwary public. The onus falls upon the reader to tell us what is good. I don’t think that’s so bad, is it?

        Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  59. Evie wrote:

    And everyone who can afford a camera with a long lens is not a photographer.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • I’m curious where on this space I’ve self-identified as a photographer. Snark doesn’t open doors–it closes them, which I’m assuming was the intention of your comment.

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • Evie wrote:

        My comment was 100% unrelated to your photography. In fact, aside from reading your post, and making a couple of quick comments, I’ve been catching up on household tasks and had not yet had a moment to make a cup of coffee and enjoy a look around your pages, but it’s still on my To Do list. The only photo I’ve looked at up to this moment, is the one of the books, and I don’t know who snapped it but it’s a very good, and eye-catching, image, as one would find in a magazine. I made the comment about photography only because your post made me think how your subject matter, writing, can also relate to the subject of photos. What actually prompted my comment is this: a shirttail relative of mine on Facebook last month took some pictures of a tractor next to a tree. The placement is bad, as the tree is awkwardly blocking the tractor, and the lighting isn’t good. Also, the fellow clearly used the color saturation feature on his photo editing program to suck out all the color. He was pretty proud of what he’d posted, titling it ‘rural black and white photography’. Nothing wrong with that, he’s having fun. But I got a giggle when I see now that he since has gone out and spent a fortune on a camera, had someone take a picture of him holding the camera, with him in his best cool guy leather jacket, then started advertising that he’s a professional photographer. Again, it made me giggle, and that’s all. My little comment could not have been less related to your photography. You are right, snark doesn’t open doors–it closes them. That’s why I’m not really a snarky person. I also try not to assume, since a teacher once said that to assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. Can’t we all just get along? Happy Saturday.

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
        • Evie,

          You’re right + I apologize. I didn’t have any context to the comment you left and assumed the negative, which isn’t the most thoughtful thing to do.

          Thank you for coming back and clarifying, and I agree with your comment completely. And yes, let’s all please get along. We’re talking about books! 🙂

          Cheers, Felicia

          On Sat, Jan 24, 2015 at 4:28 PM, love.life.eat wrote:

          >

          Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  60. When I started writing I was told to wat

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  61. saralynne7 wrote:

    Thank you for this. I am taking note of these books and adding them tto my must read list.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  62. When i started writing i was told to eat words. Like an athlete training your body it helps to learn the moves. Then i read nobel prize winners, esp in translation as it shows the book was worth the extra investment. You can never read too much

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Barb – I completely agree! I think the mark of a great writer is how much they’ve read.

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  63. writeon48 wrote:

    I think you raise the questions that many of us ask on a daily basis.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  64. Thank you for this post! Your words are true. Writers write because they (we) have to. And, it’s near impossible to explain how the words come together when you’re up late at night and a poem begins to flow. Rewriting and editing come later. But great writers feel the words burning through them, at least in the first draft, and often step back, awed by a process they can hardly keep up with, let alone explain.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Yes! You’ve managed to say, so gracefully, everything I believe in one paragraph. As you can tell, I’m working on brevity in 2015. 🙂

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • You are a wonderful writer. I like your post just the way it is! 🙂

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  65. Amazing!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  66. Craig wrote:

    Well said. Having a computer and virtual space doesn’t make one a writer anymore than having legs makes one a basketball player. Communication has been replaced by marketing and clever titles.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  67. Respect this post for expressing the truth but sadly enough it holds no value in the WORLD we live in. Is your art the peoples choice? If not accept that and work your a++ off so you can build a loyal audience that will make sure your the choice.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  68. Enjoyable to read 👍👍 and makes a lot of sense.
    Some people have mediocre crap and have it stamped with rewarding titles and awards while some of the best pieces get ignored. I do most of my reading on ebooks and as the ebook popularity strings up so does the amount of so-so writers who think they can make a big buck off a fancy story or two. Not fair to the people who work their butts off to accomplish something for ideally, everyone.
    Thanks for this piece 🎀 enjoyed 🍦

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  69. Thank you. I’ve often had this discussion with some of the self-titled writers who bring their MacBook to Starbucks for four hours then get upset that they’re expected to buy anything.
    Having said that… I’m a poor writer myself. Hopefully my stories compensate for it.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  70. phoffe00 wrote:

    I don’t know whether I am a second rate writer or not. I just know that I have to write–to tell a story. I often think I am writing “gobballygook”, but once the story is told, I feel better. I love the English language, and I love to communicate by weaving the words together to make a comprehensive story. I like to write fiction and non- fiction. As you say, it is a compulsion and I am never truly happy unless I am writing. I write because there is a story.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  71. C. M. Cox wrote:

    This is so lovely. I can totally relate. As J.K. Rowling said, ‘writing is my incurable disease’. It is an extension of my soul, of my human experience. It is infinitely frustrating to read shitty writing in a published book when I have written my novel with my own blood and have no publishing deal. Y

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  72. Ahmen.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  73. Your post was an amazing eyeopener for me. I simply love reading and I am not quite sure which I enjoy the most reading or writing. In my opinion to get the full affect of a concept one most know that reading and writing go hand in hand. When I am reading non-fictional pieces I use a journal to take notes for future points of reference if needed. Although I am new to blogging I have been expressively writing for years and your post gave me some very helpful insight. Also thanks for some new books to read. I am currently reading “Not of this World” by Dr.Joseph L. Williams and about to start ” The Emotional life of your brain” by Richard J. Davidson Ph.D and Sharon Begley. Again thank you for your wonderful post and please continue giving it to us straight!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Thank you for your words and your great book recommendations! Warmly, Felicia

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  74. Thanks,writer is a “Guru” like just teaching to others.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  75. Couldn’t agree more. It is hard to be objective about the quality of one’s own work, but your own critical judgement is all you have to go with. After that it’s up to the judgement of others.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  76. kirizar wrote:

    On the subject of ‘taste’ in reading, I am reminded of a movie “Educating Rita”. In this movie, a working-class woman played by Julie Waters goes back to college and learns to understand and filter high class literature for its nuance and subtleties. She, in effect, becomes a literary elitist. Her mentor, played by Michael Caine, hands her his seminal work and she raves about the novel’s genius. Michael Caine points out that it was panned by the critics and was never a success with the average reader. The character, Rita, says something to the effect of, “Well, back before I knew what good writing was, I would’ve thought this was shite.” That has stuck with me whenever I feel the desire to denigrate a book because it wasn’t to my taste. Taste is subjective and a lot of novels appeal to people that I wouldn’t consider reading. That doesn’t always mean they are poorly written.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Thanks for the comment! We agree. Taste is subjective, however, I’m not talking about taste, per se. I’ve read a considerable amount of books and articles that weren’t to my taste, but I can appreciate the author’s talent, skill and what they’re going after in their work. And just because I’ve no interest in reading such work doesn’t mean I don’t respect the artist and what they’re trying to achieve with their work.

      Simply, I’m talking about people who don’t have the innate ability to write but refer to themselves as writers. This is my concern–not whether something is low brow or high brow.

      Hope this clarifies.

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  77. Where are you reading all of this shit? This is the second post or article I’ve read in the past week complaining of the Internet being inundated with terrible writing. Of course, I read some terrible self-published work or blogs and there are some sub par online lit mags, but they usually stay pretty contained. I’m just curious about what shit you think is receiving acclaim. Where is this “towering inferno of shit”? Maybe my palate is just not as sophisticated, or maybe we’re reading in different circles, but I read a lot of really good stuff: stuff I would never have been exposed to without the Internet.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Lindsey,

      Thanks for the comment! To be candid, I see this towering shit of which I speak every single day. Every day, I read dozens and dozens of articles, blog posts, and I buy and read a considerable amount of books. I see talentless style bloggers with book deals. YouTube All-Stars with book deals. I see a lot of mediocre writing on blogs by people who call themselves writers because they operate a blogspot or WP platform, not realizing that the platform is a distribution of one’s work rather than the work itself. I see terrible writing in the shows that are on television and the movies in the cinema.

      In my eyes, mediocrity is ubiquitous. And while gems exist, they’ve become increasingly more difficult to find.

      Hope this clarifies!

      Cheers, Felicia

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  78. Alan King wrote:

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been feeling uninspired lately and most of it had to do with what I’ve been reading. Some of the writing was decent, but not anything that gave me a charge or moved me in any way. What you said about good writing giving you hope is so true. I’ve read poems that reminded me of why I write poems and my goal for my words. I read great feature writing and other nonfiction, and remember why I started writing prose. The good stuff is out there, but sifting through the bad shit can be draining. My mood ebbs and flows, but this post confirmed that I’m not alone in wanting to read something moving; it also reminded me of why we do this. Thanks.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
    • Alan,

      My goodness! You’ve reminded me of poetry. You know, whenever I’m stuck I return to poems and children’s books. Poetry for imagination and children’s books for plot velocity. Have you visited poets.org? I love how when you’re reading one poem, the site will suggest other poets — many of whom were previously unknown to me. The discovery is so rich and wonderful.

      Cheers, Felicia

      Posted on 1.24.15 ·
      • Alan King wrote:

        I love poetry.org! Right now, I’ve been going back to the poets that give me a charge. Thanks again.

        Posted on 1.24.15 ·
        • YAY! So wonderful to hear 🙂

          On Sat, Jan 24, 2015 at 4:39 PM, love.life.eat wrote:

          >

          Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  79. Like your article – well written

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  80. Wow, very well said!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  81. mj083192 wrote:

    Haha I am not going to lie. I have been a victim of the basic and mundane writing you speak of. Perhaps it is because life IS hard and sometimes I just need an escape or perhaps it’s simply easy. I don’t have to mentally engage myself. I don’t have to understand or connect with the characters. I just allow the writer to weave this fantastic tale of triumph and happy endings. I fall in to reading this basic writing style more often than I should which is why I appreciate your post for waking me up. I will not say I dislike the stories I have read, but they have not added to me emotionally or mentally like my favorite works in the past. Excellent post.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  82. Would love your critique! I write when inspired. I have no clue about “proper” writing, I just write to write. I look forward to more of your posts.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  83. I agree there is a lot of crap out there, but at some point every writer has produced a work that was just complete shit. It actually makes it much harder for those of us who take writing seriously to know if what we are doing is really and genuinely good or just the same old shit everyone else is putting out there. A good writer will always have at least a smidge of self doubt. I have been writing since I was seven years old but am always worried someone (or everyone) will think it’s absolute shit. Most of my work is deep, often dark, and emotional. I invest my soul into every sentence. When I was 19 I was given the opportunity to publish a short story in a small publication which was published both in a book of collected works and on the organization’s website. A man posted some terrible comments on the site about how my story, which I wrote in high school, was poorly researched and full of cliches. I was a child. It was published on a site for teen writers. This guy was harsh and cruel. I have been pen-shy ever since. I stick to poetry for dead family members and submitting my own articles to the local paper to promote Relay for Life events. I am worried a jaded, opinionated, talented writer or critic (perhaps someone like you) will berate me publicly again and I cannot withstand it. The problem is the ease with which writers get published. I just saw an advertisement on television today promoting a company that does “self publishing” for you. Aside from the obvious misunderstanding of “self” publishing, the biggest problem with this is how easy they are making it for almost anyone to become a published author. I don’t believe it’s the fault of the authors but rather the companies/publishers/audiences inviting this culture of branding. If it was harder to become published perhaps the shit writers would give up for lack of will, skill, and desire long before those of us who really want it. I could have published a solo work ages ago. It has been 15 years since the teen writers disaster; however, I want to do it right. I want an editor to tell me which parts are good and which aren’t. I just don’t want someone destroying me just because they prefer a different genre or cannot appreciate a virgin author’s first try.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  84. CIZZO wrote:

    How about online/digital book, do you like read it?

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  85. Beautiful

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  86. utjuph wrote:

    Hm, I guess your thought about talent up there (with matt damon example) is quite interesting and right. No people are equipped with all perfect skill set to do all.

    Einstein’s quote, if I’m not mistaken :
    “Everybody is Genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”

    But then again, we are all given two things that allow us able to do anything : ability to learn and time. Given we are willing to make effort, I suppose anyone can be a great writer. As for the fish, if you ask Darwin, there might be an evolved fish in the future.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  87. There’s sucky writing in every subject area, and not just because of the Internet (I wrote about the bad books in my discipline here: http://allaboutwork.org/2013/09/14/why-most-business-books-suck/). But I really enjoyed reading your analyses of what makes some writing sucky, and your giving props to some good writers I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise. Thanks!

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  88. I agree! Looking at what young girls read nowadays make me cringe. My personal perspective on books are that they make you THINK, not just let you mindlessly go on through the whole thing like a puppet on a string. The fact that most books nowadays have lost depth(no offense to anyone), makes me sad.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  89. You really drove home what made characters likable. The kind that’s broken rather than perfect. Character like those are infinitely more powerful. I didn’t really think that the stuff I read on the Internet could be filled with so much nothing. I’m too trusting on that. After reading this post, I have been brought into the light. But most importantly, I’m going to seek for more characters like the ones you described. I might not find every one. The ones I do find will always stay with me though.

    Posted on 1.24.15 ·
  90. This was a very good way of expressing your frustrations!!! It is annoying that people tend to call themselves a writer but aren’t able to put that work in. By really auto analyzing themselves and putting themselves into their writing. True writers have the tendency to profit out of their imagination in ways money can’t give. Cheers to the great writer u are that spoke the truth finally

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  91. Amy wrote:

    It is painful to go through pages wondering about everything but the story. But I dont mind bad work. I leave them, and I search for the great work. When I do find them, I appreciate it more.
    There are people who write, then again there are people who can read, understand and see the art in between words, lines and pages. I am glad that I can read, appreciate and filter the great works.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  92. I find your blog and writing to be really interesting; it gives off a sense of genuine honesty. Which I think is the sole essence of what makes a good writer good, and why without it we have “shitty” ones.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  93. I read your post, and I was challenged by it. It does have a wiff of snobbery to it – and I went to art school, so have been throughly trained in art snobbery. I loved it, lived it, and was encouraged to fully develop it.

    Ah…but how the tables have turned. I am new to writing, have not yet found my voice, do not know if I am good or not. Doubt myself. But still I want to write, and publish, and see where it goes. I am not alone, obviously. I have been writing full time for 6 months to this end. Can I call myself a writer? I think I can. Am I a good writer? I don’t know; probably not. Not yet. Will I be one day? You bet your ass. I wish we could know how many people responding to your posts with comments like “Yes! I so agree!” are actually contributing to these towering garbage piles . Statistically, it’d have to be a fair few.

    I agree there’s so much crap out there; woeful, semi-literate, poorly researched, trite, you name it. But it’s like that in all of the arts. We can’t be saying Beethoven is a musician and Miley Cyrus is not for example (though there was a time in my life when I pretty much did). There’s good writing and there’s bad writing; but unless you’re talking purely about technical aspects, deciding which is which is largely subjective, and it’s all produced by writers.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
    • Stephen,

      Great points here, although I still don’t see the bit on snobbery and how it contributes to the overall discussion. I’m talking about innate talent. You either have it or you don’t. Talent makes you good, not great. The art is in the practice and work. Is it snobbery that not everyone can truly create great art because these words are hard to hear? I’ll never be a great surgeon because I don’t have the innate passion and dexterity matched with years of study + I accept that. I don’t see this as snobbery–I see this as honesty. Not everyone who sets down to write has the innate ability to achieve greatness. It’s the difference between natural and learned. Good and great.

      I think you might find this talk interesting: http://channel.louisiana.dk/video/marina-abramovic-advice-young

      I watched it this morning, and really agreed on her words on being an artist and refining one’s craft.

      Cheers, Felicia

      Posted on 1.25.15 ·
      • Thanks Felicia,

        I’m surprised that you don’t see the point on snobbery, because I’m not the only one commenting on it, but I’ll flesh it out for you a bit. In my opinion it’s snobby first and foremost because you’re writing from a thinly disguised position of “I have innate talent, while so very many others don’t.” It’s snobby because you’re lumping a whole bunch of internet work into your ‘heaping piles of shit’ that neither aspires to be nor needs to be art. And it’s snobby because you’re basing your comments about what is good writing and what is not, on your subjective opinion of what constitutes art (and therefore implying that you know art when you see it).

        Snobbery is a form of elitism. Elitism is a belief that you and your group, are inherently better than others and theirs. There are people out there writing that may not meet your ideal of ‘artisans of language’ who have every right to write, and to call themselves writers. Some of their work is extremely fun/moving/educational to read. You don’t build yourself up by attempting to tear others down. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but you asked, and I think this is an important contribution to the discussion.

        Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

        Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  94. jnapps wrote:

    I don’t really agree with your post. I think most people can write, and many writers also have other skills. There are many different types of things which need to be written: Technical books, novels, books which educate, biographies, memoirs. It’s not just a class of writers, and all of the tv watching, selfie snapping, mtv watching idiots.

    You claim not to romanticize writers and writing… i think you have done it here. Writing is something we should all appreciate, and we can appreciate good writing all the more when we have tried it ourselves.

    I just don’t see the internet from your point of view. I find a lot of compelling things to read, even from amateurs.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  95. Writers are awesome

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  96. Nneka wrote:

    Well, I’m an aspiring writer and I have been told to never stop reading. I just need to keep reading.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  97. This post made me think, do i really a shit writter or not?

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  98. I think I can empathize with you when you say you like flawed, dark characters. More and more I find myself writing those kinds of characters, even though I left my darker days behind with high school. Perhaps it’s a desire for difference; I’m pretty happy with my life right now, so I seek reminders of how awful it can be. Back in high school, I tended to write happier, more optimistic stories with characters who ended up being Mary-Sues more often than not, and that could be because I felt sad and alone a lot of the time. We look for that which we do not have because it makes us whole.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  99. I like it

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  100. A brilliant opinion piece, fantastic work. I found myself smirking in agreement all the way through.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  101. jess wrote:

    ‘In the future everyone will write but no one will read.’
    I think we may be getting there fast.
    Nice write.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  102. If I didn’t study photography, I would have definitely studied creative writing. I’m obsessed with books anyway!

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  103. Crazygirl wrote:

    I enjoyed your blog i just began to write my post got a good start to it….looking for ur critques

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  104. As of about a year ago maybe less, I started reading more and more and eventually one night I couldn’t sleep for the life of me so all night as I looked up at my ceiling in my dark room, I formed characters in my mind and a plot for a story I wanted to write. I ended up writing it and I’m almost finished, honestly the books crap but it was good practise as I started writing my second story my characters were deeper darker and more complex as you mentioned. Later on I started writing my third story, none of my stories are finished but I plan to make that happen this year. My third story is probably my favourite but my first is more popular by far even though my third is more complex the characters, have issues and I tried to make it not so happy. Reading your post has helped me a lot its helped me to know what people look for and I agree with it completely. Thanks for this.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  105. I am horrified at the prospect of the towering shit-inferno, but I recognise the sentiment well. And then realise I am probably guilty of contributing to it. Great, thought provoking and inspiring piece.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  106. EUR wrote:

    I think finding great books are interesting content is difficult, Greetings
    Anthony

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  107. Hello. This is my 1st time reading your blog. I must say, you’ve made me a fan. I can empathize totally. Just because you can rhyme words and tap you foot to the rhythm does not a musician make. I’m curious, do you like The Game of Thrones books? Hopefully I am not offending you by that question. And if you dont want to answer, it is ok. I was just wondering. Thank you for writing this.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  108. Hmm I do agree with you to a degree. But I don’t believe there should be a set way in writing. Writing shouldn’t be something you learn but instead should be natural. I feel one should write from their heart but it all depends on what the writing is about. In some cases like non-fiction it is most probably necessary to write in a particular way.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  109. dedenyo wrote:

    Something to consider. Educative piece

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  110. joserd76 wrote:

    Reading is fundamental.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  111. Kalyani wrote:

    Great Post!I agree with your views that there are loads of mediocre writing around us which gets rewarded…but then Great writings does shine through and I guess it applies to other art forms as well…

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  112. gatster wrote:

    Looking at your stack, I loved Bad Feminist and I also loved Gay’s An Untamed State. It’s the novel Joyce Carol Oates has been trying to write her whole life. I love Roxane Gay.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
    • Roxane blows my mind. I’ve read so many of her Guardian pieces and her Tumblr/Twitter, and she is insanely prolific and beautiful and compassionate. Couldn’t agree with you more, Keith. 🙂

      Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  113. Love, love, love this: I read to get uncomfortable, to learn, to gain perspective and be transformed in some way. And reading has made me a better writer, not simply for the techniques learned from authors I admire, but for how good books drive me to go deeper with my scalpel until there’s nowhere else to go.”

    I wish I’d had the courage to write this piece. Many, many times I’ve had the same exact thoughts. Being a writer is not a glamorous career. It’s HARD work. EVERY DAY work. NECESSARY work for those of us who would explode without our notebooks. Thank you for your courage to say what many writers feel.

    I do, however, believe that the more we write, the better we become as writers. Most of the writing I produced 10 years ago would probably be called shit. I mean, I would call it that. But it all had a significant place along my journey, and I’m glad I didn’t stop writing just because I wasn’t producing masterpieces. Sometimes we have to find our way to those masterpieces, and sometimes that may take a lifetime.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  114. strawberryem wrote:

    Everytime I write something personal I feel I’m putting myself up to be trolled. I wouldn’t classify myself as a writer, I can’t ‘play’ like Will but sometimes things want to come out and I blog them. I believe in the power of intention and hopefully those with a less superficial intention will attract a deeper audience more open to a more profound experience? 🙂

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  115. Tina wrote:

    Preach! I think we have Thought Catalog and its counterparts to blame for this shit-storm of mediocrity.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  116. I love the challenge you present. Real Characters! Bettering the craft and dumping the crap.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  117. abudeyem wrote:

    I found your blog most intriguing, and agree with you that there is “writing” out there that’s as bad as it gets. I’m an avid book reader, and love reading every kind of genre out there, but I’ve picked up books over the years that should never have seen the light of day. True writers never see writing as a job, but an extension of themselves. Writing is a gift bestowed on a select few who know how to captivate others.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  118. mocaylen wrote:

    I continue to wonder about the coffee mug. Why are writers stereotyped to always be drinking coffee? Has it ever crossed someone’s mind that writers do sleep? Plus, what if there is hot chocolate in that mug? Honestly, I depise that stereotype
    towards writers.

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  119. leahxrayne wrote:

    Oh God Yes!!!! you see, I’ve read so many articles that tell me as a writer, or someone who writes I must sit and write regardless of whether or not I am moved by what I am writing. I’ve read so many times that this is a flaw, but I knew I wasn’t fucking crazy! I am, but at least I’m not alone in this insanity! Look up John Shors Beneath a Marble Sky, starts off slow, but it is sheer beauty!

    Posted on 1.25.15 ·
  120. I know how you feel …I’m an amateur writer and working on new techniques every day and every time I read a new book I discover something new about writing and minding the details, so I immediatley become displeased with my own work. I know many people who write just for fun and never better themselves. But I do think that we also need those writers as well. You can learn as much from them as you can from brilliant writers. You know which mistakes should not be repeated and you find your style (if you haven’t found one already) by knowing what you dislike. It’s bad, but it can be good too 😊 My personal example of a bad read (and so sorry for the fans of the book series but taste is subjective, not objective): 50 Shades of Grey. Everybody told me it was a must-read and before I bought it, I listend to a couple of chapters on the audiobook. I hated the writing style, so minimalistic and empty, no real feelings behind the lines unless the writer told me there were some. It was just painful to hear it. That way, I learned that I love complex, long and often tiring sentences – they make you think and than rethink everything over and over again and in the process, you become a better reader and writer. And your post surely made me think. 🙂

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  121. Wow! This was awesome. Reading this has made me question my craft..

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  122. Emma wrote:

    I breathe, I write. I dream, then I write some more. My need to write comes from my inner need to seek clarity and self-awareness. I write to capture this and to challenge my own musings. I do not call myself a writer, I do not feel I fill a role. It fills me.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  123. rum4wine wrote:

    Good read! The art of writing is truly simple and right from the heart. You either have it or not.
    Also, check out our blog at https://rum4wine.wordpress.com

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  124. Arty-Kat wrote:

    Oh my lord, YES! YesYesYesYes!
    And you have lit a fire under me! 23 years ago, I kep a searingly honest and raw journal following my infant son’s death. I HAD to write. It was more vital than food, sex, air or human interaction. I HAD to WRITE. I’ve always kept a journal – duh! But this one was written in tears, blood, and mothers’ milk.

    I keot it fir three years, and was advised to let an author i resoect read it. She loved/hated it. It made her do the ugly cry. Then she said it needed to be published but noone would publish it because it was “just too sad.”

    After reading your post, im going to try to find someone interested. He died 24 years ago this November. I think it’s time.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  125. I am new to blogging or maybe even writing and I just don’t know what I write about, but I just do because I feel my mind has conceived it. I loved your words and the idea of democratization. I am not even sure if I am a good writer, but your critique might just help me get the confidence to go forward with what I am doing. I am often thrown out of path believing that I am not coming upto what the reader is looking for, but yet write for my own happiness.
    Consider helping me out with suggestions to help carve a good person who knows how to tell a story through words.
    And congratulations on being freshly pressed.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  126. awax1217 wrote:

    I know and I read a lot of it. I also am responsible for writing my worth of crap. I specialize in it. I am proud of it. It rings true to me. I see the piano and hear the music when no one is playing. I see the empty screen in front of me and compose without typing or speaking. Like Picasso I paint for myself, and then erase it for it gives me pleasure.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  127. Reading a lot I understood I can write, but I will never be a writer. I have technique, but I lack something else, which is more important And probably impossible to be defined (sorry for my bad English, it’s not my mother tongue)

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  128. It drives me nuts when someone “reviews” one of my books by saying they didn’t like the character. I know, I know, a lot of people do want to read about characters they like, characters they’re willing to identify with, and it’s not up to me to decide whether that’s right or wrong–it simply is. But I swear there’s more to the books than that. Or I thought there was. It leaves me feeling as if I have this narrow, narrow space to work in, and when i sit down to write again I have to push it all back and remind myself not try to write for everyone.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  129. alerloz wrote:

    PREACHHHHHH

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  130. You make a good point indeed. I write a blog for fun but certainly don’t fancy myself a wtiter in the least. I do find it unfortunate that a very high percentage of the population, I believe roughly seventy percent, has admitadly not read a single book in the last year. With less people reading there’s bound to be less great writting.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  131. And gosh darn sorry for the mistype on the word admittedly…. Should not have replied on my smart phone.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  132. Eliza wrote:

    I’ll take passionate shitty writers over pretentious gifted ones.
    Honestly, I think intention is what makes a writer, not talent.
    Being bitter because someone you consider a poor writer is successful isn’t a productive use of time. Good writing is a matter of opinion. No one is entitled to success.
    People are misusing their platforms to encourage problematic behavior like sexism and racism, THAT is what we should be focusing on.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  133. I miss the gatekeepers. They kept me out, and with good reason. It turns out I’m NOT a novellist, I’m a playwright. Thanks to the internet, I have dumped my short fiction and a couple of novel-length pieces into e-publishing, because that seems to satisfy my urge to “get them out there”, but I’m not expecting anything from them.
    My plays, on the other hand, have won awards and sell every month. Writing novels is not the ONLY writing, and being good at one thing – poetry, plays, screenplays, novels – does not confer greatness on all the other forms attempted. I don’t think it’s snobbery to say “this writing is bad” as long as you can say WHY. If someone says “I built a car” and that car only has two wheels, one of which is made from mouldy bread, it’s safe to say that car is bad. Doesn’t matter if the person really wants to be a car-maker, doesn’t matter if they put all their heart and soul into it, that they gave up their regular job to build the car. If it’s a bad car, it’s a bad car.
    I’d love to be good at DIY. I buy the right tools, I read the books and magazines, I take my time and I try really hard. Yet, despite all this, my DIY attempts are rarely better than adequate. My wanting to be good at it doesn’t stop the shelf falling off the wall.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  134. joe_c wrote:

    I enjoyed reading your post; however, it makes me wonder if your definition of crap writing and mine are the same.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  135. Thank you for this. The desire you’ve outlined to create art, is just what I’ve been trying to put into words. That drive almost feels like an addiction.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  136. I appreciate your honesty and real opinion. Keep doing what you’re doing. You are inspiring the good eggs to continue on the path they feel in their heart, but not their pocketbooks. We realize what we want to achieve, and all we can do is keep trying.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  137. I’ve read this about three times already and I still find myself nodding along with each and every line. It’s such a damn shame that books like 50 Shades of Grey become runaway hits while books like The Possibilities (by Kaui Hart Hemmings), or even little essay collections by some of the best contemporary writers, go by virtually unnoticed. That’s the tragedy of our times, that low quality stories somehow become worldwide viral sensations, when there are other stories yearning to be heard. It seems like no one’s brave enough to search for stories on their own and instead settle for books on abstract lists that claim to represent “the best.” How can you know what is truly the best unless you go out and find it for yourself? Perhaps the world will never know.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
    • My goodness. I haven’t heard Kaui Hart Hemmings’ name in quite some time. I remember reviewing The Descendents for PW and being struck by the audacious nature of her writing. So good, so sharp and smart. These are challenging times in terms of sifting through the rubble to find the greats.

      Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  138. As a child I used to consume books with a passion. Anything i could hey my hands on, anything i could read. Now, I’m afraid to pick up something because i’ll realize it doesn’t speak to me then decide to abandon the venture altogether. It takes a lot to hold my attention now, I guess, the disillusion is ever so persistent. Plus the hold of real life, i guess. Being a mom and a teacher can get pretty harrowing.
    I love the insight and I agree whole heartedly. Thanks! 🙂

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  139. Katrina wrote:

    Great Post!

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  140. Azodo wrote:

    It’s almost 30 minutes past midnight in Lagos, Nigeria and I was about to go to bed knowing that I’ve to be up by 4:30am when I stumbled upon your post. I could not stop reading! God bless you real good in #Jesus name… Amen. If you think you’ve seen bad writing come to this part of the world!

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  141. It took me a long time to discover the writing i like which consists of writers with a certain type of aithentic voice who tell the truth of been a man or woman. Irish writers with black humour who make you laugh at a funeral. Contangerous fuckers like bukowski and Palahniuk. Discovering them changed the way i approached books and writing. Your post has expressed elegantly my oen views on the cloy charachters and predictable plots we are subjected to. Will someone just not let the joker defeat batman just once.

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  142. ahtesham08 wrote:

    Fantastic!

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  143. One of my first post comments was around the holidays. A blogger listed a few of his favorite stories of Christmas. He asked us readers what were some of our favorites and I suggested that the The Bible had a few great stories on the birth of Christ. The literary works are deep and give you pause, make you feel, and almost see the visions of three wise men and their gifts.
    I was dumbfounded when his response was “Thanks but actually I’m an atheist.” What the hell does that have to do with it? Good writting is just that, good. Go forth and read my colleauges but be open to works that might make you think outside your box. Cheers

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  144. 🙂

    Posted on 1.26.15 ·
  145. This is a wonderful essay.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  146. regiberson wrote:

    I used to try to teach writing for high scool students. I tried to have them do what Donald Ross at Washington State University had me and others do….write. And something he and most other writers say is to write from experience. I think I’d add using the thing(s) we call “imagination.”

    When I read/hear those who just want to be a writer, who obviously have the skill and intellect, but while some great passages might be there, what I’m left with is a tantrum or a tirade or a ramble of pseudo-intellectual musing, I want to say GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING!! Learn what it is to be a human being. Learn who you really are without the books and the pen and the paper. Do something that scares the shit out of you, that leads you to understand why suicide happens, that startles you with wonder, that touches you so deeply inside that you’taken to where the words fall away until something real is left. And if you can tell that so others will understand, others thaving been there or are on the way there….THEN write it and it’ll come from a place where even you cease to exist, let alone the anger and the fear. My apologies….

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  147. Mike Booth wrote:

    I never had enough money to buy enough books, so I went to work selling the Encyclopedia Britannica so’s I could get one for myself. I spent the next few years with a volume always on my bedside stand. Ask me anything.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  148. This was wonderful and mirrored so many conversations that I have with fellow writers among writing groups and in private conversations. Finding a good book seems to be more and more difficult. Many people are great marketers, but it does not mean that the writing is to par. Other folks may be a great writer but cannot get their story read through all the slush piles. I long to find the greats and put them in my collection!

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  149. Thanks so much for this article. Your honesty is so refreshing. I will definitely be taking on board some of your tips.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  150. natachab1 wrote:

    I enjoyed your blog!
    I really loved these books 🙂

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  151. Thanks

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  152. mzrubyred wrote:

    Interesting… Your idea of shitty maybe someone’s idea of delight. Writers will admit there’s always room for improvement. As life challenges us the writer ‘moves’ with the challenges, this changes the way writers think in their mind and heart.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
    • If I understand you correctly if the demographic changes to enjoying mostly poor constructed shit, writers should follow the market and write poorly constructed shit?

      Posted on 1.27.15 ·
      • mzrubyred wrote:

        No you understood incorrectly… Depends on the shit. Each persons view of shit differs. You will have many people in life looking for something different. People that struggle with literature may find poorly constructive shit beautiful because that’s what they understand. There may be people out there that just have a yearning to write but may not have the skills. People may want to write and get better as they go through life. If you don’t like the shit leave the shit on the shelf as someone may love that shit. Writers should write with best intentions knowing who their captive audience will be.

        Posted on 1.27.15 ·
        • Ok. Understood. Different strokes for different folks.

          Posted on 1.27.15 ·
          • mzrubyred wrote:

            🙂 I look for text that draws me in. When I’ve finished I feel I’m saying goodbye to an old friend, that’s how I know the writer has done a good job on capturing my mind and leaving remnants in my heart.

            Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  153. AdiC wrote:

    I wouldn’t call myself a writer, but when you say writers write not because they want to, but because they have to, I know what you mean! My blog has posts only because I have to pen that post down! Till, I don’t, I can’t sleep!!

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  154. Milib1 wrote:

    Truly inspiring. I struggle to even write good sentences but I believe that reading well written books will improve them over time. Thank you for such insightful read.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  155. Nice post , I feel there is lots of things to learn ,am a new aspiring writer .I feel I can ask suggestions from you .If you find free time please go through my blog and help me improve .

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  156. What’s your thought on Thought Catalog?

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  157. Marie Chic wrote:

    Very well said.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  158. It’s too good. I like your writing 😊

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  159. High school english language and english literature ( what’s called Language Arts in the Caribbean ) ruined writing for me. I preferred science fiction, the teachers insisted on Shakespeare, Chaucer and Jane Eyre (blech!). Having mild dyslexia didn’t help either.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  160. HMNBEING wrote:

    I wish I could like this a hundred times!

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  161. Thank you. Elegantly expressed, and frightfully apt. Thank you for writing this.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  162. Such a sad truth, all kinds of technology now project articles that have nothing to offer, but pull traffic. True writers write because they have to.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  163. Great post! When I read books, particularly contemporary ones, I can almost sense the authors complete lack of desire to transform someone’s life through words. It feels as though old concepts are regurgitated into new ones and nobody seems to be punching through the wall of normality. When I read, I want the text to take me on a rollercoaster of joy, sorrow, shock and sheer amazement. Good books, real books should swallow you up and spit you back out!
    P.S I’m an aspiring writer myself and this has given me some food for thought.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  164. roowena wrote:

    Glad to hear there are others who are frustrated by the ‘writers lifestyle’ and mundane ‘likeable’ characters (they bore me witless). This was brilliantly written and expressed some thoughts I’ve had for a long time. Thanks for writing it!

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  165. I attest to this. I definitely believe that writers are born with the gift of language, and not everyone can hone it in the same way. It is the same as every other artistic talent. But as much as writers are born, reading is, in my opinion, the thing that often compels a writer to actually find their need to write. I wouldn’t have found that need without a plethora of great novels that changed my life.
    Now that I’ve rambled, great post 🙂

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  166. nice

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  167. Kelsey wrote:

    I hope you have read “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo. It is beautifully complex, although not a novel. Great post.

    Posted on 1.27.15 ·
  168. Beautifully written. I understand what you mean, but I’m also hopeful that I’m not one of those writers contributing shit.

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  169. I would amend that the “need” to write actually drives a compulsion to revise. That’s where the artistry comes. Not that I’ve made a study of it, but I bet the “great” writers and talented wordsmiths still have lousy rough drafts that need a lot of work. Less work than any of the mulch that I write, agreed, but still a good chunk of work. Part of the talent is in seeing that your first effort at the sentence can be improved; part of the “need” is wanting that excellence. (Have I gone over my quota of danger-quotes?)

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  170. Great post! ✋

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  171. Your writing is incredible and although I don’t consider myself a writer, rather more of a I want to share experiences type person, I would love your input on my writing… If you can find time it’s hopelaughterlove.com

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  172. LOVE THIS!!! Definitely inspired me to keep practicing my craft and becoming much better with my writing. I love writing characters, really dark situations and their emotions during those. But style is where I fall short. My stories are too simplistic and I find myself hating them as they lack the cleverness of some novelists.

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  173. elizabethweaver wrote:

    Thoughtful post…thank you. I so agree and thank you for the recommended books and for articulating the importance of flawed characters & challenging lives in literature, that these experiences can be bare rather than veiled.

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  174. Homie, people don’t like dark philosophical writing. Life has enough darkness in it. People want flamboyant fantasy even if it’s mediocre.

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  175. Nice analysis. If it is indeed so rigidly true that one is either born with writing skills or not, then I suppose we here at Word Press should help each other. Say if some veteran writer can read some of the posts written by a newbie like me and also kindly comment on my work, then I will be better able to decide whether I should continue writing or not. Thanks.

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  176. Well written! Beautiful post and photography.

    <3
    Emory
    helloscarlettblog.com

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  177. 'Manda wrote:

    ~Just another voice in the crowd of your fans: I adored this blog post. Not only for its intelligence and optimism, but for the inspiration it inspires. And thanks for the tidbits on books you loved, I need some better quality reading. Wish you the best!

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  178. Mannie.. wrote:

    exaaaactly! thats all I can say, Exaaaaactly!!!

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  179. I have always felt that if I just write in my goofy blog when I have something to really say then the genuine traffic will be there and people will more than likely stumble across a lot of my old content because it is relevant. I would rather create wine as compared to churning out bottles of MD 20/20.

    Something is odd to me when I see people finishing their book and declaring that they are working on book #11!

    But like you wrote before; we have more choices now and more opportunities. It just falls upon the consumers to weed through more coal to find the diamonds.

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  180. Well said. I like this a lot!

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  181. g2taylor wrote:

    Ain’t that the truth!

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  182. loninicole wrote:

    I have been a writer ever since I was little. Most of what I write is poetry, but I also write novels. I explore the dark creative side of my mind and then travel through the mythological part, then make my way to my hidden emotions. I always tell people who want to write is to be unique and independent. Don’t write about something that would be considered popular, for example “Twilight”.

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  183. beautifully said

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  184. Great essay. It’s the unfortunate truth that self-publishing has made it much, much harder to find quality work. The old adage of holding out your hands and letting one fill will money and the other with shit has never been truer. The big problem is that the shit hand is under a broken NYC sewer outlet.

    “Oh, but peer reviews,” they say. I call bullshit on that.

    I mean, look at Goodreads reviews. Light in August gets four stars with 34,286 ratings. Twilight also has four stars with 2,762,927 ratings. Ditto the DaVinci Code, possibly the worst prose written since Tom Clancy did his direct word-dump right to the printing presses. I mean, FOUR stars?

    Blogs like yours are a good source for recommendations because you obviously put some thought into your recommendations. I pay attention to reviewers generally, even if I disagree with them. The main problem is that these reviewers are besieged by castle-high towers of new books. Many of them won;t touch self-published or even small-press books. This is of limited use to such as myself. It also makes it really hard for a great new writer to find readers.

    By the way, most of the Hunger Games books are five stars on Goodreads. More stars than Faulkner, Hemingway or Annie Proulx.

    Five goddamned stars.

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  185. fabianamaio wrote:

    Great!

    Posted on 1.28.15 ·
  186. vickiewhat wrote:

    This is an extraordinarily well-written, post. It is clear to me that you’re an excellent writer. Your point comes across with clarity, and your arguments are sound. Ofcourse, we are all entitled to our opinions.
    Perhaps, the issue here, for me, is my eternal optimism. I do believe some are gifted beyond others, and that carries across all categories of talent. It is factual that only a small percentage of people can be categorized as genius’. So, what of the rest of us? If we don’t meet the parameters of this innate talent you speak of, then what? Don’t bother; because it’s interfering with the truly deserving writers in gathering their own fair share of limelight?
    I have known artists, musicians, and writers, who have taken many years of hard work and practice to learn, hone and master their craft. Maybe I’m naive, but I believe many art forms can be mastered, through good ol’ fashioned practice, and some well-placed devotion.
    I love that you’re talented. You write beautifully. Your post stayed with me, and I mulled it over at length. I do prefer to see “talented” writers, supporting other “writers,” even if they are not qualified to call themselves as such, in your opinion.
    I know in my heart that my “talents” multiply each day, as I give them my time and attention. I believe we all possess the capacity to become excellent.
    Best to you.

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  187. That towering inferno of shit can sometimes be overwhelming and alienate a lot of casual readers. I always try to see the good in people’s writing, but I guess you’re right. Great writing is great writing, and there’s a lot of try-hards blocking access to the best. Great comments!

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  188. i think the same thing can be said about teach i.e. you are either a born teacher or not. truth is, i think, with enough work and dedication you can be a good teacher perhaps even a great teacher if you want to and are willing to put the work into the endeavor. same thing is true of writing. i don’t know what an artisan of language is … but i’m obsessed with writing. i love the process. i’ve put my 10,000 ‘whatevers’ in … i don’t think i’m great but … i think i’m damn good. unfortunately, i think there are a lot of mediocre writers out there who don’t get it. the fall for this mushy, love filled sentimentality and they gravitate toward the same crap. i have no right to judge whether they are good bad or otherwise. all i can say is … i don’t like most of the shit i read. and i don’t think anything is black and white. thanks for reading me … i only comment when i am inspired. so thanks for inspiring me ….. ks

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  189. magrose wrote:

    Excellent!

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  190. Aisha Id wrote:

    You are right…sometimes I do this myself….that just to get more visitors I just write without really looking that if what I have written is even making any sense….

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  191. Thank you! I just started writing. This is something I need to think about and keep in mind!

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  192. Well said 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  193. Heather wrote:

    You are right – writing can not be taught. There are aspects of it that can be taught, but you can’t teach a person how to tell a story. Self-publishing (and blogging!) has made everyone think they are a writer – even yours truly. Funnily enough, all my favourite books I’ve read recently were published prior to the onslaught of social media and the sudden popularity of self-publishing, which I think says a lot about the quality of writing in recent times – at least that which is being printed traditionally and sold in bookstores. I think writers are writing what they think others want to read, and publishers are printing what they think will make money, regardless of the quality.

    I finished writing a short novel recently that had an ending that I knew people would hate. My mum actually called me up in tears when she’d finished reading and asked my why I would do that to my character? He was such a good person and deserved better. I agreed with her and said I hated myself for doing what I did, but that’s the way life goes sometimes – you can’t read every book and have the happy ending you want. And I think that’s the problem with lots of books at the moment, people are afraid of writing what people will hate and not giving the book what it deserves. In that case, why bother writing it at all?

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  194. Jasmine M wrote:

    You make some excellent points about the abundance of absolute garbage out there – – and that’s something that I see across the board in various forms of media, from journalism to the movie and TV industries – – and how some truly pathetic stuff gets the rewards, gets the recognition.

    However, you seem to be saying that the ability to write well is determined from birth, and lasts your whole lifetime – – you either can write, or you can’t. I strongly disagree with this. Sometimes people are naturally talented, and their pursuit of choice requires less effort or training on their part than it would for most people. However, some people – – including famous people who gained great recognition eventually – – didn’t have such an easy time; it took years of practice and study to sharpen their skills sufficiently.

    It reminds me of how children are often better at using and understanding technology than their parents. I don’t necessarily think it’s about natural talent – – at least not entirely – – I think it’s largely because they have been exposed to these things from a very young age, and things come more naturally to them because of their early exposure and frequent use of technology. And even people who are considered naturally talented find themselves sometimes churning out lousy material. I don’t believe things are so cut and dry, and I believe people seriously underestimate their own abilities.

    I’ve had people read my work and say that they could never do that themselves. Guess what? I often have moments when I’m looking at a blank or half-filled page, thinking, “Oh, God…how the devil am I going to do this?!” I have that same feeling sometimes of not being capable of writing…but, despite my periods of panic and doubt, I ultimately recover and am able to write after all. If I let those feelings of inability and inadequacy stop me, I wouldn’t be able to write, either!

    One more thing…the label of “writer” has indeed been a tricky issue for me, and my response has been not to label myself or worry about the labels so much, and instead focus on – – and state – – what I do. I’m less strict with other people – – l’ll still consider someone an actor, singer, writer, etc. even if they’re bad at it. I just consider them a LOUSY singer, writer, or actor.

    One more thought: I don’t believe exclusivity is the solution; I’m not interested in only or primarily people with enough income or the right connections or bloodlines, a la Hollywood, getting a voice and getting exposure. There are plenty of recognized people who either put out lousy material, or are awful people, but still get acceptance and rewards because they’re part of the club, one of the boys. I’m the type who’s not overly impressed by things like that – – like famous brands for clothing. I’m not going to pay out the nose just because it has the name “Prada” or “Louboutin” on it. I’m about judging things on their own merit. In fact, if someone pays an obscene, unreasonable amount for something, that just gives me a negative impression of that person, rather than impressing me.

    If your writing or clothing is good, then it’s good, and the fact that you’re a 7th-grader from nowhere in particular and wrote it sprawled on your bed with a laptop doesn’t make you any less of a writer; if your writing is bad, I don’t care how many awards you get, and how you get to hobnob with the elite in New York or Los Angeles. You’re not as good a writer as that 7th-grader who’s busy getting scolded for not turning her homework in on time.

    In some ways, increased exclusivity would actually protect lousy writers who have the right connections or income bracket. In my opinion, the solution isn’t excluding writers; the solution is discernment of their works. People need to be able to sift through the glut of material out there, and be able to appraise it. Keep in mind, even people who are very talented at writing or other pursuits overall can still have moments when they do a downright abysmal job – – and vice versa; even people whose efforts are normally God-awful can somehow manage to produce random gems.

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  195. KamiKanten wrote:

    I think most people are more “in love” with the writer lifestyle and the allure around it.When in the end writers are “common” people who happen to write about things that common people relate with,some have a spark,that’s all.

    Posted on 1.29.15 ·
  196. ppsigler wrote:

    Thank you! I loved every word. I believe the world of “self publishing” has made it way to easy for people to put trash out there. I know a girl that took the route of self publishing and now thinks she is hot stuff because she sold 12 books. Those 12 books were bought by relatives. I read some of these books, excerpts anyway, and the grammar alone made me want to scream. Her sentence structure was simplistic to say the least.

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  197. Ammatallah wrote:

    Reading to get uncomfortable and gain wisdom… I have never thought of books like that…
    I’ll take your word on it and try that the next time I come to choose a book at the bookstore.
    Thanks a lot! Awesome post 🙂

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  198. So much truth in what you say. I write & publish to my blog, not overly well or as articulate as you but because I enjoy the process and the discipline of sitting and writing and trying to engage. Surely there is space for someone like me too in this literary world, we can’t all be great or even good but we can try (as long as it comes from a place of genuine kindness).

    Really like your book suggestions too. I will certainly look them up.

    Great post btw 😄

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  199. platosgroove wrote:

    I write but I’m not a writer. I picked it up again because I had to. I used to be clever and serious and import but now I write. I write with crayons.

    I thought of the many brilliant musicians I know. Some of them are my now grown children. We have frequent conversations about how so few of them can make a living with their music yet they continue. One group, in their thirties now, I have know since they were in college. Brilliant artists musically and lyrically. They are rare people. They have remained faithful to their art but have also figured out ways to feed themselves. They play with symphonies which is most high brow. They play festivals and shows from time to time but a large part of their income is weddings. While they get $5-6K now for a wedding it was not always so. I remember giving them $300 for a four hour thing at my winery. I guess my point is that being good or even remarkable will not guarantee anything. I am so new to this blogging thing that it’s a bit comical. But I was thinking that if some mediocre blog or author or artist was garnering attention and money then they were doing something right. My friends want to play so whatever it takes is what they do. Weddings and trade shows and other things that seem cheezy and below them to promote their work. That seperates them from the tens of thousands of other brillant musicians who have been taking home that same $100 a night for years.

    An artist has to eat just like a janitor. Sometimes it may be the same person. My guess is that there are some menial tasks that must be done in this field similarly to the music business. Cause in the end it is not the public’s fault if they don’t know your work. They don’t owe the artist anything. The artist may have what they need but how would they know? It may be that it will take doing some of the cheezy stuff too attract the thousands so the artist can find the hundreds they are looking for.

    Anyway, that’s what I was thinking. I’m not a writer but I will write. I write with crayons. Be Groovy. Well to be truthful right now it’s a Samsung.

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  200. gweijie wrote:

    interesting

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  201. warluy wrote:

    Very thought provoking post. But if writing is only for those who write to your standards, more than ninety percent will have to make an exit! May be not a very good prospect. As someone said only after watching an insane, you use all your might to preserve sanity in you. It is true of all other human activities as well. Scores of people play tennis but only a handful to the standards you are referring to!

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  202. I have experienced a similar reaction while sitting in a darkened movie theater as the upcoming trailers roll, pondering, “How in the world could this film possibly get made? Not to mention the enormous amount of money spent in doing so.” Sorry to inform you Felicia something you have already discovered. The general population or “GP” as I dub them for short, likes mediocrity. As for the top ten lists? I am rendered speechless as they continue to headline fine publications and websites the world over.

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  203. As a blogger, I read a lot of online-only material, and I write some as well. Both clearly help each other improve. I wholeheartedly agree that there is much true crap out there. The bar is so low for entry that it might well be argued there is none. There’s also some wonderful work, and it’s a chore sorting the one from the other. I like to think of myself as somewhere between the depths and the heights, I enjoy it, some folks like reading at least some of it, and I stay far away from writing fiction. Fiction writing to me is like a box with keys and wires. No clue! Also no particular drive. Thanks for your interesting post – Greg

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  204. R.J. Koehn wrote:

    Good post, I understand your frustration, and once in a while I share it. I like dark elegant books as well, but in moderation. sometimes I just want a cozy mystery. I think it depends on why you read. You read to challenge yourself, grow, learn, and analyze an art form that you love. Some read solely for entertainment, or to find other people like them to reinforce their own beliefs and decisions. Then, there is all the plain crap out there. Like you said, some just want to expand their brand. We are loosing a little something when we don’t take the time to read, for a challenge, read for edification…

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  205. Looking back on my life, I know that I have always been a writer. This is not a choice. The words swirl in my head, form while I sleep, choke out rational thoughts. Worlds are built. Characters conceived. Lives lived. There is pain. Pain that I can only make real to you because it is real to me.

    I was not taught how to be a writer – though it is through careful consideration and study that I have been able to find my voice and style. No, I was born a writer. And regardless of whether or not I ever publish anything, I will one day die a writer.

    I love books that move me. I hate the superficial. The ones that do not develop characters or emotional conflicts. Some titles that I would recommend: Beautiful Children by Charles Bock, Dancing on the Edge by Han Nolan, The Map of True Place by Brunonia Barry and Chump Change by Dan Fante. Enjoy!

    Posted on 1.30.15 ·
  206. Some good opinions are shared here, but I think it’s a little hostile to label other people’s work crap. Whether your a writer or not, we all have our personal preferences when it comes to reading and writing. We either read it, or leave it. Some of us romanticize, some of us write with blunt and raw emotion. That is what makes the world of writing so diverse and so wonderful. No matter if you’re an established writer or not, keep putting it out there. Sooner or later you’ll appeal to a specific reader who’ll wholeheartedly appreciate your work, it’s all about individual taste. There are no real experts on what people will or won’t like. Nobody ever reviewed a piece of writing with ‘Wow, that was a grammatically beautiful piece of writing’. We all endeavour to seek a review that shouts ‘Oh my God, I love the way she tells a story’, even if the writer finds it hard to string a sentence together. The reason it feels like every Tom, Dick or Harry is writing, is because the population is ever growing and whereas there was a few hundred brilliant writers of the olden days, we have grown that number by thousands and also grown a wealth of readers to follow them. There will always be a market for crap, for as long as somebody enjoys that ever growing genre. Thanks for sharing and happy writing! 🙂

    Posted on 1.31.15 ·
  207. Qualah wrote:

    Tell it like it is! I often feel this way about modern day music. I write myself but my love is in lyrical content along with performance.
    It really makes my skin crawl when I hear these half written songs passing as a work of art on the radio and encourage impressionable children
    to become poor writers and performers, with no dignity in their crafts. Its a vicious cycle. Great Post!

    Posted on 1.31.15 ·
  208. I like this post…this rings true with me. 🙂 Creating a beautiful sentence is an art. Sometimes, though, people just like to read things they want to hear. That’s when they claim to like it. But the crafting of beautiful prose…that will always be a mystery.

    Posted on 2.1.15 ·
  209. “Writers don’t want to write…they have to write”. Try as I do to not write, to justify that nothing I ever do will amount to much anyway, the not doing of it causes too much pain. Like being constipated on New Year’s Eve. So I write from some place beyond and just let that energy flow thru me. I am moved sometimes wondering from whence it comes and blessed that I allow that endless energy to flow thru. Keep digging through the shit – it is in their that beauty will be found – bug infested, nose offending, disease ridden beauty.

    Posted on 2.1.15 ·
  210. About the book in the POV of a sociopath… does sound interesting, but wouldn’t it be better to read one that really was written by a sociopath? “The curious incident of the dog in the night-time” sees to divide people on whether it’s a convincing portrayal of a kind of autism… perhaps a book genuinely written by someone with autism? No intervening interpretation of an author, no room for misapprehension, the real deal!

    Posted on 2.1.15 ·
  211. cookinmum wrote:

    Reading your article was like finally taking a deep breath after an endless long exhale. Thank you

    Posted on 2.3.15 ·
  212. I basically agree with your observations (do I dare mention 50 Shades of Grey?).

    However, I wonder about this one: you’re either an artisan of language or you’re not.

    Are you saying that writing cannot be taught? That the time I spent in writers’ centers and workshops was a waste? That the MFA is pointless? Most published new writers these days have an MFA.

    If what you are saying is true, then most of us (myself included) should give up now.

    Posted on 2.3.15 ·
  213. You have made a beautiful statement about the writers, or any who think they can call themselves that. I very much admire you for it.

    Posted on 2.3.15 ·
  214. meeahmi wrote:

    I wish I could reboot this a million times!

    Posted on 2.3.15 ·
  215. I’ve been writing short stories since my teens and I love doing it, it’s something I know I need to do. It was something just for me to begin with but I’m planning on taking it a little further but I haven’t due to doubt and people putting my life choices down. But, I’m struggling to pick a story. I have so many rolling around in my head. Do you have any advice? I’d be most appreciative. X

    Posted on 2.3.15 ·
  216. Absolutely spot on! It only makes me want to write more. I just don’t ever have the motivation to carry through! I’m super critical of myself, like you said you were. :/

    Posted on 2.4.15 ·
  217. Preaching to the choir, honey. I can relate to all that you say, and would only add that those feelings you express are multiplied if you also teach writing and literature. Now that I’m retired–far too early, thank you, thanks to several diss-abilities (misspelled purposely)–I truly miss teaching, but not the petty squabbles and administrative bs that assumes that anyone who SPEAKS English can also teach it. Good teachers make teaching look easy; good writers do the same. And those of us who try for perfection in either area, knowing in our hearts that we’ll never achieve it, nevertheless batter our skulls on the empty rocks trying to open them to knowledge and understanding. Not fill them, mind, but just make it possible for them to discover whatever meaning there may be in this dark, twisted wormhole. But, it MUST be easy, since any asshat with a keyboard and enough money can win fame and more fortune. So, why do we write? Perhaps, so that we can read something profound or dark or funny or all three at once? . . . Love your writing btw.

    Posted on 2.5.15 ·
  218. Some of the journalist of today have no clue about what they are or are not to do to save the graces of the profession that the claim to hold so close.

    Posted on 2.6.15 ·
  219. Alyana wrote:

    Great piece!!

    Posted on 2.6.15 ·
  220. As someone who has been a vociferous critic of “list journalism,” I was reading this nodding my head the entire time. Keep torching that shit and reveling in your own voice.

    Posted on 2.6.15 ·
  221. this is superb writing!

    Posted on 2.8.15 ·

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  • Do the thing that chills you down to the bone. I keep saying this like it’s a sermon, a song, and it’s taken me to places I couldn’t have ever imagined.
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I moved to Los Angeles nearly three years because I need to get lost, uncomfortably so, so I could find myself, scrubbed and renewed. And these three years have been some of the hardest I’ve known, but also humbling, exhilarating, and clarifying. In my search for quiet and calm, I could finally hear myself. And when you hear, you start to listen to what you want versus what the world tells you to want. And that’s when the magic happens.
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This year, I made a point of serving women and the marginalized. I got tired of making white men richer; the rest of us deserve the sky too. And in that work, I got further clarity on what else I wanted. I wanted to work with women my age to help them define their second acts. Moving from success to significance, now that we’re more conscious of the fact that we have fewer years ahead of us. Morbid, I know, but recognizing time as the most valuable thing we have has a way of making us surgical about our wants.
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Today, I closed on a project with a peer and good friend. She’s a successful entrepreneur who wanted to reshape her business to be more of a purpose-driven one. I feel humbled that she trusted me with her vulnerability. She told me she was buying clarity and perspective. I gave her that and a framework. Before I left, she hugged me and told me she had a plan. That the road ahead was clear, structured and achievable. And damn that felt good.
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I’m in a Lyft on the 101 and I feel good. Strong. Confident. Sometimes I hate that I’m in my 40s, but it’s times like these when I’m grateful for the years. I’ve been through it all and I have perspective, knowledge, experience, and the kind of calm age breeds. I can’t even imagine what I’ll know in 10 years, 20
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And it feels really fucking good to lift another woman up.
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  • Four years ago, when this photo was taken, I attempted a return to my yoga practice. I practiced every nearly every day from 2001-2009, but then I stopped. When I tried again in 2014, I was ready to reassume the shapes I knew, physically, but I wasn’t prepared for how this practice changes you if you allow it. The practice makes you a humble student. It’s not about the asana. It’s about your work off the mat.
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My teacher once told me the mark of an advanced practitioner is not the yogi kicking up into handstand. That’s ego. Rather, it’s the yogi who goes to a basics class to relearn the poses as if she’s encountered them for the first time. That’s the practice. The work.
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At 42, this is the work I try to do every single day.
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  • Do the thing that chills you down to the bone. I’ve been thinking about time a lot, as well as ambition.
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When I was young, I was hungry. I was aggressive and relentlessly ambitious to the point of being myopic. I had to prove something to the world, myself, perhaps my mother, and I needed to collect these totems or the signifiers of success.
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But there comes a point when you shift from desiring success to significance. The shift is imperceptible, but it happens because you start to be aware of time and the fact that you have fewer years ahead than behind. That realization is potent and frightening because death takes it all, strips us of ourselves and we return to that from which we’ve come. We can’t cart along our trophies and bank accounts and handbags to the afterlife. Those things have been reduced to dust and they no longer have any meaning.
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You start thinking about time and its value. Am I squandering it? Investing in it? Living it? Breathing through it.
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I’m frightened of death and the irony that I wanted to take my own life two years ago doesn’t escape me. I don’t have faith that could hold my hand and guide me through and out of the dark. I simply believe there’s nothing and this life is the one true thing I know of.
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Suddenly success morphs into significance because you start to do the math and wonder what you’ve done in this one beautiful life that will leave its mark. Maybe we’ll all be forgotten. Maybe we’ll leave indelible prints that linger. I don’t know.
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What I do know is that the definition of success is elusive. Just when you think you have it, it changes form. And the things I wanted five, ten years ago aren’t that which I desire now. There’s want, but it’s a different kind of want. There’s the want of designing a life that’s conscious, graceful, impactful, curiosity-driven, and remarkable.
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I sat down with a peer today and she trusted me as a marketer, and as someone at her level who could lend perspective. She has the tools, it’s just a matter of me being her guide and telling her that she alone can grant herself permission to shift her business and change her life.
  • When you’re trying to get WORK done and your pet is back on their bullshit.
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Who has a little one (pet, baby, cactus) they play with during the day to keep sane?
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  • My mother had died a year ago and this wasn’t about her. My pain exceeded her. I was in new terrain — a dark country to which I’d emigrated yet it was foreign to me. This wasn’t like the darkness of before, this was a fresh hurt. A ground that had given way beneath my feet and the fall felt bottomless. There existed no end to it. There was only the enormity of the hurt and its persistence. I woke to it. I carried the weight of it. I fell asleep to it. Even now I couldn’t meet my friend in the day because the light had become an assault.
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You don’t understand, I said. This is constant. Again with the blank stare. The discomfort and confusion. I had created a ripple, a disturbance in one place. I was no longer the fun friend who cracked jokes and entertained her for years. I had become something other.
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All I wanted was for her, for anyone, to say: I love you. I’m here for you. Tell me, what can I do?
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Have you thought about going back to yoga? she asked, signaling for the check. This is just a slump. You’ll snap out of it. You’ll see.
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It was if a curtain had fallen over our table and the room had gone black.
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I wrote about depression. HIT THE LINK IN PROFILE AND CLAP YOUR HEART OUT.
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  • ‪BIG NEWS. I’m piloting a 6-week group coaching course that covers how to validate your business concept and model, build your brand (story, positioning, benefits, message, voice and tone) and find/connect with your ideal customer.
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While there's a lot of garbage and woo phonies out there, I'm serving up the real deal. Who am I? I've published two books, built a $20MM company, and have worked with world-class brands and brilliant start-ups. I know how to tell stories.
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  • What a magical, yummy time at @smorgasburgla. The vibe is SO different from NY. Fewer chef personalities. More home cooks and small businesses. Incredible ethnic food and such a cool energy all around.
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  • Part of being a consultant is self-care. Now this isn’t about fancy candles and spending piles of money. This is about managing stress, anxiety, and the crippling self doubt we feel when we go at it alone.
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My self-care is all about meditation, medication, yoga, walking to clear my head and get the creative juices flowing, not taking on crazy clients, saying no, having me time and doing the thing that gives me calm—cook.
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For years I published a food blog, lovelifeeat.com where I documented thousands of dishes I made, baked, and ate.
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What’s your self-care regimen?
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