…of Exhaustion, Frustration, and Some Other Word That Ends In “-tion.”
Friday night, I was told by an author I’d never heard of that her ultimate goals when she began writing were to see her book in a bookstore and to sell a lot of books. She further informed me that because her book had found an agent and a publisher and was now sitting in a bookstore that it was a “real” book. My book, not falling into that category, is – naturally – not “real.”
I wanted to tell her that my ultimate goal when I began writing was to write a good book. An awesome book. A book that, when people read it, they’d say, “I have felt exactly this way before! I thought I was the only one!” Or, “I stayed up all night reading this, even though I had to go to work early in the morning.” I might have even wanted it to make people cry, to make them think about things in a way they’d never done before, or to look at people in a way they’d never done before. I wanted to point her in the direction of postive reviews I’ve received, and send her copies of emails I’ve gotten from readers, stating that my book had accomplished exactly those things. I wanted to send her the link to this post, affirming that my book is, indeed, a real book. Then I Googled her name and learned about her book. That’s when I wanted to tell her that the only reason an agent had picked it up and had been able to sell it to a publisher is because it’s a cookie cutter of about 1000 other books already out there, which means it’s not considered a risk. I also wanted to tell her to stuff it (okay, I wanted to tell her to fuck off).
But I didn’t say any of those things. Partly because the conversation took place in a chatbox and the comments were going by too quickly to engage her. It was also partly because it isn’t seemly for a co-host to tell a chatbox visitor, however rude she is, to fuck off. But mostly it’s because it wouldn’t have changed her mind one bit. Not the ‘fuck off’ part, obviously, but also not the “this is why my book is real” part.
Here’s the thing. I don’t understand how a writer’s main goal can be to sell a lot of books. The concept of licking your creative finger and holding it out to see which way the market’s wind is blowing is foreign to me. I look at that kind of writer as a sell out. I think the books that kind of writer produces are hackneyed and soulless. I think that the number of books found in bookstores that fall under this category grows exponentially each year. And it drives me fucking crazy, as both a writer and a reader, that marketablity too often trumps quality and originality.
But I would never stand before you and say that those books aren’t ‘real’, or that the minds that produced them don’t belong to ‘real’ writers. I respect the creative process too much for that, as I do the hearts and minds of the readers who forked over their hard-earned money for those books. It would be nice to get the same courtesy from that kind of writer. I don’t see it happening any time soon, but it would be nice.