How I Feel About People Who Discourage Writing

There will be bad language. Emotive subject.

When I’m trying to find interesting pieces to read, I’ll search through WordPress’s categories and tags. Often, I find some very inspiring, well-written and enjoyable posts. But yesterday, I read something that made me want to throw my dog through the computer screen. And I don’t even own a dog.

Writing is a beautiful thing and should be encouraged. You might hate E.L. James, but at least she thought ‘Hang on, I have an urge to write a Twilight-inspired trilogy about bondage and asshole fingering,’ and she did it. So when you see the sunburnt Brits, sitting around a pool at the all-inclusive in Tenerife, thumbing through their dog-eared copies of Fifty Shades, this is a good thing. Why? Because people are reading. And reading is good. Unless it’s the Daily Mail, of course.

It irks me when I stumble across articles discouraging people from writing, which is what I found yesterday. I then delved a little deeper and was saddened to find these articles are quite common.

So here’s my response to some of them.

I am not in the process of naming and shaming. That crap is for the tabloids. I will, however, quote from the articles.

Here goes…  

“Writing a novel is really, really difficult and you shouldn’t do it. Even now, you’ve read that sentence, which I’m sure you’ve heard before, and you’re thinking you know it’s hard, but you can do it. You don’t get it: it’s REALLY, REALLY difficult.”  

Oh really? I thought writing that 80k word tome would be a doddle. You mean to tell me it’s going to take effort? Heaven forbid! Where’s my butler? Jeeves! Cut these sprouts right now. I can’t do it on my own.  

“A book will not give you direction in life. A book is something you write in order to get you to where you’re going. If you have nowhere to go, a book will insure that you stay where you are: Lost.”  

This is absolute fucking bullshit. Also, it doesn’t make sense. Writing is an introspective art. You learn so much about yourself when you do it. I often write a post, unsure of my opinion on the subject matter (not this one, btw!), and by the end of the post I am clear about how I feel. Ordering words gives form to your thoughts. I genuinely believe that the mental wellbeing of many people would of higher quality if art was encouraged more. Brains are weird, fucked up things. Let’s use ‘em. And it should be ‘ensure’, not ‘insure.’ You fucking idiot.    

“There are too many novels and too many people writing them. Not only do those already written continue to exist and demand to be eternally read, but thousands more entirely new novels keep appearing in publishers’ catalogs and in bookshops around the world; then there are the many thousands rejected by publishers that never reach the bookshops, but which nonetheless exist. It is, then, a commonplace activity, one that is, in theory, within the grasp of anyone who learned to write at school, and for which no higher education or special training is required.”  

Fine. You’ve got me. I am going to quit writing my novel because some other people wrote some books once and ‘no higher education or special training is required.’ I feel a little sorry for the ‘author’ in this case. He or she has clearly given up on life. I used to have a friend like that. He said ‘There’s no point having an idea because someone, somewhere has already thought of it.’ He’s single, bitter, drinks too much booze, smokes too much weed, has questionable personal hygiene, lives with a lot of cats and hasn’t been laid in a long time. We are no longer friends, although I am sure that is the least of his concerns. If anyone wants a hook-up from that dating profile, I think I still have his number somewhere.  

Most people cannot write well. This is a fact. This is something that is true. This is a hard thing to accept. Most people cannot write well, and that includes you, and what we can conclude from this is the person we are talking about here who cannot write well is, in all likelihood, you.”  

You know who ‘cannot write well’? You, motherfucker. ‘This is a fact. This is something that is true.’ Oh really? Is that what a ‘fact’ is? Thanks for clarifying, you utter dick. But perhaps I shouldn’t judge whether they can write well; I kick off far too many sentences with the word ‘and’.

And anyway, I could go on, but I will – I must – end it there. I’m just getting plain irritated now. Unconstructive.

My point is: If you want to write, then write.

You’ll find most of the people who penned the above nuggets of stupidity have had their dreams shattered. I can understand it. Like people who’ve had a bad breakup don’t want anyone else to fall in love. But really, it’s just themselves that they harm. What are you gaining by discouraging a bunch of people from writing?

It seems like a passive form of bullying, and for someone who dealt with enough of that shit at school, I will not take it as an adult.

You had a bad time writing your novel? Boo hoo. Get over it. Write another one or shut the fuck up.

Of course it’s hard and of course it’s lonely, but the rewards far outweigh the negative aspects.

The world is full of people telling you that you can’t do things. It doesn’t need more.

These days, when someone says ‘You can’t do that,’ my response tends to be ‘Fuck you, watch me.’

I went to a talk on music a year or so back, from seminal composer David Arnold. He wrote the scores to Independence Day, Stargate and Casino Royale (amongst others). Really lovely, humble, inspiring chap. Also, great beard. He said the best advice he ever received was from Billy Bragg. ‘Once you realise you’re not going to play Wembley Stadium, everything becomes far easier,’ Bragg said.

Or course, David Arnold he did play Wembley a few years later in some sort of Bond music night. So might you.

54 comments

  1. This was an inspiring article, Jack. It left me with mixed feelings that I’m not sure I’d be able to fully express in a comment (but I’ll try). Mostly, I agree with you. The excerpts you posted of the article that you read sounded like words from a frustrated author that wrote a book, sold exactly 3 copies (Mom, Uncle Morty some guy from the Netherlands) and is now trying to stem the tide of amateur writers who flood the market with Indie publishing. “Stop writing your own work! My awesome novel is getting lost in the mix!”
    Professional writing is not an exclusive club who’s membership is determined by current club members. Some disgruntled author does not get to decide whether I delve into the realm of writing, nor does he have the privilege of determining my talent. I think there are a great deal of talented novice writers out there that need encouragement to develop their skills (I want to believe I am part of that group).
    My dissension comes from the frequent blog reading I do. You might agree that there are multitudes of bloggers who write prolifically but show signs of little talent. I would be ok with that if those folks were doing it just for fun (and many are), but many are also living in the illusion that they are masterful writers with that first novel just around the corner. These people receive, perhaps out of politeness from so many other bloggers, high praise for their mediocre work, which only perpetuates the illusion. I think it is a disservice to those who don’t write well to constantly heap unwarranted praise upon them without at least countering that with helpful, constructive criticism.
    Yes, the article you posted was harsh and rude and just flat out wrong. But encouragement should come not only in the form of praise for good work, but also helpful hints, critique and pointers from those who are established professionals.
    Whew! Sorry, that was so long. Brevity has always been my weakness. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Christ! Your comment was almost as long as my post. King would be proud!
      Now, while I agree to some extent that praise should not be given out for the sake of politeness, I also believe that it should be the readers who judge the author, not his or her peers.
      Take Dan Brown, for example. I fucking hate his prose. Hate it. Whenever I get a little down about my novel, I wander into a bookshop and read a page or two of The DaVinci Code to restore a little self-belief. Works wonders. However, he must be doing something right – a simple plot that appears twisty to flatter the reader, I think, which in itself is a skill. And there are millions of people who think he’s great. What makes my opinion any more valid than theirs? I guess what I’m trying to say is that in the end, we will be judged by whoever reads our writing and we will only get there by actually writing in the first place. The scattergun approach these failed writers have of dissuading new, aspiring writers is what I really have a problem with. Furthermore, fellow writers only make up a small proportion of the potential readership, so their opinion should not be given extra weight just because ‘they know what good writing is.’ And does anyone know what good writing is? Surely it’s subjective. If I like something, I therefore think it is good. Apart from the film White Chicks. I like that and I know full well that it’s shit.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Renowned author Dan Brown looked wistfully from his Asus 1005-HA Netbook PC out the window of his double-glazed Chelsea apartment window. Jack J Binding’s criticism of his otherwise well-received tome still shone white-on-block on the screen in front of his head, which he still saw, unwavering in his periphery.

        “Despite my success,” he mused, audibly, “am I actually a terrible writer?”

        The eminent word-mage clutched his IBM mouse in his quivering right hand: “Am I not respected?” he asked, questioningly.

        “I’ll show Jack J Binding…” he groused, curmudgeoningly. “Wait until he reads my DaVinci Code reboot: The Michelangelo Cipher!”

        He bellowed laughingly, the warm proud air from his lungs sending the notes of money on his desk wafting out of his window onto the streets of SW3.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I’m in complete agreement with everything you’ve just said (although I enjoy Dan Brown’s books. Fun reading for me.) I think you’ve really hit the heart of the matter. If we view writing from a Capitalistic perspective, then it’s the free market that decides the value of any product. Critics (or any of us) may like or dislike something, but if a story sells, there must be something there of value even if we don’t see it. (My personal pet peeve is my Arizona neighbor Stephanie Meyer. Ugh.) The more I thought about what that author said (the excerpts you posted) the angrier I got. I wrote three quarters of an article about it myself before I felt better…lol. In any case, I loved what you wrote and I’m glad you took the time to share it. Well done.

        Like

      3. Exactly! Although each quote there came from a different article. I didn’t want to just got for one person when there were many more like him or her.
        Never read any Stephanie Meyer, but pretty sure I’m not down with the notion of sparkly vampires.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Bravo! Nothing more irritating than a self-appointed arbiter, who would keep all of us proles on the other side of the velvet rope. For our own good, of course. Following the logic of the excerpts you posted, nothing creative is ultimately worthwhile.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Thx Jackbinding – I was just sat feeling gloomy after someone said they didn’t get my story. I am now going to pick myself off literary floor and crack on 🙂

        Like

  3. Hope you got a chance to see David Arnold’s concert at the Barbican on Thursday, it was amazing 🙂 I also agree that writing is a great way of sorting out my thoughts on a topic.

    Sorry if you receive multiples of this comment, nothing happened when I pressed ‘Post Comment’ the first time(s) so I am in that awkward limbo of not knowing if any have made it through, but also worried that they may have arrived in triplicate 😉

    Like

  4. Great read. The part about ‘no higher education or special training is required’ was the one that really irked me. If you write interesting stories, readers don’t care where you got your degree from or what your day job is. They came for a good book.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi dude, thanks for the follow. If you ever want more rage on this subject, read David Eddings ‘The Rivan Codex.’ He spends the entire first part of the book discouraging other writers – mainly because he didn’t want competition in the fantasy marketplace. I love his stories, but my god, the man was an arse.

    Like

  6. Effing love. ❤ ❤

    Found a fellow on Twitter souring about because a lady encourages writers and has "only" self-pubbed her own… She has no training, no letters after her name, no critical acclaim, no sales, so how dare she become a "poser" in imply that she knows anything about writing?! But that's the things: schooling isn't required to write. Training helps, understanding the form helps, of course, but what helps most? Writing. And then putting it out there, eating the critics's words, and then writing some more. Writing to spite the nay-nay-ers.

    I have to write. I have always written. When I've not been writing fiction, I've written letters – scads and scads, sometimes 50 or more a month. Poems, a stringing together of words in the margins of my daily to do lists, because it orders my brain, it balances my topsy. I am now looking for publishing because it seemed a shame to leave that stack of notebooks and ideas hidden away. Fame will never be mine (I'm going to feel J.R.R.{bloody} Tolkien if I ever reach 20K a year). Chasing the dream can be heart breaking, discouraging, and a bit like asking the world to point out your faults. (Expected response: "Thank you, sir, may I have another?") It may be all these things, but it's effing glorious. (Please excuse the typos, grammatical errors, etc; I don't travel the internet with my editor.)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Brilliant! Finally someone talking some sense. I one hundred percent agree with you on this given subject. People should encourage others to do what they love no matter what it is. Motto: if it makes you happy, go for it. Unfortunately there are many narrow minded people around however, it being the 21st century, you’d have thought that would’ve changed. I encourage and support everyone who is attempting a writing blog like yours, it allows you to escape from reality for a while and be who you are. Big support from my half.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. While I do agree with your premise in general, no one should be discouraged from writing.

    I think the point in the one piece is that writing well does take special training. You can get that a lot of ways (like sitting down with a pen and paper, writing, re-reading, editing and getting feedback) besides formal education, but I think they want people to understand it’s not about publishing a first draft. And before you say it, you’d be shocked how many people undervalue the editing and drafting process.

    Like

    1. What constitutes ‘writing well’ is entirely subjective. Writing is not some exclusive club that only people who have attained a certain level of arbitrary competence should be allowed to join. The people who wrote the articles struck me as bullies who were trying to pass on their disillusionment from lack of success – and how do you even define ‘success’?- to those who aspire to write. Kind of like a failed gardener sprinkling weed killer on the shrubs in their neighbouring gardens.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I am so surprised someone had the gall to write that spew. I am not sure why I was surprised because I put a cardboard poster on my blog to demonstrate against people who discouraged fellow bloggers from expressing themselves freely. I think I like the idea of people spewing openly because I can remove them from Reader. I don’t live in the US but after last weekend, I was able to do a thorough cleanup. A bit off topic, but you get where I’m going with this. They come in all flavours.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. On the contrary, you’d be surprised at how many writers and artists suck up to those types. “OMG, I feel so guilty.” It’s just sick. I hope you’re having a great day, Jack.

        Like

  10. First, thanks for the follow. That act in itself is highly encouraging. Second, I love your post. So true that writing is truly subjective, just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To tell someone to stop writing is to say to someone to stop feeling. Anyone who has the urge to write, regardless of his or her ability to structure sentences or spell correctly, has something to express. As for the number of likes on a piece that someone thinks is mediocre, how can one know how that piece may have affected those people. Who knows if they’re sincere or not. Who cares, unless one is being judgmental out of envy. I suggest we stop comparing ourselves with others and concentrate on perfecting our craft in our own terms. I may say drivel, but someone may say terrific; we can be our own worst critics too. So, thanks for being encouraging, Jack. One last thing, you’re pretty funny when you rant.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. On niin ikäänhuomioon vain , kuinka paljon henkilökohtaista ja taloudellisia yksityiskohtia olet
    toimittaa , kun talletat rahaapokeri verkkosivuilla .

    Like

  12. Hey, Jack! Thank you for following my blog. I’m doubly delighted. In the first place, it’s always great when someone takes the time and trouble to read my posts, even better when they like them enough to follow my blog. Secondly, after reading your post, I’m very much hoping the fact you are following it means you think I should be writing 🙂
    You are so right to rant about the subject. No-one has the right to discourage writers from having a go. If they don’t want to read what writers write, no-one is making them. Move along, I say. Make way for folks who do want to read it.
    Yes, there may well be badly written books out there, but, hey, so what. If it makes someone happy to write them, leave them be. Just don’t buy that author’s books again if you don’t like them.
    I have published five novels and one of the things that keeps me writing is the letters and emails I get asking for the next book.
    Happy writing, Jack.

    Like

    1. Yes, I do. You have a nice flowing, conversational style. I like the stream of consciousness thing. Good luck with the writing. Not that you need me to tell you that – I’m no critic or publisher!

      Like

  13. Writing for readers is not easy, its a craft, but everyone who wants to do it should do it, and no one should ask anyone not to. Commercial success and writing proficiency are not the same thing. Like in movies, where blockbusters make more money than indie /well filmed productions, some authors are successful not by their prose, but because most people read what other people are reading and there’s nothing wrong with that. Good article Jack.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. i couldn’t agree more, i only started writing when i started living alone in a new country and wasn’t afraid of voicing my thoughts and what people think. im not a writer but that doesn’t mean i can’t write 🙂 good one on u for standing up to the bullies!

    Like

  15. Reblogged this on The Worlds Inside Our Minds and commented:
    I echo the author when he says “When people tell me I can’t, I say Fuck off, watch me!” I hate defeatism of any type, but when it comes to writing and reading books, it makes me livid. Just because you’ve failed at something doesn’t give you the right to discourage others who may succeed brilliantly. The article below states things with passion and intelligence. What a wonderful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Amen. And, just for the hell of it, Amen again. What right do all those idiots out there have to tell you not to do something you enjoy doing? No one is forcing them to read anything that you DO write, so fuck ’em. And if they do read it and don’t like it then fuck ’em again. someone else will like it, and even if they don’t then it doesn’t matter because at the end of the day writers write for themselves, not anonymous strangers. If you want to write then write, and that’s all there is to it. Great article, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. One of my problems is I listen to people too much. I tend to be around “Those People” – you know the ones, well wishing family members who want you to take on a viable career so they tell you to not focus on writing and focus on the “more important” aspects of life such as your job or getting the ever-elusive college degree. But I don’t know…something about that just never sat well with me. It’s like your basically telling me that my writing, music, or whatever else I might have a huge passion for isn’t important as the other things. And you know what? It gets old after a while hearing that all of that isn’t “as important”, or “won’t pay the bills” so it shouldn’t be a focus.

    Or whatever. I think I’m just rambling at this point.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s