Stop The Presses: Writing Careers are Difficult

February 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

Novelist and memoirist Dani Shapiro has an interesting take on aspiring writers (and how the younger among us may hold false expectations) in an LA Times essay, A Writing Career Becomes Harder to Scale.

Her argument is linked to the idea that large publishers have no time for or interest in mid-list writers any more, though frankly we think that argument is getting fairly old. Great new presses like Dzanc and Rose Metal are picking up the slack  and newer presses seem to pop up every week (albeit, with limited money for advances.)

So, is it harder now?  We’ll let Shapiro have her say:

The 5,000 students graduating each year from creative writing programs (not to mention the thousands more who attend literary festivals and conferences) do not include insecurity, rejection and disappointment in their plans. I see it in their faces: the almost evangelical belief in the possibility of the instant score. And why not? They are, after all, the product of a moment that doesn’t reward persistence, that doesn’t see the value in delaying recognition, that doesn’t trust in the process but only the outcome. As an acquaintance recently said to me: “So many crappy novels get published. Why not mine?”

The emphasis is on publishing, not on creating. On being a writer, not on writing itself. The publishing industry — always the nerdy distant cousin of the rest of media — has the same blockbuster-or-bust mentality of television networks and movie studios. There now exist only two possibilities: immediate and large-scale success, or none at all. There is no time to write in the cold, much less for 10 years.

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