Tag Archives: economics

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

I finished reading A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut a couple of days ago and found it a little disappointing. The book felt like Kurt dropped a box of post-it notes at my feet and said “well, I’m out to lunch.” Being the observant reader, I was able to take home a few nuggets of value away from the text though. First and foremost is his quote about the arts. This has been circling social media outlets for some time but I enjoy repeating it.

If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding [his way of making sure the reader knows he’s not being sarcastic from earlier in the book]. The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.  (p. 24, Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York)

How can I argue with that? It dovetails into my quote from watching Press.Pause.Play. The arts aren’t about money, anyway. Really. Sure, we’d all like to roll around on a bed full of money a la Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal, but how many of us will really cash in on that? How many of us have the real support of the people around us and others who know how to make stuff happen for writers, actors, comedians, etc.? We can’t all be professional writers. We all can’t be baseball players. We all can’t be Hollywood-types.

There’s just too many of us, and some of us have friends in very high places. It’s a game to some, but not me. It’s only a game when you make it about money. At this point in my minute existence, all I want is to leave something behind much like a slug that leaves a trail over a sidewalk. You may get the same sense of discomfort or disgust while reading my work, too. Good on you.

The current book I’m reading is Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin, and he would say it’s not a matter of technical ability or money. To him, it’s a matter of creating an idea to circulate material to as many people as possible. This kinetic, wide-eyed thinking is the amusement I miss in my economics classes back in the day. It totally misses the point, the one I just told you in the last paragraph. This is not to be confused with an “it’ll sell itself” attitude, because that’s not what’s being discussed.

Vonnegut also spoke of how he was regarded at English departments. “Critics feel,” he writes, “that a person cannot be a serious artist and also have a technical education, which I had.” (p.15) This is very meaningful to me, as I’ve found myself in the same boat. What I have to ask myself is “do I want to be recognized as a ‘serious artist’?” It’s a legit question, and I suppose I couldn’t say at this point. Maybe if I were younger I’d be gung-ho about the idea. Now, I’m not so sure.

At any rate, I’m still here. I’m still breathing, writing, and working. Maybe someday I can look back and laugh at this? I certainly hope so, because it’s pretty damned depressing.

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The Writing You Already Knew

Writing’s a tough job, and a job that must be worked on even when no one seems to notice. What I find interesting is anyone hearing that statement doesn’t question it, but I still see many out there who act as if writing’s a cakewalk. It’s the old phrase “in one ear, and out the other.” There are, notably, some bibliophiles who have acquired a love of writing. I have a lot of respect for them, as they read faster and have a knowledge base multiple times that of my own. They aren’t the majority of people though. You know it, and I know it.

My point is two-fold: it’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock and roll, and people generally need to be told what to like. The latter upsets me to no end, but I observe it on such a daily basis, it becomes the dead elephant in the living room. I’m not sure if it’s mostly due to availability, as there are volumes and volumes of literature available at anyone’s fingertips, or that people are so focused in their own sphere of living they simply can’t process the concept fully.

I recall a conversation with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. We were discussing writing and the accessibility to wide audiences. What does it take to connect with many, many people? He is of the opinion the right structure opens a clear channel of communication and allows more people to fully understand it. I agree to an extent. If I started to write in a brand new alphabet and phrases, then very few would read it. They don’t understand it, and therefore abandon it. Yes, it’s slovenly, but nothing is there to motivate them otherwise.

I’m of the opinion, though, that it can be complete elitist garbage and still be popular. I have not changed my opinion about James Joyce, ever since I continued my reading of Ulysses. This is supposedly one of the greatest books of all time, but it’s too ciphered. It’s a horrible read and a disservice to the audience. Yet it’s wonderful? Bullshit. Too many people/critics have told their friends it was a great book, read way too much into it, and voila! Successful piece of literature.

This is why I refuse to read anything by J. K. Rowling. Her snowball has rolled, and I’m not big on the young adult section anyway. There are a ton of better experiences left, but are flooded out by the bandwagon. I often feel like a miner panning for gems.

Instead of this being a bunch of sour notes in a musical score, I’d merely like to say this: if you are reading this and feel like you’re passed over, then don’t stop. Don’t stop, even when you feel like you’re writing the worst literature on the face of the planet. Don’t stop when you’re met with silence for the next twenty years, because I will tell you people are thick headed. It may take twenty years for people to catch up with you. Not everything can be a home run, and that goes for every writer. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is stop, as time will pass whether you create or not.

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