Saturday, April 25, 2009
Who in the name of sanity would be a writer
One of the paradoxes of our time is that the world is full of people who want to be fiction authors but fewer and fewer people want to read stories. Jim Baen always used to point out that he worked in a dyeing industry.
To take the first point first, so to speak. What are the motivations of the would-be author? Is it money? We have all read about the vast fortunes paid to JK Rowling and Dan Brown but these people are the literary equivalent of lottery winners. It ain’t going to happen to me, you, or anyone we know anytime soon. I probably earn less than minimum wage for my writing.
Another carrot is the prospect of status. Authors are respected intellectuals, aren’t they? Well no, actually they aren’t. I have lost track of the number of people who look condescendingly on my work. It is not literary so it must be worthless. A chap who writes a novel consisting of the word ‘crap’ tastefully arranged in patterns on each page is an arteeste. The rest of us are hacks. As a BBC producer told me, ‘anyone can write fantasy because it’s easy’. He went on to explain that I should write comedy about three generations of women who live together without men. This was the current fashionable BBC sitcom. It disappeared without trace shortly afterwards. This talentless, Oxbridge, twit (bitter? moi?) went on to reach the very highest levels of the BBC. Who said the Old Boy Network is dead. So my advice is to forget status. You won’t get any as an author. I guess you have heard about the starlet that was so stupid that she slept with the writer.
How about fame? Forget it. Performers become famous for their beauty or style, even occasionally for their wit, but writers – never! Yes, yes, JK Rowling is famous but she won the lottery.
So why do it? The only answer I can give is that I love to tell stories. If I make a few bob as well then that is all to the good but the real kick is when I entertain someone and give them pleasure.