The Most Professional Guys In The Room Dept.


Somewhere along the way — I don't know exactly where, between time and Timbuktu, I guess — I picked up the idea that "real" writers don't post moment-by-moment progress reports on their work. They just write the damn things and deliver them to their readers when they're done.

One result of this has been, in the past, a feeling of low-level annoyance, like an itch in a place not easily scratched, whenever I encountered another writer posting word counts or what have you. It felt less to me like professionalism and more like a hey-look-at-me kind of attention-getting, a hallmark of amateurism.

In theory, attention-getting for authors that are self-promoting is not a bad thing. It helps to keep up a rapport with one's audience, and to give the readers the feeling something is happening over there in Keysmacksville. But it bugged me all the same, because it just seemed to me like another exhibit for the prosecution that the author in question was in the minor leagues. Real authors didn't need to post status updates. They just delivered the goods.

Feelings like this do no one any good. Me least of all, since I knew full well I was a minor-leaguer and it did me no favors to pretend I wasn't. If I did have them, the best thing to do would be to own up to such feelings and then promptly shelve them, like an unappetizing microwave dinner tossed back into the rear of the freezer.

The psychological fossil record's a little unclear on when I started working on weaning myself of these feelings, but they were definitely more prominent back in the days before I really threw myself headlong into my writing career — around 2005 or so. (What a difference a decade makes...) Once I started making writing that much more a central part of my creative life, I became more forgiving of how other people made it into theirs. Or maybe better to say I took note of my feelings and taught myself not to give them any more credence than they deserved.

The further I dug into this, the more I saw it was the product of two contrasting models for how creators work. First is the creator as technician mode, where posting word counts and being openly industrious are good things, since they teach others that in the end it really does all come down to parking one's butt in a chair and producing verbiage.

The other is the creator as magician mode, where the creator goes into a room, closes the door, and emerges some indeterminate amount of time later with a Finished Product. The net effect of such a model is mystification — a kind of monopoly power over the creative process, where you jealously guard all the secrets as to how you got to where you are. If someone else isn't going to expend the effort to figure it out on their own, the hell with them; the world has enough writers as it is, and most of them are terrible anyway.

Elitist as this second model is, it's one I subscribed to myself for a long time, since I believed — without a shred of proof to back it up — that any self-respecting writer worth their salt would believe that too. Why wouldn't they want to defend the sanctity of a profession that has been denatured by so much amateurish trash? But when you're on the outside looking in, you can invent any narrative you like about how things are "supposed" to work, and once you do it becomes very hard to tear them down and replace them with reality.

It's all rather ironic. There's nothing magical about this job; it's just lots and lots of hard work. But that fact by itself is all the magic you could ask for.


Tags: creativity writers writing


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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2016/10/18 08:00.

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