I love writers. I suppose this might be obvious, but on the other hand it may be worth emphasizing. I put a graphic up on my Facebook page yesterday about not seeing other writers as competition, and I’ve seen a good few of those kind of things kicking around lately (which is good). I really do see writers in general as being on the same side as I am. They are inspiration and encouragement to do better and, of course, a steady source of great, fun, astounding art. I thought I’d write a little about that today – it was either that or more about fire, and I’m sure no-one wants that.
On the one hand, it is kind of easy to see why someone might see other writers as their competition, rather than being part of a team. Especially in our hyper-connected age, you see a lot of writers posting news in various places about getting an agent or getting a book deal and it is perhaps natural to think ‘well goddamn, that’s one less opportunity for me’. It’s probably fairly easy to think this way because (in part) that’s how capitalism trains us to think. Everyone in the same business as you is a competitor. Every opportunity another writer got is one you can’t get anymore.
That isn’t how I see it. For one thing, I love to read and so I want there to be a steady stream of awesome books coming out. In addition, though, having other writers getting published can only help me. If someone else gets an urban fantasy (or whatever) book printed, and someone reads it and likes it, hopefully they’re then looking around for their next great read and maybe they’ll look at my stuff next. Anything that gets people reading is something that, potentially, might add another person to my potential audience. That’s great. Other writers are my allies (whether they know it or not) in getting people reading, looking for the next book they want to pick up, and that perhaps being mine.
(Slightly tangentially, I follow Daniel José Older on Twitter and he had an interesting point about seeing news from other writers on the intertron all the time – it can be discouraging because you see all these other people scoring agents and getting published, and if you haven’t, it’s easy to think ‘well shoot, what’s wrong with me?’ The thing to remember (he pointed out) is that people only post the good news. You don’t generally see people post up that they got a query rejected or that they got a bad review on something they have out. Every writer has the same struggles of finding an audience and facing doubt and all the rest of it, even if what we see on social media makes it look like a string of unbroken successes for everyone else out there. It’s not easy, but we should probably try to see all that as encouragement – all these other people did it, there’s no reason why we can’t as well.)
Selfishly, I learn a lot from other writers, too. I read things and go ‘wow! sooo cool’ and then think about why I liked it so much, and try to figure out how to adapt and adopt things into my own work. I learned a lot about how to create memorable characters by reading those Bernard Cornwell books I wrote about a while back. I think I learn something from everything I read. So obviously, I want lots of stuff to read so I can keep improving as a writer.
Of course, there’s an even more important reason to be on the side of writers. It’s easy to get sucked into the mercenary part of writing (and to be quite honest, if my book makes some money that would be great and if it ever got to the point where I could support myself by writing that would be fantastic) but that’s not really why I write, or what I think writing is for. I write because I have stories I want to tell, things I want to express, and crafting with words makes me happy. Obviously I hope that someone will read what I create and enjoy it, or take something away from it. But I wrote for years prior to even thinking about getting anything published. Writing is about making an expression of something from your guts. Every writer has something from inside that they want to share. You can’t help putting a lot of your heart and soul into what you write (I believe) and every writer is very brave for putting themselves out there, and every person who gets the opportunity to bring their stories to an audience is a good thing.
As artists we should happy when another person gets to share what they have inside them with us. We should be excited to see what it is, enjoy it, try to learn from it. I feel profoundly lucky to be able to have one of my stories reach a wide audience (how wide, I guess we’ll see) in a little while.
In the meantime, more voices, please!
Anyway that’s it for this week. I’ll try to do better the next time.