I have a confession to make. I’m the world’s worst editor. The thing is, I can’t be bothered with all that endless obsessive-compulsive fixing of things. By the way, if you want to know if someone’s obsessive-compulsive, (Just do this
Anyway, I’ve ventured out into the terrifying world to make myself a part of a writer’s group. I don’t advise doing this, however, since it’s a case of the blind leading the blind. Usually it’s all just, “I like your story,” or ”I’d like to read more of it,” or “Where you wrote lie it should be lay,” or “I don’t like the fact that you made the grandmother asthmatic.” Rubbish. The nit-picking that people offer in writers’ groups is mostly totally un-useful. No, I want to be flayed with my flesh nailed to the wall with critics demanding that I completely re-think my point of view or that the damn structure just isn’t working. There are exceptions, of course, to the epidemic of un-useful comments out there. I’m talking in general. I think that the MFA workshops made a masochist out of me. And speaking of MFA, what the hell am I going to do with this damn thing now the world is glutted with armies of depressed MFA grads?
“But,” you whine, “I want to write.” To that I say we are all familiar, or should be, with Sinclair Lewis’ famous imperative (how could you not be?–Okay, if you aren’t, go down to the star thingy at the bottom.), “And furthermore,” you whinge, “I am dying of loneliness over here in this shadowy cafe corner hunched over my laptop. There are only so many Facebook posts I can handle without coughing up a hairball. I don’t want Facebook. I demand real face-to-face interaction with other struggling writers. We can drink wine and commiserate. We can talk about all our failures and pain and why hairballs are not actually balls at all but more like hairy little turds that are ejected on your pillow or your silk settee by your ignominious cat.” Oh, please. Get me some Nodoze.
But getting back to being a lousy editor. One reason is, I have considerable ADHD. A writer with ADHD is like a surgeon with chronic delirium tremens. It just doesn’t work that well. You’re at least expected to have the basic Strunk & White training. I mean, who will take you seriously if you can’t even construct a decent sentence? I don’t drink, either, and there’s another problem. You know the old saw about God loving drunks and babies. That’s because drinking removes all your inhibitions. You don’t give a damn about anything. You wake up and you think you’re fine–trees swaying, birds singing, and you start to believe your own bullshit. You live in your well-furnished little cocoon: “Writing errors? Hey. Who needs all that grammar and punctuation? You get the general idea of what I’m trying to say, right? Give it to someone else to edit.”
I’m basically defending all the pain and suffering I endured in the MFA program, thinking that whatever I say is golden because, damn it, I bled for it. The truth is, I’ve come to the phase where I’m avoiding my potential at all costs, because working toward my potential would take a little effort requiring me to actually write rubbish on endless sheets of paper before I figure out what the hell I’m doing, and that’s just beneath me. Look at all the trees that died so that I can write about a tree? Yes, there’s always blogging, I know, but with seven billion people (and something like two large publishing houses left, and they take their orders from the CIA) who all have a burning desire to be writers…let’s just say the days of Hemingway and Woolf are deceased. You have to step on people’s faces and crawl over their heads just to get a little notice. I’m not into that. I’d rather just kick back and watch the sunset with my shoes off. No, it’s really impossible to keep your self respect as a writer in this raw-meat world, that’s what I think. So what’s the point of obsessing about that missing Oxford comma?
★ Novelist Sinclair Lewis had been invited to Columbia University to deliver a lecture on the writer’s craft. He stumbled rather drunkenly up to the podium, looked out at the host of eager young faces, and asked, “How many of you here are really serious about being writers?”
Hands shot up across the lecture hall. Lewis paused, and then said fiercely, “Well then, why the hell aren’t you all home writing?”
And with that he returned to his seat.
- MFA Programs Killed My Father: The Last Word On MFA Program Exposes! (todgoldberg.typepad.com)