(For authors) Low Art. High G-D Responsibility.
I’m going to start this post with another copy & paste from author Chuck Wendig, whose blog I love oh-so-very-much. (It might be the only blog I actually read on a regular basis.) Except this little excerpt isn’t by Chuck, it’s by his friend, author Andrea Phillips. Here’s the excerpt:
( The world as it currently stands, especially considering racism, sexism, and homophobia in this post-11/8/16 world ) means something significant for writers who make stories that are all-white and all-straight, stories where women are subservient or silent, stories where there are objectively evil races or religions. When we tell these stories, we aren’t just quietly avoiding politics. Far from it. We are actively aiding and abetting the forces of intolerance. If we’re not questioning the status quo, we are supporting it with our silence. There’s no middle ground.
And that means artists have a high goddamn responsibility, and we need to wield it as carefully as we can. We’re afraid of what we don’t know. That’s just human. But it turns out, across cultures and countries, despite class and race, we are more alike than we are different.
So we need to show that, again and again and again. We need more stories about how different peoples can learn to coexist peacefully; stories about institutions that work to protect people; stories about overcoming corruption, about immigrants thriving, about peaceful protest working, about people learning and growing and shedding their fear of the other. We don’t just need the same stories with new faces in it. We need whole new stories. (read the whole thing here; emphasis is mine)
Yes, thank you, Ms. Phillips. This is what I’ve been trying to say, too, like here with my manifesto and here with my criticism of traditional coming out tales, along with indirectly here with my praise of Style.
Low Art? Maybe. But it doesn’t change a high responsibility.
I’m bad at math. Most days I can’t add and subtract properly. So since I’m insecure about my mathing abilities, I’m going to share a word problem I just worked on so you can check my work:
“The Kindle version of Eliza Andrews’ book, To Have Loved & Lost, is counted by Amazon at 329 pages. Eliza averages more-or-less about 20,000 page reads per day. (Plus there are a few dozen sales per day, but for now, let’s just stick to page reads.) If Eliza’s book has been averaging that many page reads per day for the last four weeks, about how many people have read To Have Loved & Lost?”
Here’s my work:
20,000 page reads / 329 pages in the book = 61 total reads per day
61 reads/day * 7 days/week = 427 total reads / week
427 reads/week * 4 weeks = approximately 1,708 total reads in the last month
Look, I’m an indie author; I don’t have any delusions of grandeur. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever be a USA Today / New York Times Bestseller. And probably no one’s ever going to make a movie version of any of my books. On top of that, being a smallish fish swimming around aimlessly inside the smallish pond of lesfic, my audience is always going to be inherently a little limited.
I ain’t never gonna be a household name. It doesn’t bother me; “how public like a frog” anyway.
And THL&L ain’t no high art. It’s not going to win a Pulitzer or a National Book Award or anything like that. It’s just a little love story about a couple of college girls struggling to find their way in the world. Low art. Pulp fiction.
And it’s just one book. Just one out of dozens and dozens its readers will likely consume this year.
But nevertheless, if I mathed right, more than 1,708 people have apparently read my silly little book. And they thought *something* about it. They loved it, they hated it, they felt lukewarm — whatever. But they still read it. And the images and characters and subtext The Moral of the Story Is still filtered through their percolator brains and attached onto their psyches like some sort of mental barnacles (um, sorry). The book confirmed their pre-existing stereotypes or challenged them, confirmed their world view or subtly altered it. And in an itsy-bitsy tiny little way, those little mental barnacles are going to affect how those 1,708 people move around in this world.
Do you get it??
Go back to Andrea Phillips’ post if you want to better understand what I’m driving at here.
Authors, make your writing *mean* something.
I’m preachy and I’m ranting, yeah, I get it. Sorry, it’s who I am.
But seriously you guys — what you write is touching people and it’s affecting them. And even if you’re a little fish like me, you’re still touching at least a few people. And when they read what you’ve written, it will change them — maybe it will change them in an infinitesimally small way, but it will still change them. What you *don’t* write will also change them.
Even a few people matter. Especially these days.
So dudes, write your story, whatever it is. Even if it’s a silly little love story. But when you write it, remember that it will change the person on the other end. So give it a theme that has some teeth. A The Moral of the Story Is that will stick with people and change them for the better and HELP THEM. Use your writing to pay it forward.
And I’m sorry (again), because I know it’s literally a bumper sticker and I know it’s cliche, but seriously: