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The same the same the same

Wednesday 10/4/23

This morning I clicked on a writer's profile on Facebook. They're not actually a writer. They never are. They may write one thing over, say, ten years, that is not any good which is not meant to mean anything to anyone's life and which is published as a story, or a book, or an essay, by someone like them--which will be the reason why it was published--but they have no talent, they don't work at it, they never have, they never will, and yet they call themselves this thing. I click to confirm what I suspect will be there. It's something I do a few times a week when I am between things and the opportunity presents itself. Every time, I see the same thing, or near about. The proper nouns may change, but they're all in the same vicinity.

Clicking on this woman's profile today, I saw that she went to prep school at Phillips Academy in Andover. So many of these people go to prep school. Current annual tuition--so this is for one year of high school--is $66,000. These are dilettantes who come from money. Entitled dilettantes who know nothing of working hard, commitment, the real world, earning. I don't just mean earning financially. When you write, you earn. You earn the work. The story. You're not entitled to the story. You earn its quality, and that takes a huge outlay of commitment.

Then she went to Brown, because that's the kind of school almost all of these people go to. I'm talking deep in the system people. The favored people of the diseased system. Nothing matters more to publishing person than being able to look at someone and see that they're similar. Every decision is made for this reason and/or skin color, sexual orientation, gender, etc. Did you go to the kind of schools I went to? Are you from money like I'm from money? Are you depressingly lackluster, boring, stiff, awkward, and mediocre like I am depressingly lackluster, boring, stiff, awkward, and mediocre? Are you also plagued with anxiety because you hate yourself as much as I hate myself?

She adds in her Facebook bio that she was in the creative writing honors program at Brown. Then you must be a great writer! An adult, citing their honors program from college on Facebook.

From Brown--with more of mommy and daddy's money being spent--where do you think it was off to next? That's right, to get an MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

You are dealing with the same broken, talentless, entitled freak time and again. I looked at her writing. Of course it sucked. What little of it there was. I was saying to someone yesterday that if I had to estimate, I'd venture that I write more in a single day--and I do this every day--before seven in the morning than 98% of these pretend dilettante writers will write in an entire year. Which will not prevent them from being hooked up with book deals, awards, Guggenheims. That's how it works. And these aren't numbers I'm slapping out there. I've thought about it. I see how little these people write. And they're always bad at it. But they're one of them, so to speak. You need to be one of them in order for them to advance you within their system.

You can look deeper. People like this woman have the same filters on their photos, because not one of them has ever thought for themselves, let alone had an original thought. They're pod people. You'll see the filter for BLM, one for George Floyd--though I think that might not be there if they had been pregnant and he put a gun to their belly--and one for how they stayed the fuck home and defeated COVID by sitting on their couch and eating ice cream and fingering their cats; one for how they voted; one for the Ukraine (even if they're gay; they have no clue about anything in the Ukraine); one for vaccines. I shouldn't say "one." They typically have several for each. It's the same person, again, and again, and again. Only the names--which are frequently pretentious--change.

I also see these people who suck at writing and have written next to nothing advertising their services to have people pay them to teach them how to get better at writing. And people do. They throw money at these pretend writers whose prose is just dreadful and whose career greatest hit is having a short-short in The ScratchPole Review. Or Wigleaf, to use the name of a real one.

What do you think the chances are if I go to Wigleaf right now and paste in the very first story I see that it's not going to suck and in this laughable way? Do you think there's any chance at all you're going to see something that doesn't read like some joke or satire of Creative Writing 101? I haven't looked yet. You want to do it? Okay.

Here we are: This is called "Wound" by Roblin Meeks.

My grandfather worked at a lumberyard until he owned it. He knew his way around machines and tools, saw how things fit together, understood how things worked and how they didn't. He had a large heart, one of the largest I've ever known, and he used to let us help him wind it each January. I remember my small hands turning the big brass key, how hard my brother and I had to push toward the end as the spring grew tight with a year's worth of tension.

When we wound as far as we could, he would give it a couple more turns until it was just right, and then he'd tell us to put an ear to his chest to hear the ticking. "You did that," he would say, his voice coming into us warm and round from the inside. He helped us wind our hearts for the year, too, taught us how to feel when it was right before too much. And then he would take my brother and me fishing for sunnies, or let us win at checkers, or walk with us down to Georgie's for red licorice and pinball.

At night after my grandparents went to sleep, I would put my ear against the pillow and hold my breath until I could make out the quick rhythm of my little mechanism. "You did that," I would say to myself.

I was in college wondering about the mind when I heard that my grandfather's heart wouldn't wind back up. I put my key in my car and drove way too fast to help put him, still, in the ground.

The field that remembers his name and time is far from here, far from most things, and quiet except for what would make noise on its own anyway. Each time I go, I put my ear to the grass. "Who did this?" I say. But all I hear is the great unwinding of the earth.

Find me someone at Bunker Hill Community College taking Creative Writing 101 who couldn't write that on the first day of class after never having tried to write anything in their life. What has to go through your brain to think, "This is what people should be reading! This matters!" Is it possible to delude yourself to such a degree that you think that's true? And what vanity must you possess to think anyone should spend any time reading something like this? Why should they? Because you did it and you're super special? What kind of narcissism is that? Where is the value in this? Where is the skill? What is the point? And yes, that was the whole story, but it could have gone on for a few thousand more words and it just would have been more of the same. And everything this person writes--I can guarantee you--is more of the same. But I should say this: I don't think they think in terms of work mattering. They give no thought to the purpose of what they are doing at all. Which is even more narcissistic. They operate as if them simply doing anything matters automatically because it's them. Or, they have nothing else to do, so they do this, because it's been funded and they can when they get done with sleeping until ten and brunch and hobnobbing, and bullshitting on social media, and going to some shitty reading, etc. There is never any honest thought and assessment as to what is the goddamn point of the thing they are writing. They never ask themselves that and deal with it squarely. A writer isn't writing because of their own vanity, their insecurity, their paucity as anything, their lack of being something. They are writing for a purpose and creating work of value for a reader and readers. If you are not doing that, you are not a writer. Not really. You are doing it for you and your shortcomings. Get a diary for that.

I understand why this works the way it does where someone will pay someone like the author of the above for writing instruction. People who also suck want to be lied to by other people who suck and they are willing to pay them for that service. You can pay me. If we start today, you'll be a better writer by tomorrow. You'll get demonstrably better every day. But I am not going to blow smoke up your ass. I'll be nice, but there won't be lies and vapors for the orifice. We will deal in reality.

Which sounds terrifying to most people. "I don't want to deal in the reality of my writing with this guy." One would rather be pursued by the zombies in Night of the Living Dead. Especially the kind of person who has this need to pretend they're a writer and that that makes them special or can make them special.

Of course people don't want to do that. If you took fifty people and they were guaranteed such that they knew it was true that if they worked with me they'd get much better at writing, but if they worked with some other person who sucked and who wouldn't help them get better at all, but they had peace of mind that that person would lie to them, those fifty people would be firing off their first Paypal payment or whatever to that other person.

Here's something I've realized: more than anything in this life, people want compliments. They want compliments so much that it doesn't matter if they're lies or even blatant lies. People want compliments more than they want love. More than they want connection. More than they want strength, purpose. And it's one reason why almost everyone is entirely alone, no matter if they have a family or whatever. People live empty lives, and they try to fill them with compliments. It's like some fucked up piggy bank of the soul. Not going to work. You end up with broken, helpless people. People without purpose, standards, ingenuity, fight, an ability to think, an ability to process what they see and feel, people without courage.

So when I come along to one of these people, and they think they have power over me because they can say no to my book, my story, my idea--usually by not responding, because they're also terrified of me and they know I'll see through whatever BS they try to put over--what do you think the chances are of them not having what's a form of revenge for someone being everything they could never be? What's worse is they think I look like some jock who bullied them and it's a nightmare kind of deal, because the hockey guy is the intellectual guy and he knows seemingly everything about everything and produces thousands and thousands of peerless words each day, across a broad range of subjects, styles, voices. While they're what? While they do what?

I spoke of people wanting compliments more than connection. It is connection that is the basis of all meaningful work and art. And also everything truly human. Nothing can happen without that connection. And yet we have all of these people who are anti-connection, who are terrified of connection, who are incapable of truly connecting with anyone in life, let alone creating work that connects with readers at the level of who they most are. And not just one reader--in theory, anyway, many individual people.

So what you get is the same, the same, the same.


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