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Writing and professional athletes

Wednesday 1/24/24

If you want to be a great writer, many things need to happen and keep happening. But here are two of them: You need to be born with a huge amount of talent. That was just something that needed to happen. The chances border on the non-existent that it did. That's just reality.

Then, you need to work at developing that talent all of the time. If not every second of your life, then close to it. You need to work more at developing that talent than anyone who goes on to play professional sports worked on their game.

Let's think about this for a second. What do you think Steph Curry was doing all the time as a kid growing up? Then as a teenager? Then in college?

He played and practiced basketball constantly, right? How many hours a day do you think he was playing? Eight? Ten? How many shots do you think he was putting up every day?

You think he got to the NBA and then thought, "This is cool, I'm here, I can stop working so hard now, can't get any better, don't need to, I'm sure I will end up being a Hall of Famer."

Or do you think he kept working his ass off?

There is nothing harder to do than to create great writing. It's harder than playing any sport. The variables are endless.

So why shouldn't you be working at it even more? How many people do you think are working on their writing eight, ten hours a day? Eighteen? Twenty?

You think you're just going to sit there, with your silver spoon up your ass, with your MFA, jerk yourself off while jerking others off so it's this big old cum shower raining down, and then there you are, great writer?

These professional athletes, to do what they do, have to dedicate all of that time. But you, to be a great writer? Nah. Not you. It's different for you. You don't need to work that hard. You don't need to work 1/10,000th that hard. An hour here, an hour there. And you'll be as good at what you do as they are at what they do.

But all of those players aren't "great." They made it into a league. They're great compared to everyone else. You want to be a great writer? You want to be among the best in the league, so to speak? Put in ten hours every day. Put in more than ten hours every day. Who do you think is doing that?

I'll tell you: No one else. Not a single other person. They're sleeping late, having that brunch, self-medicating, fucking around on their "socials."

I get it, someone works a different job. Can't be helped that they don't have the ten hours. How about the three? The two?

I bet you that not one other person has ever thought what I'm saying here. Which, to me, is as basic and obvious as anything can be.

Those athletes need to do all that, but you, would-be writer, don't need to do a fraction of what they do?

An amusing thought: the very worst high school basketball player is so much better at basketball than the so-called best writers are right now at writing. That kid can hit some shots. If he goes to a playground and a bunch of non-hoopers are playing pick up, he'll be the best one there. He puts in the time with the rest of his team. Works hard at practice. Doesn't get off the bench much in the games, but there are a lot more practices than games, aren't there?

Look at these prose offs. I mean, look at this shit that I put up there from these people, from the "best" venues.

Do you think they work at anything at all? You know they were born with no talent. That's obvious and no one can argue otherwise.

You want to argue that the Motorollah woman was born with a gift for writing? Obviously no one is going to do that or could do it.

You think that editor at Simon and Schuster who gave her her book deal would see what I wrote in that prose off entry yesterday and take to whatever and rebuff what I was saying by going through the reasons why that story, "Solo Poly," was so amazing?

It's inconceivable, right? Think her agent could do it? (The agent who probably sold it to Granta.) It's an impossibility. To so much as try to do so would be to make a fool of yourself.

Imagine a sit-down with her agent, and you start reading the part of the story that I put up in that prose off. Then you ask the agent, "You think that's good?"

Do you think the agent is going to answer, "Yes, it was brilliant. 'Motorollah, Motorollah, Motorollah.' Such genius."

Of fucking course he or she isn't.

He or she will hate you, though, for not just lying out your ass and living in reality and not acting like some dystopian, Valium-ed, zombie-cross between a crazy person and a moron.

For that goes against the code of the publishing system.

Think about this, too: That agent didn't think that story was remarkable. They probably didn't think about it at all. What they thought would have been, "Oh, yes, Sigrid and Luke over at Granta often take work by my very desirable authors, they'll run this and it will help get the word out before the book releases. They're always helpful. Let me reach out. I'll mention my new trans author, too."

It's not, "This is outstanding, clearly, people should see this work and read it," and then it's sent to someone in a position to put it out, who then reads it themselves and thinks, "This is outstanding, clearly, people should see this work and read it," and there it is in Granta, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, One Story, whatever.

It does not work like that. It works the furthest from that as it could possibly work.

If you work at writing at all, and you wrote something like the Motorollah crap--like it somehow came out, accidentally, or it was after surgery and your head was still all muzzy--you would know that it just sucked as much as writing can suck. You'd put that away. You'd be like, "Damn, that's no good, is it?"

It's akin to heading out to the court and every time you attempt a lay-up the ball flies over the backboard, you fall on your face, and shit your pants. Or you dribble the ball off your dick so hard that you repeatedly fall down in pain and vomit on yourself.

You wouldn't be like, "My game is ready for the NBA. I can probably be a Supermax player."

These people in their delusional world of enabling, brokenness, and bullshit? That's how they act.

There they are, all shit-stained and 0 for 183 from behind the arc with no one out there playing defense and then some of them get an award or a book deal. (Actually: They wouldn't be 0 for 183. It'd be like 0 for 2, because they wouldn't work any harder at it. But you know what I mean.)

And the whole lot of them find other people who never work at anything either who indulge them. Come down to this court, as it were, see the person in a heap beneath the backboard, and say, "Wow, you are awesome."

Sometimes that takes the form of 400 people hitting that like button on Facebook, and not a single one of those souls means it. Sometimes it takes the form of fiction in The New Yorker. A Guggenheim. Splashy, rave review in The New York Times Book Review filled with platitudes that could apply to anything else in the world like the reviewer was just someone who reviewed books in the morning, car washes in the afternoon, and restaurants at night, and recycled the same stock phrases from one to another of their reviews.

And round and round it goes, because no one else in the world gives a fuck.

So it's unchecked.

People don't know about this. People couldn't care less about publishing people. There is scarcely a group of people in the world right now that people care less about than publishing people. People couldn't care less about reading. They don't do it. So the only people concerned here--right now, that is--are the people in this system. With all of their different titles. And they're not concerned with good writing. Clearly.

They just want to be able to tell themselves that they're certain things. They want to be able to think about themselves a certain way and never have that questioned. Never have it examined. Without it needing to hold up to scrutiny. Or clear eyes. Clear eyes, for them, are the eyes of the enemy.

They want to lie to themselves, be lied to, and live a lie. They want illusion to such a degree that reality never makes it through the crack under their door. It's blocked out entirely.

Everything they do, everyone they surround themselves with, everyone they let into their ranks, is for these ends. Then they make it to death. And they lied the whole way through.

That's what they're going for. That, really, is their goal, more than anything else.

It's David Remnick's goal. It's J. Robert Lennon's goal. It's the goal of that editor at Simon and Schuster who gave the Motorollah person her book deal. It's Sigrid Rausing's goal. Christopher Beha's of Harper's goal. Lincoln Michel's goal. Laura van den Berg's goal. Speer Morgan's goal. John Freeman's goal. Cal Morgan's goal. Bradford Morrow's of Conjunctions goal. Mark Warren's goal. Bill Clegg's goal. Stephanie Merrie's of The Washington Post goal. Jonathan Galassi's goal. Wendy Lesser's goal. Mark Doten's goal. It's Emily Nemens' goal.

There are far, far, far more pretend, talentless, delusional, broken writers who are not really writers than there are readers. In the world. It's like a 100 to one ratio. You can't swing a stick without hitting someone from one of these gaggles of idiots who say they're a personal essayist or "an author specializing in microfiction." And no one really reads any of it. It's not for reading. It's for lying to yourself and all of this other bullshit that no one could ever actually believe is true.

I'm very clear about this: I don't hunt for these stories for these prose offs. I never hunt for examples of shitty writing. All I have to do is go and pick the first thing I see.

What does that tell you?

It is always this way.

It's not four in the morning yet right now. I've been working for more than two hours. You think anyone else is up and working? I don't go to bed at six at night, man. I get my ass up and I work. The guy who was born with all the talent.

Everything here is true. And because it's true, and because it can't be argued against, and because I am what I am, and I do what I do, these people shake with rage when they see something like this. Blinding, see-nothing-but-red rage.

Maybe, instead, try to do better?

I'm not the problem. I'm the solution.

You are the problem when you're like what I described above.

You take all of those people, you put them together, and you have a world where no one reads, no one writes well, no one can write well, no one is about to write well anytime soon, no one has a reason to read, and the whole fucking thing suffers, by which I mean the culture and that world.

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