Waiting for the Next Cultural Bus?

Fiction Writers Review » Blog Archive » Taboo book words: Readable and Plot?.

The link above references an article about whether or not the book business’s emphasis on readability and plot keeps fine literary work out of the public eye.

My thought, on about two seconds’ reflection: sure it does. What’s popular always crowds out what’s more artistically refined or ambitious.

On the other hand, fashions change. Maybe in today’s climate Kafka wouldn’t have a prayer of publication, but who knows what the case may be 50 years from now? Melville was ignored for years until people’s perceptions changed enough to recognize his genius.

Luckily, we have literary awards helping ensure that soulful, soaring, lyrical writing gets at least some exposure.

So, in regards to the finest in lit, are we sunk or do we just have to wait for the next cultural bus to come by? Your comments are welcome.

A Blockhead Again

Several years ago, I decided I hated fiction writing because:

  • It was hard. I had to make up everything and make every word a gem.
  • It kept me inside on sunny Saturday afternoons.
  • It made me stay up late or get up early when I wanted to sleep.
  • It made me sneak off to an empty conference room in the middle of the work day when I wanted to eat.
  • It made me grumpy and worried because I was sure I wasn’t good enough.
  • It took me away from my family.

All this for the privilege of collecting short-story rejections and the overwhelming probability that any novel I produced would never be published, even if it was great.

So I gave it up and vowed never to write fiction again. I chucked all my fiction-writing books and turned to drawing and painting with equal measures of passion and ineptitude. (I still love visual arts and will keep after them.) I wrote non-fiction, pursuing a blog about project management for 18 months and continuing with an already established gig writing dining reviews for The Thirty-A Review magazine. I also continued doing oral storytelling, an art I’ve practiced for about 20 years, most recently with the Carapace group in Atlanta, GA.

But, as the sage has said, “never say never.”

Recently, a couple of things happened:

  • My old college roommate, the talented Kevin McLellan (not the poet at U. of RI), completed the first draft of his first novel. This inspired me and made me think, “well, if he can do it…”
  • I learned about self-publishing on e-platforms such as the Kindle, which one can do with minimal up-front costs. This made me feel I had at least a fighting chance of finding an audience should I write a novel.

Thus, I have once again become a blockhead. I find myself at the beginning of a novel and, to quote the Craig family motto, “I have good hope.” Unlike previous attempts, this project has a decent chance of completion because:

  • I’m not “writing” this time; I’m storytelling. Deathless prose be damned. I just want to engage the audience.
  • I’m treating this as fun, for its own sake, not for fame or money or anything else.
  • Even though it’s fun, I am considering it as work.
  • Even though it’s work, I’m letting it get done organically; that is, if something more pressing than writing time–like family–comes along, so be it. Think non-attachment.
  • I’m taking my time. It gets finished when it gets finished.
  • I’m planning to keep my day job, whatever happens. No pressure.
  • I’m letting my writing muse (gremlin?) run free, instead of shoving her into some literary crack.
I’ll be sharing the work in progress in this space and I invite your comments. Please don’t feel the need to be nice or offer praise, unless it’s truly merited–I am looking to improve, not to be stroked.
And now, as Jackie Gleason used to say, “away we go!”