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A Writer Should Cast a Spell, Not Aim to Sell

The importance of writing as artPhoto by Karly Santiago on Unsplash

The written word, when brandished with professional care and precision, is likely to be supernatural in its ability to conjure portraits and spur thoughts within the minds of readers. In some instances, the potency of the sorcery is such that the effects of writing extend beyond readers’ thoughts and manifest in the physical world; consider, for example, the foundational texts of religious and ideological gestures. In wielding this ability, scribes who have surmounted their ship become, to me, like the practitioners of an arcane artwork beyond the reach of the average person; spellbinders immortalized in the bindings of books.

My reverence for immense scribes, perhaps unreasonable but certainly not misplaced, is often used to conducted me to question my own ability as a writer. I do consider myself proficient in an academic gumption, and I was even fortunate enough to pay the statements with my nonfiction for a few years, but I have a hoard of abandoned manipulate that I never even tried to publish because I cannot convince myself that it is up to the standard to which I hold good writing. I do not guess I am alone in this experience, as numerous columnists( and masters in general) have often been their own biggest reviewers, and today’s young adult is a particularly desirous breed.

I was therefore a bit taken aback when I stumble upon a few-years-old section standing a headline seemingly handcrafted to crush my already precarious confidence as a writer: No, you probably don’t have a book in you. I have often queried myself the highly question implied by this flippant reply of a designation, so I decided to give the article a read to determine whether it actually offered any penetration into my chances of writing a book, or if I had simply fallen for clickbait. The world was a bit of both.

Books vs. Stories

The article’s thesis is indeed that you, the book, probably do not have a book in you. Nonetheless, the article’s writer envisions of a “Book” as not merely any expertly crafted amalgam of the magical written document of which I am so fond, but as a specific kind of commodity. The bulk of the essay, written from the perspective of a seasoned literary agent, describes a Book as a piece of writing that sells an adequate number follows to a pre-defined market, thereby allowing the Book’s publisher to refund its be invested in etching and promoting the Book while experiencing a straighten earning on top. Anything else, the essay defines as a “Story.”

The ostensible crux of this distinction is that, although everyone has a few mischievous anecdotes or jokes that serve to entertain their friends and houses, these Stories could most probably never be Books because writing is hard and publishing is a competitive, profit-driven business. This is a perfectly fair characterization of the publishing industry, such as it is, and not one to which I dangerously object. Publishers exist in the real, capitalist macrocosm , not a Utopian writer’s paradise. These business have to generate sufficient income to pay employees and save engraving, and Books are their means to this end; meanwhile, the road to the New York Times Best Sellers list is paved with well-intentioned Stories that were simply not palatable to the mainstream.

However, I do take exception to the article’s subtext, whether intentional or accidental, that Narration are inferior to Books due to their inability to be commoditized, and that most people should just give up on writing because they likely have nothing but Stories in them. There are more and loftier intentions for a columnist than the mass production of freely salable and consumable story, and I consider it a monumental disservice to the literary community dealing with it would-be members with a conclusory statement of exclusion, and an even greater disservice to base this exclusion on a preemptive generalization about the prospective merchantability of literature.

It is my belief that the decision to produce any imaginative labour should never be based solely, or even chiefly, on how well it is likely to sell. The impetus should be the desire to express a deeply felt emotion or plan, and coin is necessary to follow the artwork , not vice versa. As such, while I can surrender the rationality of the publishing industry’s practical need for Books, I would caution that industry against espousing a position that openly minimizes aesthetic show and journey in favour of calculated greed, for if novelists are made to feel that their Stories are not valid, then who is supposed to write the Books?

Reject the writing , not the writer

Ironically, I received expressed support for my idea about the value of Stories resonated in the memoir of one of modern fiction’s most prolific and successful scribes of Books. My wife recently listened to the audiobook of Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and I tuned in to portions of it with her while we were in the car or enjoying some downtime together. A few days after construe No, you probably don’t have a book in you, I felt myself helping my spouse entertain our babe son while an uncannily related section of King’s memoir played in the background.

The excerpt in question consisted of an story in which a 16 -year-old King describes submitting one of his early Stories to his then favorite Sci-fi publication, merely to be rejected. Nonetheless, in the rebuff note, the publication’s editor told King: “This is good. Not for us, but good. You have talent. Submit again.” This quote, to me, is an excellent example of how to spurn a piece of writing without spurning the writer. There exist irrefutably a strong commercial consideration — King’s piece was not accepted because the editor obtained it unlikely to move copies of his brochure — but the editor also acknowledged the presence of something admirable in King’s art that glow through in spite of the unmarketability of the portion in question. King approvals this encouraging rejection as one of the pivotal moments in his burgeoning profession, as it stimulated him on to keep writing and honing his craft.

Now, imagine if that journalist, upon concluding that King’s story was not going to sell, simply told the young writer that he probably didn’t have a Book in him. Instead of being the quality at which an inspired King leaned into his writing with redoubled verve, it could have been the moment when King decided that he should find another job for which he was better suited. King’s extended and celebrated corpus of undertaking have had an opportunity to vanished in an instant.

This example may seem a bit far-fetched, since a novelist as prolific and internally motivated as Stephen King was never likely to be dissuaded by a single speciman of denunciation. Nonetheless, portrait a similarly talented yet more sensitive writer in the early days of their busines. That young columnist is going to have to get used to the sting of rejection and evaluation, but evidences like “No, you probably don’t have a book in you, ” fail to give due consideration to the fact that a person does not need to consistently churn out bestsellers( or marketers at all) in order to contribute valuable wreak and flourish as a writer.

To reduce the value of writing to its merchantability perpetuates the injurious fiction that the highest aim for a scribe is to produce something that publishers can sell, rather than to create something that mobilizes the authentic fabric of their inner being and knits it into the tapestry of our collective consciousness. This is to say nothing of the fact that such statements likewise disdained the extremely personal quality of the showing of thought and emotion through writing, and the intense vulnerability of a novelist who chooses to share themselves with the world countries in such a public and permanent way.


Of course, I do not mean to be overly critical or misrepresentative of No, you probably don’t have a book in you. The essay purely aims to remind everyone who hopes to follow in the footsteps of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling that the commercially successful romance is incredibly rare and difficult to create, and when narrowly understood, “thats really not” a bad go. If you are setting out to write the Great American Novel simply because you expect to achieve massive resource and fame overnight, then this article would probably be doing you a kindnes by advise you away.

Unfortunately, due to the tone and terminology employed by the article, it is not limited to only this interpretation, but could instead be detrimental to the motivation of a newcomer writer with genuine passion. The commodity does concluded with a mollify clause imploring the book to write if they genuinely just wanted to, and even affords some alternatives to traditional publishing. Nonetheless, this mollification peals a bit hollow in the wake of warnings such as “writing is hard, ” “publishing is … not a meritocracy, ” and “just because you are fluent doesn’t mean you can write.”

In a certain sense, all of these statements are true, but they again evince a fundamental dismis for the inherent importance of writing. Writing is incredibly hard to do well, yes, and fluency alone does not represent you a great writer, but anyone who is fluent can, by definition, write. If you feel a sincere longing to express yourself on paper, then pander that motive. You will probably not be very good at first, and you are eligible to never achieve precise technical mastery, but you do not need to be a treading habit glossary to produce supernatural writing, you need only master your own voice and use it to say something meaningful. It does not take a very deep dive into the literary canon to discover celebrated employs by scribes who eluded good grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, either due to a deliberate stylistic select or a lack of formal education. The greatness of such works radiates not from their polish or the number of copies they sold, but from the candour and care with which they were crafted.

Moreover, while it is indeed true that publishing is not a meritocracy, this statement is perhaps the article’s most convincing argument against itself. What dominion does the publishing industry have to gatekeep good writing when, by the admission of one of its own veteran representatives, it has no interest in labor of virtue but exclusively in marketable but forgettable pop fiction. Such accounts undercut whatever credibility “Big Publishing” has, and should route scribes who ethic their aesthetic integrity into the arms of liberalizing stages like the internet.

It is true that the paradigm-shifting potential of self-publishing online has been slightly stymied by the perception that, when the floodgates of the internet opened, what cascaded out was largely bilge. Nonetheless, the quality of online content has grown over the years along with the medium itself, and the days of “Wikipedia is not a reliable source” are fading into memory as we approach a future in which publishers must reckon with the fact that there is a requirement to novelists more than novelists need them.

You only may have a book in you

In the end, you are the only proper judge of whether you are a writer. You will know it by the passion to write that burns within you, by your unequivocal notion that writing is what you are meant to do, and given the fact that you keep coming back to writing even though you sometimes doubt whether you are any good. A publisher’s profit margins have nothing to do with it. Of track, one is not automatically a good novelist by virtue of being a writer — to attain this accolade requires a lot of practice, a ton of editing, and a little bit of magic.

A Writer Should Cast a Spell, Not Aim to Sell was originally published in The Writing Cooperative on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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