You and me, we’re having a conversation. We’re standing here in the digital space, jawing away about something or other. Maybe we’re talking about writing. That’s apropos, yeah? The avatars of cars whiz by. Other blogpeople — passersby in this unreal place — hurry past.
Then, out of nowhere, some clown runs up, hikes his pants down, slaps his bepimpled cheeks, and screams: “NUH-UH!”
And then he runs away.
That is not a productive way of joining the conversation. You, my clowning friend, are only interrupting. You are disrupting. Your zit-speckled moon is little more than a brick wall, and this conversation just slammed right into it. Killing all passengers.
What the hell am I talking about?
It’s like this: remember the Ten Rules For Writing Fiction meme that went around? (I did my own list here at the site, in case you missed it.) Being on the Twitters and the web in general, I have before and since this occasionally run upon a post or a comment that is, in essence, “Fuck you, this is dumb, everybody writes differently, you can’t apply rules to it.” It’s not the first time I’ve seen that. There exists real resistance to people offering writing advice. While I blessedly don’t see it here (because you people are awesome and are not from the standard primate house of grumpy sperm-flinging bonobos) I still encounter it “out in the wild.” It’s this defiant, iconoclastic middle finger to anybody who would dare to posit new ways of doing things or new ways of thinking about things. So, the response is more or less: “That’s bullshit, man.”
Or, put differently, it’s a dude smacking his ass at you and yelling, “Nuh-uh.”
(I won’t link out to any of these blogs. I don’t want to give them traffic, and they have a right to mouth off in their spaces as much as they’d like, just as I have the right to mouth off here to all of you poor bastards!)
Listen, I get it. Nobody can force you to do things. And nobody should tell you that from his mouth comes the One True Way, sang on a beam of light shot from an angel’s mighty pucker. I certainly hope I don’t come across that way. I know I’m a belligerent blowhard. But I always try to temper with that with the idea that I’m only just figuring these things out for myself and vocalizing them. You’re merely along for the ride as I stumble through my own pits and traps and drag my own sorry ass through the weeds.
“Fiction doesn’t abide by rules, man!”
Here’s the thing.
Fiction has rules, actually. Writing has rules. They might be different for different people. Or different for different genres. Or for different languages. Or editors. Or media.
Further, in those gray, hoary margins where no sure rules exist, we can still talk about the potentials, can’t we? We can have a conversation about it? Surely?
I don’t know that I’ve helped anybody. I do know that I have been helped by not just you guys, but by many of the blogs and interviews and articles out there on the subject of writing. Heck, that Tim O’Brien interview from yesterday’s PWS had that great quote (paraphrased: when on the plateaus, head for the mountains). I don’t agree with everything he said, but that one thing was right for me, and I took it, and I absorbed it into my amoebic caul and uploaded it to my chittering hive-mind, and now that shit is a deep-ass part of me. Same with all those Ten Rules. I don’t agree with every rule every other writer put forth. But I found the things I liked, and I made them a part of me.
If I had been a closed door, if I had been grumpy-gussed and vinegar-pissed about all that, I wouldn’t have been open to absorbing any of that. I wouldn’t have been open to learning. No, instead I would’ve just shown my lily white shitcan and screamed “Nuh-uh!” at the top of my ever-loving lungs.
You have to be open.
This is a conversation. A dynamic back and forth. That’s why the Internet is awesome.
And jerkholes like the ass-slapping clown is why the Internet blows.
So, to you jerkholes?
You have three options.
One: Join the conversation.
Two: Listen to, or even ignore, the conversation.
Three: Eat a dick and die.
(Or, put more politely, be a fountain, not a drain.)
(And just to be clear: I’m not talking to anyone here. I’m yelling out into the mighty digital void, y’dig?)