This post from Mike Magnuson helped me see that. Of course, I saw one passage he'd written--about Facebook and his
irritation at writers who tout themselves there--out of context and had a furious, knee-jerk reaction that nearly took
out my dining room table. That was my bad--I'm trying to teach myself to skim, since I'm such a slow reader, but skimming
doesn't always work. Especially when I see things that I expect to see, and I expect those things to piss me off.
I think this guy has it wrong about writers peddling themselves on Facebook. This could be because I often toot my own horn
on Facebook. This could also be because Facebook is about the only form of publicity I can muster. As a writer whose reputation
is beyond microscopic, the problems of someone who has 5 novels published and who teaches graduate-level creative writing
on a regular basis YET is still not well known just doesn't make me very sympathetic. Magnuson's story tells you all you need
to know about writing in general--only a tiny percentage of authors become known, let alone famous. It's even harder to stay
known. But reading about how I'm not only not one of those known authors, I'm also not one of the unknown ones who gets to
teach and give lectures and go on book tours doesn't make me want to give up the only outlet I have for garnering a little
bit of notice for myself.
I'll tell a story about the Bread Loaf writer's conference, slightly different from the one
Magnuson tells. I went to Bread Loaf in 2006, not as a fellow or a scholar or even a work-study waiter. I got in off the wait
list and paid my way. I met a lot of wonderful people at the conference. I learned a hell of a lot. But I also got treated
like rabble by some of the go-getting participants in the levels above me, and in general got the sense that the only reason
I was there was because my money was paying for everyone else's scholarship. This feeling could have come from the fact that
I have a chip on my shoulder--likely part of it did--or maybe I was just a sleep-deprived, paranoid wreck at Bread Loaf, which
I probably was, too. But others on the bottom rung with me felt the same way and had even more outrageous stories to tell
of being brushed aside by the conference's "upper classes," as it were.
And yet, and yet: I got to go to Bread Loaf.
I know many, many people don't even get that far. I have a solid list of publications, a chapbook in print, and I've even
taught creative writing at the graduate level, albeit as an adjunct in a small, up-and-coming program. So what right do I
have walking around with a South-Dakota-sized chip on my shoulder? Maybe none. Maybe the real moral to all this is not that
we as writers should love one another, as Magnuson says, but we as writers should all take a minute and be grateful for the
successes and perks that do come our way. Because writing is life for the vast majority of us. Writing is identity. Writing
is meaning. And for the VAST majority of us who work our asses off and get precious little in return, writing is the biggest
tease, the biggest heart-breaker, on earth.
Anyway, read Magnuson's post and decide for yourself: