The algorithms of Facebook work mysterious ways, more often not so mysterious. Because I once in a while browsing through various pages that in one or several ways are related to the art of writing, my Facebook feed is filled with ads for all kinds of businesses remotely connected to writing. The other day I made a halt at one of the ads. It wasn’t what the guy was selling that caught my attention, it was his message. He, like many others, had the solution on how to make the next big bestseller. Unlike others, he added, “without writing a word”. A book without writing a word? It could be a coffee table book, a photo book, children’s first book, but no, it was none of those genres.
I started to think. Why do you want to write a book it you don’t want to write? Did he promote ghostwriting? And from there my thoughts spiralled. What kind of a writer doesn’t want to write? Are you then a writer? And if so, why is it so important for you to write a book – which normally consists of a large number of letters turned into words. I actually got a bit annoyed over this. It reminded me of something a professor once said to me after I had turned in an assignment of script consultancy at the university, where I probably had gone a bit overboard. The manuscript was horrible, close to the worst thing I’ve ever read, it had been accepted by a publisher with a deal most of us only can dream of, and was now for sale in other countries. That’s were our assignment came in, we were to give the publisher that had opted for the script our review and recommendations. I don’t remember my exact words, I was annoyed when reading it, frustrated when writing the review. I wrote something like it’s not fair that authors with such poor sense of literary quality get that much attention from what is supposed to be the expertise of the book industry, while authors who deliver remarkable manuscripts get rejection letter after rejection letter because the potential of the big money is not present. The professor said ‘it’s quite all right that you think this is crap – because it is, but don’t take it personally. This industry is an unfair one.’ The same feeling came over me when I listened to this fellow, I took it personally. Shouldn’t we encourage people who want to write to find ways to write better rather than encourage them to don’t take the writing so serious?
Right then and there I realised I’ve made a distinction of writers. The business writers and the writer writers. This is, of course, polarised and I acknowledge all the shades of writer’s in between, but let’s keep to this for now. The business writers are the ones who write books as a prop for selling more of what they are selling, what their business is really about. ‘Write a book and become an expert on your field’. Who says you are an expert just because you have written a book? The writer writers are the ones who dive into the words and sentences to create art, to change the world, their world, by carefully finding the right words and bring them together so the reader’s soul sings because of the eloquence in the message and in the story. They write, not because they know a lot, but because they are curious about something and want to explore their curiosity throughout a book.
By making this distinction it became clear to me where I am myself. Where I have been and what I have become. I have to admit that I’ve become a snob, a book snob, a text snob. I prefer quality over quantity, craft over an easy sell. This insight was helpful in the direction of my own writing because I realised what is important to me. It is not to sell piles and piles of books, but to create something beautifully written, something this snobby book nerd would have appreciated reading herself.