Yesterday I wrote the first new post since January, about how my New Years Resolutions have more or less been dashed but that a greater goal has emerged: completing my first novel in 2014. It appears to be doable. I calculated how many words I think it will take to come up with 16 different endings to the story (it being a “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style book for adults), and it’s looking like at the current rate I would only need to write about 280 words per day to complete the book by the last day of the year. But I’m hoping it doesn’t actually come down to the wire like that.
Coming up with this project, along with being on a Stephen King kick in advance of my trip to New England this summer (which will include a Stephen King tour in Bangor, Maine on this awesome van), had inspired me to think about what kind of books are worth reading and writing.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post attacking the practical value of Creative Writing programs in colleges. Since then, I’ve been thinking about how to fulfill the desire many people look to those programs for: we all want a next step, a course of development, towards being a real writer. What is the development, if you don’t get it in a classroom?
Though not very glamorous, author is a “glamour profession” in that it does not depend on education, experience, and job hunting but on ineffable talent combined with pure-ass luck. This disorients most people, since other people’s dreams like “doctor” or “unscrupulous investment banker” do depend on education, experience, and job hunting and they follow a delineated path of milestones towards those dreams.
Furthermore, no one in a position of of advice-giving like teacher or career counselor or college counselor understands how authors become authors, so no one around you really seems to know how any of it works, and it takes about 30 years to figure it out on your own. Here’s some of it.
All college Creative Writing programs are terrible. The concept and systemic reality of college Creative Writing programs is terrible. In principle and practice: terrible. I got a degree in Creative Writing (an undergrad double-major, with English) and man it was a bad joke. No offense to myself and Jeff and other wonderful people involved, but I mean… damn. Everyone is terrible. I was terrible. I might have been the terriblest: I was unmotivated and childish, and but so are most college students. How good can a 17-21 year old be? If you’re in undergrad right now, I’m pretty sure you’reterrible too.
But how could you teach writing as a college class anyway, like it was Calc II or something, and grade it? Basically, it’s a bunch of college students sitting around being forced to talk about each other’s misspelled, ridiculously-plotted, gut-clenchingly embarrassing trash – like, phoned-in 10th grade trash. While the sweaty professor maintains an air of respectful suspended-disbelief, the way the Queen would if someone with a developmental disability threw a used condom on her face, and holds forth about “craft.”