Well, see if you say the same after this one. (Not to mention the fact that I am very very close to spilling the beans on some SHOCKING covering letters I've just seen. But that's for another time. You don't believe the direness of the slush pile? Hang around.)
Back to the point. Thing about being crabbit is I need people to be crabbit AT. Deluded idiots, for example. Unpublished authors who display inexcusable ignorance. People who write to publishers or agents while they (the writers, not publishers/agents) are on hallucinogenic drugs or in the throes of untreated mania or have just been dumped by their psychotherapists. But none of these people seem to read my blog.
Where have all the deluded idiots gone? Surely I haven't scared them off? That was my original intention but I never intended it to be so easy. There were NONE in my audiences at the Edinburgh Bk Fest either. This is plain weird. There are always deluded idiots and fruitcakes in my audiences. Well, not any more, apparently. In fact, I put a status thingy up on Facebook, saying "I did a workshop today and there were no nutters." No one believed me. The fact that the conversation degenerated into a discussion as to whether I have ever worn lurex flares kind of suggests that all the nutters have followed me to FB, but there we go.
So, since there are no nutters, deluded idiots or inexcusably ignorant readers left on this blog, I must ask you to go out and find them. Seek them here and seek them there. You must know some. They may lurk in your writing groups or something. And when you find them, please tell them this:
On the subject of whether you deserve to have your voice heard, NO, you freaking well don't.Or, more precisely, you may use your flimsy, boring, inexpert voice if you wish but the rest of the world is entitled to refuse to hear it. In other words:
No, not everyone deserves to be published.
Things that really bug me - No 1:
"But I didn't have the chance of a good education / I have dyslexia / no one taught me grammar / I'm from a family that doesn't read / blahdy blah ... so it's not fair that I'm not allowed to be a published writer like you people with your university degrees / middle-class education / natural talent. You're just lucky."
Things that really bug me - No 2:
"Everyone has the potential to be a writer if they're just given the opportunity. The publishing industry conspires to keep such potential hidden."
Lest I be accused of seeming "elitist" (that frequently mis-used word), I'm not being elitist, but life is. We're all born and/or grow up with different advantages and disadvantages; we're all dealt different cards, and some hands are easier to play than others. But this (ie whether all people who put pen to paper have a right to be "heard") is about who deserves publication; this is about merit. This is about readers. And the real world. Yep, we're lucky if we have the talent, and so in that sense success is elitist because it's not just down to hard work - but elitist is too often used to say something about class, about conspiracy, about unfair oppression by one group of people of another. And this is not what's happening.
All writers, all readers, celebrate good writing in all its forms, wherever it comes from. What do we mean by good writing? Overall, taking all readers into the equation, we mean "writing that we like to read enough to invest time and/or money into reading it."
Frankly, if you can't write well enough, you don't have the right to publication. The act of publication is not a free psychotherapy session. You have the right to write, but not the right to be read because you do not have the right to require anyone to read your words or listen to your voice. This may seem self-evident to many of you, but you would not believe how often I've seen comments on blogs (and occasionally, in the early days, on this one) about how it's not fair that people who didn't have the advantage of a good education and "therefore" [sic] can't use grammar can't become published. (And, btw, if you self-publish your crappy writing, it won't be read. It's got to be damned good to sell, as many hard-working and good self-publishers know.)
Being able to use grammar is being able to use language. If you can't use it, you will be used by it. You will not be able to express yourself clearly or beautifully; you will not be able to say what you mean. This is not about whether you write in a modern style which sometimes breaks rules - oh, I'm all for breaking grammatical rules and I regularly do it, as you may have noticed. "Sentences" without finite verbs, for example. This is about being in control of your tools. And your tools are words and how they work together. You have no other tools worth using.
I couldn't give a flying frig what your educational background was. The writing world is more democratic than many people trying to get into it think: it doesn't actually care whether you learnt latin and ancient Greek (though that helps many, including me), or whether you went to private school or state; it doesn't care about you being dyslexic - I know several successful writers who are; it doesn't care whether you were brought up in a booky family - I know successful writers who weren't. The writing world cares only if you can write, connect, inspire, and if you have something to say. The writing world cares only if you might have enough readers to be worth the shelf-space.
Being able to write well comes from many things: innate talent, hard work, thinking the right thoughts, dreaming the right dreams, reading, reading, reading, loving books, immersion in words, practice. And then all those things over and over and over. And desperation, passion, need. You can't buy it.
"But I want to write; I'd love to see my book in a bookshop; and I've worked really really hard; I've been to writing classes and all that. And I love writing."
Yeah, well, if you're not good enough, or you don't write what someone wants to read, you'll have to carry on loving writing, for yourself. Personally, I love singing; I'd love to sing in the Albert Hall; and I sing a lot, in the shower; I've practised Faure's Requiem and sometimes it sounds quite good; if I'd had singing lessons at school I could have been a singer but I wasn't lucky enough to have them. It's not fair that I can't have my voice heard.
Thing is, it wouldn't be fair for the rest of the world to have to listen to me. I'm not good enough. Yeah, it's bad luck that I don't have a good enough voice to be a singer (that and the fact that professional singers have usually spent years practising - like professional writers). It's also bad luck that I'll never run in the Olympics - though wouldn't that be lovely? I was a fast runner at school - hey, if I'd had the advantage of good training, and keen coaches, and a club, and if my parents had pushed me and if I'd been BETTER, I could have been an Olympic runner too. Life's so unfair, isn't it?
If life was fair, I'd be famous, beautiful, two inches taller, an inch or so thinner. My legs would be straighter. My hair wouldn't require to be blown dry every morning, which takes a lot of time which I could be using to practise my singing. Or my drawing - because I'd love to be an artist. Just wasn't allowed to do art at school because I did latin and Greek. I was so unlucky that way.
If life was fair, I'd have great hand-eye-foot-anything co-ordination - then I could be a professional dancer. And I wouldn't be crap at tennis. It's not fair that those Williams sisters have all that talent and I have none. I'd have a good memory too, if life was fair. Oh, and if I'd been lucky enough to have a good maths teacher, I'd be brilliant at maths and then I could have had a job in a merchant bank and I'd have a lovely salary now. I'd live in a bigger house and have staff and a swimming-pool and sparkly wine every day.
Life's a bitch, eh? And I'm a crabbit old bat instead of a cuddly teddy bear. But bitch or not, you still don't have the right to be published or have your "voice" heard. None of us does. We've got to be good enough, see?
If that's not crabbit enough for you, you perhaps need to know that I decided to resign as a tester for the Brownies' Writer's Badge, because I insisted on failing someone and the head Brownie people (owls or vultures or something) didn't like it ... Yay for standards!
(Added on Nov 30th - PS after a lengthy and excellent comment thread, I have now got to stop comments after a sudden series of spam - no idea what it was about as it was in Chinese, which I do not read!)