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  • Writer's pictureMarni Scofidio

The Next Same Thing

Updated: May 3, 2022


There. I've done what I try not to. I've supported a ‘must'. ‘You must like solitude or being a writer isn't for you.’ I recently stopped reading an otherwise very well-written memoir because although it part-concerned a ‘life’ of T.H. White, author of one of my favourite books, The Once and Future King, and part-concerned dealing with grief, for me there was too much judgment on White and not enough about dealing with grief. The judgment came from a 21st century straight, I've assumed, female, in regard to a 20th century homosexual male. At any rate it spoiled my enjoyment of the book to see White's perfectly valid opinion that falling in love with anything other than a countryside is a desolation, his opinion judged as sad. Unfairly.

Opinions are, can be, important. But it needs to be clarified that that is all an opinion is, somebody's subjective point of view. A worrying trend in modern journalism is the belief by its practitioners that their opinion is objective. There may be no such thing as truth but there are facts, and their increasing absence brings us closer to the embrace of such religion-haunted ideas as creationism, which flourishes in an environment where facts are regarded as pesky annoyances best discarded.

My own opinion is that the best way to become a writer is to write. There are plenty of how-to books out there that don't take long to read to get the bare bones of the craft: plot, narrative, back-story, motivation, writer's voice. Of course writers need to learn spelling and grammar, just not from Grammarly or Word, the latter masquerading as the social police. The main problem with how-to write books is that some promise magic solutions they cannot fulfill: every writer has, or will discover, the working method that’s best for them. Bet you dollars for doughnuts it probably isn’t the method espoused by the how-to-write book’s author.

I have never found a book that taught me how to get out of a corner I've painted myself into. I learned how to extricate myself by the painting in to, then scraping myself out from, said corner, many times over. NaNoWriMo taught me that sure, I could write 50,000 words in a month, but they would be 2/3rds drivel that would need several more months, sometimes years, to make right.

This is not to slag off The WriMo. It's excellent practice for all sorts of writers, not just newbies, and if you've been blocked, practising turning off the inner critic. Its founder has written a pretty cool and entertaining book called No Plot? No Problem! But the social aspect isn't for me either, as writers’ groups don’t float my boat. I prefer not to write a first draft with so little conviction that I have to ask others to critique my work before at least five revisions. Or which ending they like best. And I am notoriously indecisive.

It seems to me that the whole business of writing has become far too social. More about numbers than nuances, with too many cooks stirring the broth. But then I wanted to be a writer when I was very young because it was a way to get out of social events, as I was an odd child who didn’t mix well. At least I have tried writing socially. Poetry typewriter on the hop, a very American thing, didn’t do it for me, though I was attempting it in a rural area where poetry hasn’t yet been discovered. Or typewriters.

I still enjoy (and work best) being alone in a quiet room finding the right words for my purpose, a bit like mining without a shovel, pick, or sieve. Of course that’s not for everyone. Nor should it be.

Publishers, like film producers, are always on the look-out for The Next Same Thing. This is why despite the plethora of marketing claims that a book is ‘unputdownable’, a naff word that is right up there in the poor language sweepstakes with phrases like ‘my bad’, I still can't find anything written post-2017 which I can manage to read past page two.

Let’s not give the publishers what they want. We need more writers willing to cultivate their unique voices, to bend and even break genre, and learn the rules so they know which ones they’re comfortaable breaking. I'm not talking about crazy for crazy's sake, or giving yourself a title after you’ve been at it for five minutes. For instance, there are plenty of self-professed Queens of Crime out there, but how many new crime writers are of the calibre of Patricia Highsmith and the consistently excellent Ruth Rendell?

Be Less Lemming. Strike out for diversity. Let the flesh of your hard-made body of words be supported by the bones of your craft. Word without end, amen.

And feel free to ignore every single word I have just written.


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