Imagine the young writer as a paradox whose ambition leads to a hunger to be recognized that is so urgent that it’s physically painful. Is it that kind of goading impulse that keeps the young buck going and how is that different from loving to write?
I’m going to assume that the ambition is born from the act of writing like a phoenix is born from the flames. If you’re a good writer, you’re innately ambitious. It’s like an angel with a flaming quill has taken you by the hand. Write!
But what our society does with that ambition is flay it alive under the pretext of embracing it. As a writer you are allowed to excel, but only if you take twenty thousand remora along with you.
It’s a mirror-image world where you resist your friends and helpers. I don’t think that smart writers fear their active enemies. Your dedicated enemies will be honest about your work which is more than you can say about your friends. If you have left any weakness in your writing, the bad guys in your life will find it. Your friends will praise every idiocy you write.
Your real opponents and the smartest ones, are those that cultivate an indifference to your work and the people who were born indifferent. But we know that those who were born indifferent to literature are dead to the world, so they don’t count. Writers know that the world consists of an arrangement of letters, letters that live and breathe and cry out and sing.
So the writer launches out onto the world of readings, signings, twitterings, facebook pages and possibly, teaching. Their little bark of art is launched onto the great ocean of American or some other country’s turpitude.
Is the writer in the crowd of a book launch party the real writer? Or is it just the society doppelganger for the real writer. Real writer: in a solitary room with the door shut, at a table or a desk, writing. A writing activity that nobody can see, it happens in our world but it’s invisible to the world. It’s like I went out into a clearing in the woods and left there an offering to a woodland beast. When I come back the next day, the offering is gone but in its place is a story. I never lay eyes on the beast.
What an extraordinary scene I saw! Johnny being carried around the room at his book launch party! It may be that J is airborne as an artist but I’m wondering whether any reader can see that. My theory is that he sends out a double on those book tours. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. You can’t meet a writer. That’s an especially American fantasy, I think: that you can meet the artist anywhere but in their work.
A writer’s naturally occurring ambition pulls them into a world of blood sucking remora and a whole lot of very nice people who have barely a clue but are struggling to wake up from their philistine world without literature.
But the writer has the brilliancy to escape from the sight of the readers that need them, like that beast in the forest that is never seen but whose presence makes itself known. Woe to the writer who is suckered into an animal trap that is designed, most ingeniously, to confine him in a chattering media community of inconsequence.
Fear the inevitable need to be acclaimed! Are you always looking for the incense to be lighted at your altar? Do you practically have an orgasm when you are asked for your autograph? (This a caution for new writers.) I know a writer who went through the pages of his Facebook friends to see if they listed his own work as their favorite. Fear the Facebook page that has no logout option or the book launch party that you are never allowed to leave.