“Client’s disease”

My buddy Lauren over at BiblioBuffet sent me a link to a fabulous blog post [thanks, toots!], and I could kiss her square on the lips. I said I could, I didn’t say I would.

This blog post will never be mistaken for zen.calm. It’s a kick in the pants reality check that discusses the realities of writing, which is…

No one wants to read your shit.

Now I didn’t say that, author Steven Pressfield said it. And you know what? He’s right. But he isn’t saying it the way you think. What Steven is saying is that just because you love your story doesn’t mean everyone wants to drop everything, put their lives on hold just so they can read your brilliant collections of verbs and nouns.

I encounter this a lot. I read pages and wonder if the authors ever considered that just because they love their writing others will as well.  Steven calls it Client’s Disease, and he hits the nail on the head. The marketplace, in general, doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about the new thang on the block.

It’s not because the marketplace is filled with creeps who live to crush authors’ hearts. Heck, that’s our job. The marketplace has a bajillion choices placed before them, and there is no reason why they should care about you. It’s your job to make them care.

Steven writes:

When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated. You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction. The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer, must give him something worthy of his gift to you.

This means that it’s the author’s job to constantly ask:

“Am I boring my reader?”

Steven, most importantly, demands that the writer jump outside of his own ego because it’s the readers who make the author successful. Not the other way around.

Go. Read. Learn.

That is all.

7 Responses to “Client’s disease”

  1. Voidwalker says:

    It’s a downer and upper all in the same post… geez, I imagine this feels like the beagle spiked my tequilla with speed. (that is, if the beagle and I ever were on good enough terms for drinks)

  2. Marian says:

    I’d add that the reader often donates his or her money, also a very valuable commodity. Still, that’s the one thing the reader *could* get back, if the book failed to satisfy.

  3. Steve says:

    I’ll agree to the limited extent that almost no reader would willingly read badly written, uninteresting material. That being said, I think Steven’s condemnation of aspiring writers’ work, as you have reported it is way too all-eocompassing and overstated. (I just went and read the actual post – I stand by what I just said).

    All of us have things we like to read. All of us have things we are passionately interested in. As I write this, I am taking time away from my day job to read YOUR stuff, and even, on your recommendation, Steven Pressfield’s. So for most writers out there, somebody DOES want to read their stuff. A little over a week from now will be Superbowl Sunday. Countless people WHO ARE NOT FOOTBALL FANS will tune in to see the half-time commercials. Different medium – same principle. Somebody wrote that stuff. And millinos of people want to see it. I’ve spent countless hours persuing myspace pages and LJ blogs. I wanted to read their stuff.

    The audiences are out there. Yes, they’re busy and their attention is pulled in dozens of directions. But there are things they will stop for and pay attention to. And that just might be your stuff. Or mine.

    We all have life experiences. And those impact what we like to read, and what we think is worth writing about. And although each each of us is unique, we are not THAT unique. Deep inside, we are also all the same. If a topic resonates deeply enough with us that we go to the not inconsiderable trouble of putting it in wruiting, it will probably resonate with others, if well-presented.

    So Steven is just wrong. You want to say he’s being deliberately “over the top” for shock value? If so, it worked. I’m shocked. And ticked off. Steven’s attitude toward aspiring writers is beyond snarkiness. It’s just plain mean.

    If you like stuff like that, that’s surely your right. Just as the First Amendment gives him the right to spew it. Hopefully, you can acknowledge and respect that some of us will think otherwise.

    Calming down, slowly,

    -Steve

  4. Steve, you have an interesting perspective – thanks for sharing. After reading Steven’s article, I came away with the notion that he isn’t saying no one wants to read new writers’ works, but that the author – any author – is wise to keep that notion tucked not far from their consciousness because it’ll make them better writers.

    I agree that his delivery is shocking, but I believe he does this by design. It’s incredibly tough “out there,” and the sooner writers appreciate the callousness in which this industry works, the better prepared they’ll be when they begin the query phase and/or publication.

    This is not a world for the faint of heart or lacking in intestinal fortitude.

  5. Steve,Lynn is right. When I said “Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t,” I include myself (and every other writer, no matter how good or famous) within the word “your.” The last thing I would do is discourage aspiring writers, or any writers. We all need all the encouragement we can get. God knows, it takes plenty of guts to expose yourself on the printed page. My point to any writer is this: Disabuse yourself of the egotistical notion that just because you’re enamored of your subject matter or your style or your prose, that readers “out there” will be too. They will if it’s good. But they will not, just because you wrote it. So make it good. That’s my counsel to myself as well as to my fellow keyboard-thrashers. Hope that clarifies things.

    Meanwhile, Lynn, thanks for the kind words and for coming to the defense of “Nobody Wants To … ”

    P.S. My book, “The War of Art,” might clear up a bit of the misapprenhesion voiced by Steve above, or any other reader who might have read my post that way.

    Best to all,
    Steven Pressfield

  6. Steven, thanks so much for stopping by and giving further explanation. While reading your article, I found myself nodding in agreement – and also thinking, “boyo, this guy is going to piss off a lot of people.”

    But your approach is very realistic and I really appreciated it. Your post shouldn’t be perceived as a Debbie Downer, but rather, a valuable tool that will keep writers on their toes and aid in their success.

  7. Steve says:

    Lynn, Steven,

    I understand what you’re saying here. Thanks for clarifying. I guess it’s a question of approach.

    Steven, I think you have a bit of the “drill sergeant” approach. This obviously works for a lot of people, which is why the drill sergeants use it 🙂 I’m more the “let’s be laid back and talk it over” type, though I have to admit I can go the other direction when something pushes my buttons. But I agree your approach has its place – and the underlying point – to try to see beyond your own ego – is an important one that would be hard to argue with.

    -Steve

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