There’s a strange feeling when I read a beautiful longform piece by an adjunct professor of writing and rhetoric at my alma mater, knowing I make more money than her and yet have to live thousands of miles away from my family and the land of my birth. My life is a choice–an attempt to not fall into the traps of life back home–where you’re a fancy writer but you can’t afford to eat or buy anything.
It’s the same feeling I get when I see that a former friend has written but one, practically-plagiarized book. He published to some acclaim, fancying himself modern Robert Louis Stevenson with 19th century London tattooed on his left forearm. It sounds like you, but it’s still a fancy copy of a previous genius. I read it, and I know why you wrote it.
We all have Maslow knocking on our foreheads daily, reminding us that we need to eat or shit or buy some clothing. Independent wealth has always been the way to becoming a gentleman writer. (Russell’s edit: Have you even ever had tuberculosis or shot an elephant in Burma?)
We all have Maslow knocking on our foreheads daily, reminding us that we need to eat or shit or buy some clothing.
Nevertheless, I’m still let down by the prospect of writing my own boring-ass remake of a story that’s been told a thousand times. I know that I could make money that way. I will have to go that way someday if I want to be a professional writer. Then I can have money enough to write my “real” book. As long as my agent doesn’t force me into a Hunger Twilight series of 11 books.
I could do the opposite thing, and write the beginning of my own heavily-embellished life story in full copying of Vonnegut: “All this happened, more or less.” I, too, wish for literary greatness. I am just uncomfortable with the amount of recycling that seems to be involved. Then again, I was always a child bent on saving the planet through ecological actions. Maybe memetics can be put out in bins just like aluminum cans.
I do my part. I write freelance. It’s writing work, but it’s not a literary career. It’s money for things that my full-time teaching job won’t pay for. I’m sure the adjunct professor understands. It’s money for plane tickets and camera parts and books that those in my own lost generation are copying from their heroes.
Maybe memetics can be put out in bins just like aluminum cans.
Of course I could be a great writer if I just managed to slip in lines from all the greats in ways that most people wouldn’t notice. Of course I could re-write Harry Potter (IN SPACE!) and dodge copyright claims to piggyback on the billion-dollar wizarding industry. Of course I could write the shitty snack books I read to encourage me to publish. I mean, if they can be published fancy professional fiction writers, why not I?
Maybe Maslow will eventually make me. We live in the Age of the Reboot, after all, with ever-shortening cycles of old and new wrapped around the same damn movie or show. Maybe that’s what the people want. For now I write much less than I read, which is probably the best infancy a fiction writer could hope for. Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, my brain will dry up and I will go completely out of my mind (and tilt at certain windmills).
Only because of the blatant lack of ideas in 2018, and my own inability to create new ones.
One thought on “Hunger Twilight, Mr. Hyde, and Don Quixote”
No man is an island and we are made of all the greats who came before us. We’re not here to plagiarize them but to recognize, understand, and sometimes borrow some of their thoughts/ideas/concepts to bring them further. Great post and excellent insights to all creatives who read you. Keep on reading and be kind to yourself.