Irish Firebrands came about accidentally, because I have no training in journalism, nor in creative writing. The novel qualifies as a “happy accident,” because I derived enormous enjoyment from the experience of writing it: all three years and every one of the nearly 200,000 words that went into the book.
That’s why I’m concerned about the ranks of writers I’ve encountered who blog about their struggles to make their fiction comply with the multitude of minutiae spouted by the writing gurus and publishing gatekeepers who decree that there is a “right” way to write. Taking such arbitrary pronouncements seriously leads to second-guessing, confusion and discouragement.
Far too many blog posts moan about writer’s block, and many writers also report frustration with their innate creative process (as evidenced by their complaints about renegade characters whose progressive development doesn’t conform to plotted expectations). Both of these problems can be linked to attempted strict adherence to outlining in advance (a guru favorite). Some writers hesitate to start revising for publication, and others have shelved their works-in-progress because of the hash they ended up making of their manuscripts, due to the irreconcilable conflicts in the writing advice they’ve been trying to follow.
Another insidious influence of the gurus and gatekeepers is their insistence that writing is “crafted,” which is not true: Writing is an Art, not a craft. “Arts” and “Crafts” are commonly lumped together, but I’ve been a craftworker, and I’ve been an artist (in various artistic genres), and I know the difference. Craft has to do with producing a tangible item that has a specific, objective use. Art is all about communication, which is intangible and subjective.
The Craft marketplace is also different to the Art marketplace: The effective promotion and successful sale of a craft has to do with its function, while that of a work of Art depends on its feeling. Therefore, well-constructed crafts will always find buyers, but Art, no matter how well performed, is never guaranteed to sell. That’s why it’s deceptive for writing gurus and publishing gatekeepers to convey the impression to writers of fiction that if they will follow craft-based “how-to” rules, they will become the authors of best-sellers.
As a retired healthcare professional, I’m strongly interested in the psychology of writing, and its health benefits. In an effort to help emancipate others to embrace the happiness of “accidental” authorship, I’ll be revisiting my series of essays about “The 7 Reasonable Rules of Writing.” Please join the discussion!