More and more these days the question seems to be raised in various different forms: would you (or I) continue writing if there was no real prospect of making money from your work? It is asked, I imagine, by those who have already discovered the awful truth, and read by those who haven’t.
My answer of course is a resounding ‘yes’. Writing, or should I say the need to tell a story – to invent a world for others to believe in – is all that keeps me from an insanity of boredom. I will, however, admit to my sadness that the question in my opening paragraph is a valid one, and add my feeling that it is particularly unfortunate that the art, at this critical time in its history, should choose to lodge so many convincing bullets in its own foot.
What is this plague of monotony which seems to cover everything? Why has the privilege of making a voice heard become the exclusive gift of a small circle of graduates from certain universities who presumably are incapable of earning a living in any other way? I constantly find myself on the perimeter of a muddied pool with my feet stuck in the shallows, staring in at a constant pulp-stream of repetitive plots and unconvincing characters – usually ‘writers’ – as they slop among some new invasive pond-weed called ‘genre’. I despair!
I despair for real disenfranchised people who want to read about other ‘real’ people – who want a bit of fun, a bit of escapism which does not require a visit to a higher intellectual plain. I despair for those who are intimidated because their sex lives do not follow the tortuous path they read upon the page, or whose financial realities fail to match the seemingly limitless resources of the characters in whom they are asked to believe.
Come on, agents, publishers or whatever title you wish to place upon yourselves! Cast fear aside! Stop playing ‘safe’ with the same names, the same plots, the same fashions. Step outside the circle and bring in some new, essential talents that don’t necessarily have a string of associations behind their names. Be ready to reposition the odd comma or two and take up your cudgels for writers whose style is different, perhaps, or whose ideas make you feel a little afraid.
Who knows – you might start to sell some books.