The Autonomous Writer or I’ll Write How the Fuck I Want, Thanks

The autonomous writer…autonomous meaning, “acting independently or having the freedom to do so.” All-powerful, self-publishing, kick-ass independent.  The AW isn’t afraid to use three hyphenated adjectives in a single fragment. The AW says it’s perfectly okay to begin every concluding paragraph with “And so,” every contradictory paragraph with “But on the other hand.” Because of self-publishing. (The AW starts sentences with “Because” too…well, in the previous example, another fragment).

Is autonomy when it comes to writing a good thing or a bad thing? Autonomous or under contract or both, chances are one of the following words has spiked your interest when it comes to writing: rejection, advice, and aspirations. I’m speaking about people who are at least serious enough to accept writing as a craft, and a difficult one.

Let’s look at rejection. I’ve spoken with writers who, having been accepted for publication, claim to have forgotten all about their rejections. I also know writers who don’t deal with rejection. They publish on Amazon and collect money. Fine for both. What about the unpublished writer who wants to have his work juried but can’t tolerate rejection? Some find writer groups, a spouse, or tech sources such as a blog or Facebook page. As long as you write, the experts say, you’re okay. Writers write. But for whom? There have to be readers, no? It’s a shame writers don’t get the immediate feedback painters receive. And our books don’t become more valuable after we die.

Advice must be examined with the writer’s age in mind. A young writer doesn’t seek advice–she goes to school and learns, probably from other writers. What about older writers? Out of curiosity–and, I hope, an urge to assist–I twice attended a local writer’s group meeting. These meetings were run, for lack of a better word, by a very nice writer who had self-published a number of books. I won’t call the meetings classes. There was advice given and notes taken, but the discussions resembled a writer’s anonymous meeting. Instead of stories about getting bombed and wrecking Aunt Ethel’s birthday by vomiting at the dinner table, there were lots of stories about writing stories. And that’s fine. Everyone knows the number of times published writers employ writers as characters is too frequent to contemplate.

Many of these writers in the writer’s group reminded me of the Aesop tale of the fox and the grapes. You remember–sour grapes. One man made fun of literary writers by pushing up the end of his nose and pronouncing the word literary in a mock-snobbish sort of way. Another man insisted that five word titles were absolutely the most effective. Five words, but never longer than five words. Too much of the advice seemed to center on marketing rather than technique.

As for dreams and aspirations, I suspect many writers wish to be famous and wealthy. Writers used to appear on late night TV. Now some have TV commercials. Not many of us make it that far, published or not. Too much ambition and not enough talent can be a bad combo. People who really shouldn’t write anything other than “at the store” on the fridge notepad write on Facebook and Twitter despite a general lack of knowledge. People die trying to write and drive, although I’m convinced if the laws forbid “writing while driving” instead of “texting while driving,” most people would stop breaking the law.

And so (wink) does autonomy help negate fear of rejection, often times useless advice, and dashed dreams? Maybe. Everyone knows anyone can get published.  Then again some of us just have to write. It’s part of us. It’s not a hobby. If you’re a serious writer in charge of your own writing, good for you. If you have a publisher, an angel in New York (agent), or both, good for you. If you are autonomous and have a publisher and an agent, you’ve already laughed until coffee came out of your nose.

You can find thousands of quotes about writers and writing. I’ll leave you with this from Raymond Carver, who wrote in a return letter to me, “Good luck with your own writing.”

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