Today, I hadn't written in a while, so I thought, "Fuck it, I'll write some flash fiction. That won't take long. Then I can go back to watching reruns of 'Home Improvement.'" I mean, look at the evidence. Read some journals. They're full of flash fiction and most of it is shit. These folks aren't spending a lot of time on this stuff, and if they are, well that's just sad. Sure, every so often one of them stands out, but most of them are instantly forgettable. I'm not singling FF out--the same could be true of poetry or longer fiction. But FF is shorter, even than some poems. And one wonders if the bulk of 'fiction' writers publishing in journals these days even know how to sustain a longer piece of fiction anymore. But if I go much further with this, I'll have to start naming names.
To survive as a writer, one needs momentum. Now that can be tricky. Me personally, I often get it from positive reinforcement--publications, crowd reactions, etc. But publishing, especially online, doesn't really mean much these days. I keep sending my stuff out, and I keep having it picked up. And to be honest, most of the time I'm disappointed in myself when something I've written is picked up by an online journal. "I should've shot higher," say I to myself. Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, sending your work to some head-strong grad. student to reject from a print journal because his professor told him not to like it or because he doesn't recognize your name can be a little frustrating too. So where to get momentum? The project itself (whatever I'm writing) offers a good bit. Sure, it's hard to keep up the pace of writing a novel when you work 12 hours a day, especially when you're looking at maybe someday getting it published and then having probably nobody outside of your friends and family read it. So to actually finish a project, I, for one, really have to feel strongly about it. Am I the only one? (I know that's absurdly unfair--there are tons of great writers out there. It's called making a point.)
There is just so much white noise out there. So many mediocre writers pumping out so-so work. So little of it is interesting or creative. What little is interesting or creative is buried in the white noise. So what's the point of it all? Some of the white noise is created by folks trying to bolster their resumes in order to nab or keep academic positions, sure. Some of them are still laboring under the antiquated model which leads them to believe there's some challenge to getting published. I'm talking about status, which is quickly becoming a thing of the past, in writing. Sure, the grad. students try to hold on to it, but there's nothing special about an MFA when thousands of other people are getting them every year.
Writing is all about telling stories, sure. Christmas is about giving, too, but we all want to receive every now and again. It certainly is nice when someone sends an email or makes a comment about something you've written. It would be nicer if they enclosed a check. Still, given the choice, I would rather be Van Gogh--the genius toiling in obscurity, than work for Hallmark, sure. Absolutely. No question. Except, of course, that Van Gogh had a LOT of venereal diseases. So we can skip that part.