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Outdated, Stodgy, Ivory Tower Attitudes that Cripple Writers

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Writers (including me) love to bemoan the current state of publishing, the small advances, the dwindling to non-existent marketing budgets, the lack of readers, the short attention spans of American readers, the influence of text messaging on language, and the dearth of suitably hip coffee shops to hang out in. In short, we complain about it all.

But what we do not do often enough is complain about ourselves.

Yesterday, I posted a item about Douglas Coupland’s new fashion line. And I received a bunch of emails from readers who thought this line of business was one of the following:

–Unseemly for a literary author
–Wasting time that should be spent on new writing
–Callously mercenary

Now, there’s an argument to be made about whether a sufficient market exists for author created and endorsed products. Admittedly, we don’t have the fan bases that rock stars and movie stars have. But that’s another topic. Today, I’m discussing writers attitudes towards the activities of their colleagues.

While Coupland’s sartorial taste may not be to my liking, I cannot comprehend why he should be attacked for diversifying his business interests, taking on a new challenge, and occupying himself in some manner other than being locked in a garret churning out words.

We, as writers, all have to make choices with how we want to run our careers. But we, as a group, are the only profession on the planet who do NOT try to take advantage of opportunity. Meanwhile, we sit back and watch every fucking person with the slightest bit of name recognition take over our own industry. And every other industry they can get their hands on.

You’re a clothing designer who won a show? Write a book.

You’re a mid-level receiver who makes a catch in the Super Bowl? Write a Book.

You’re a superstar athlete? Write a book. And sell shoes.

You’re a comedian? Write a book.

You’re a politician? Write a book.

You’re a former staffer for a disgraced politician? Write a book.

You’re a businessman? Write a book.

You’re a reality show flash in the pan? Write a book.

You’re a movie star? Write a book.

You’re a musician? Write a book.

You’re a hiker who cut off your own arm? Write a book.

You’re a revered, critically acclaimed, seriously rigorous chef? Write a book.

You’re a food personality on television? Write a book. And host a game show. And sell cookware. And wrist bands. And sell a magazine with your name on it . And even hock god awful hideous sunglasses.

But, if you’re a writer who wants to be taken seriously by your peers? Then you’d better not do a damn thing other than put words on paper. And you certainly better not expect to earn any income from it. And in some ways, we hinder our own profession with that antiquated notion.

Yes, you have the choice to maintain complete focus on your writing if that is what you choose to do with your career. Take the Cormac McCarthy or JD Salinger route. Be “pure” and “unsullied.” That is a perfectly reasonable and respectable decision.

But don’t criticize another writer for diversification.

As writers, we face plenty of struggles and obstacles in our career. But we should not place even more hurdles in our way with ivory tower ideals of what our colleagues “should” be doing with their time.