It doesn’t matter that you are literate.
It doesn’t matter that you are a talented and versatile writer.
It doesn’t matter that you are ambitious and industrious.
It doesn’t matter that you have original and compelling stories to tell.
It doesn’t matter in certain circles because the art and profession of writing has been infected with an elitist attitude and one which has shut the door tightly to those who do not have an MFA, English Literature or at the very least an eternally useless Bachelor or Arts degree. You see, the truth is this:
Once upon a time the only requirement for the profession of writing was…wait for it…the ability to write and the talent to tell a story. That’s it. No degree, connections or affiliation with anything other than your arse in a chair feeling inspired and doing the work. The atmosphere is so corrupted now by institutionalized/sanitized thinkers that when you submit certain types of MS to Lit agents, they STRONGLY(read, we will delete you if you don’t have one) suggest you add your academic CV. Uh huh.
The requirement for publication by a small press: Connections and you do all the work to market your book while they take a cut for printing and publishing it. Of course there are also a few ‘business’ advantages to this arrangement via contests, award nominations and royalty checks.
The requirement for self publication: None.
The requirement for success: Long term sales and an appetite for more of your work from a growing readership. Unless anyone, self published, small press published or larger commercial press published can claim this one and only mark of success as a professional
writer, then it is all smoke, mirrors and self delusion. At some point this profession became the focus of those with a penchant for romanticism. The ensuing desire to be the famous author, adored and lauded for his/her awe inspiring intellect became the option for a generation of people raised on television and McDonald’s Happy Meals. The result of the academic grip on writing as an art form is mass illiteracy among writers who are currently lining the shelves at Chapters. Double negatives, tenses that don’t match, inconsistency in character traits and setting, rambling narrative that resembles the chatter of someone on Methamphetamine, redundancy of language and superfluous dialogue that is nothing short of filler for a weak plot. If you add prose that doesn’t exist to support the inner life of a character but is merely present to create an excuse for the author to have an ego trip on every page, then you have what usually passes for a novel in 2013.
The snobs of the lit elite despise the following genres because success here is determined by what was mentioned above and not by any academic connection:
The above noted genres are responsible for producing some of the best and most literate writers we have currently. Conversely modern literature is a wasteland of uninspired soulless creatures pecking away at a keyboard churning out nonsense. The more obscure or peculiar this nonsense , the more it is touted as being intellectual and full of socially conscious meaning. No, it’s just bullshit written by those with no talent who are supported by others with no talent who all seem to have an MFA. This is of course a ludicrous state if affairs but fear not, all is well in our profession, despite the infection of the literati.
Just in case you think the degree you hold in your fist makes you a writer, think again. That piece of paper means one thing only. It means that you could afford to go to school and that you completed your course. It does not mean you can write, no matter what the instructor told you. It also doesn’t matter what other writers tell you because they have their own agendas and the garden path is littered with the blind leading the blind. It only matters what readers tell you by parting with the green in their wallet. Whenever I hear anyone hide behind their degree when no one is buying their books, they usually spout something like this: “Well, I don’t write for anyone else anyway, I write for me.” Good luck with that.
Here is a quote to live by if you are a writer and a reminder that school means nothing, reading means everything and in the writing profession without the talent and the desire you will remain unread:
“I spent three days a week for ten years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of ten years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.” -Ray Bradbury
Below is a short list of successful writers who had no degree from any university, either because they quit, were booted out or never attended at all. Bear in mind this is an incomplete list and if your writing can endure and sell like ice cubes in a heat wave, then you just may have something. Keep writing.
Edgar Allan Poe