When I tell someone I’m a writer, half the time he or she will ask, “Are you published?” Then, invariably, I feel a pang of shame because I’ve never been paid for what I do—I haven’t sold a book or even an article to anyone.

Then I mumble something about writing a blog, writing film reviews for an online zine, my little film review show on community radio, or whatever. At the end of all this, you know how I feel? Like a phony writer.

But the truth is, the whole notion of publishing, the air of commerce and the accompanying prestige, feels like a hand around my neck. Anything one writes becomes co-opted into the market. No matter how subversive we can try to be, the game of publishing or recording or performing has a built-in quality of bullshit social reassurance. You can buy a book or a CD or a DVD and think you’re ahead of the curve on whatever it might be, but the real connection is lost because you are an “audience.” When I write to an audience I am automatically full of shit. Or at least partly full.

So when I write on a blog like this, or hurl some sarcasm into the ether via my Twitter account, I give it away for free. And I encourage you to take it and screw around with it, and turn it into something else, and maybe even throw it back.

Which isn’t to say that I wouldn’t accept money for my antic screeds, cinematic cogitations, or abstruse philosophical treatises. I have no marketing skills, and I don’t want any. Marketing myself feels as foreign to me as becoming a Republican or an Amway cultist. I am not averse, however, to being “discovered,” provided that being discovered never precludes me from saying “Fuck you” to anyone in a suit I encounter.

Novels, poems, plays, essays, articles. Who gives a shit? I don’t know who set up this game, but I refuse to play. I’m too old to reach for anything other than the present. I have only one favor to ask of you, dear readers, when it comes to my ambition, and it comes from the cowardly lion in that movie The Wizard of Oz.

Talk me out of it.


~ by cdash on November 23, 2009.

8 Responses to “Credoh”

  1. Dash –

    You are a good writer, and people who write do, and people who don’t write, well, don’t.

    The process of writing is important, that’s the journey. That’s what compels us to write. It is our reward. Having readers, that’s gravy.

    Before the Great Recession I was (and I suppose I still am) a professional technology writer – my work has been translated into 40+ languages and remains to this day in some of the technology textbooks used in colleges. In that small circle of writers, I’m a known quantity.

    I get a bigger thrill out of blogging.

    I get to write about what I want to write about, it can be instructive or funny, maybe insightful — but I’m in control of it.

    For what it is worth, Dash, enjoy the journey. It’s a great one.



  2. Thanks so much, Tengrain. I needed that.

  3. Hi Dash. You said, “When I write to an audience I am automatically full of shit. Or at least partly full.”

    That resonates with me. At one time the more popular my blog got, the more I felt anxious over what to write to next because I was developing a sense of what worked for my readers and what didn’t. The ideas stopped flowing as easily. For unrelated reasons, a mid-life crisis hit me and I stopped blogging for months. When that lifted, I returned to the keyboard. At first it was hard, until I said eff it and let loose. The ideas having been flowing like river since because although I love the comments and the audience, I’m writing from my heart.

    A lot of the most interesting books and movies are like this. The author sends it in, and I imagine most get rejected, but some do make it through.

    I’ve been looking into the self-publishing game or what amounts to self-publishing by numerous small publishers, most who retain rights and pay you only a portion of what the book earns. If you’re in that for profit, it’s probably best to keep your day job. If you’re in it for passion though, maybe it’s worth it and it would be fun to get a little extra grocery money; I don’t know.

    I do know that uncensored, written self-expression feels so good, and connecting to similarly-minded souls is icing on the cake.

  4. Tengrain wrote:
    You are a good writer, and people who write do, and people who don’t write, well, don’t.

    The process of writing is important, that’s the journey. That’s what compels us to write. It is our reward. Having readers, that’s gravy.

    I’ll second that.

    The film reviews you write count.

    But why not try to get paid for what you write? So long as you’re not compromising whatever it is your trying to say, there’s no harm in it. It’s when you compromise your ideals to make money that’s the problem. Well, to me at least.

    Maybe you should start looking around to see who will accept unsolicited work. The head of my writers’ workshop makes a living selling all sorts of homemaker and parenting articles to magazines big and small. Obviously, that’s different than anything you write but if you look for them, maybe you’ll find them. If you don’t, you won’t.

    As for self-publishing (and this advice goes to everyone) NEVER pay to do it. There are enough printing companies out there that will do it for free. They get paid when you sell a book and you retain the rights. For starters, check out Lulu or CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-pub division). But there are more.

    The markets for getting anything published right now are tough. A lot of zines have gone under so there’s more of us competing for fewer markets. Even the big publishing houses are hurting (and they take it out on the writers). I’ve given up on waiting for traditional publishing to pan out. I’m self-publishing my novel. I’m just waiting on the galley proofs and then I’ll release it.

    If you or anyone else want to talk to me further about it, I’d be glad to share my experiences with you.

  5. when you write for yourself, you are really writing for everyone. look at how bad most movies, books and tv is today – because they are writing to attract an audience,not writing from their souls.

    quarterly profit statements often stop that

    keep up your work – i know i learn from it

  6. C’mon dcap, are you saying most mainstream shit is exactly that? We should be encouraging Dashiell to sell out to the man and start rolling in those crispy bills.

    I can’t imagine having to market myself. The very thought makes me ill. You either like it or you don’t.

  7. Dash you should not feel bad…it is a game. Just like music, film and other forms of entertainment there exists an entitled elite who will command the largest audience regardless of talent.
    what is refreshing is the number of choices is soo large now we literally can stumble upon something good. Follow it. Be entertained pissed off or whatever.
    I have always enjoyed your writing and clarity of thought but there are many who do not even have the foundation of knowledge to appreciate what you have to offer.
    Fuck being discovered we already know you.

  8. I’ll second that last sentence.

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