Why Writer Worship is a Waste of Time

Writer worship is a waste of time and needs to stop
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Since the ninth grade, school instructs us to read the classics, books knighted as literary genius for generations. Professors build careers around talking about one writer or a handful of paperbacks. And we’re taught not to criticize the novels or essays, but instead to search for symbolic evidence as to why these books are perfect.

Red lips kiss

Credit: nobacks.com

In other words, we learn how to kiss the butts of writers, many already long dead.

It’s not that these writers don’t deserve a lot of cred. Some of the greatest books I’ve read are cliché classics. Just look at my Goodreads.

So how are my reading habits different than an English class syllabus? Because I don’t read the books to worship the writers.

In school, we’re assigned to write papers as to why the symbolism spoke to the greater good or why the writer reinvented the use of X, Y, Z since the Cave Ages.

You know, the obvious stuff.

But classic books aren’t holy texts. And these writers aren’t gods.

Stop sign

Credit: blog.maseratiraleigh.com

I’m going to say it: We need to stop all this writer worship.

Wouldn’t it be great to instead have a classroom discussion challenging the common opinion about the text? To say that the protagonist is really evil, that the (pages and pages of) scenery description doesn’t contribute much to the plot, or that the book really just sucks.

We’ve all wanted to say that in a Lit course.

It’s not a constructive use of time to list why the writer is great. That centralizes our focus on the writer, not the story. That elevates the writer’s status in our mind and, consequently, lowers our own evaluation of our own writing skills.

Instead, we should focus our time on looking at the writing as a story. Does the story have a well-developed plot? Are the characters fully formed? Does the dialogue support the story? Do the descriptions, from the setting to the actions, contribute to the plot and the characters?

This is what I do when I read the classics. In fact, it’s why I read. I study the structure of the story. I take the writer (briefly) out of the equation while I evaluate what’s working and not working in the story. That is the only way I will learn how to refine my own work as a writer.

A writer great at their craft should be respected, not worshipped. And a great writer that you respect should be by your own choice, not because your teacher said so.

What do you think? Do you think writer worship is a waste of time? Share your opinions below.

Writing in the 21st Century

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My name is Kaitlyn and I’m a writer.  Usually when I say this, silence enters the conversation.

“You’re a journalist?” my stranger or family member will finally ask.

“Not quite,” I say.

“So you write books.”

“I’m trying,” I’ll confess.

This is where the conversation gets awkward and trickles into talk about the spinach dip at the party or the hot or cold or rainy or windy weather outside.

It is still a misconception that journalist and author are the only careers for writers (or, at least, a way to make money).  And this is quite surprising because, now with technology rapidly advancing, the application of words surrounds us.  We read blogs, social media posts, websites, emails, catalogs, billboards, manuals, brochures, posters, recipes, travel guides, print and (whether we want to or not) online ads–the list is almost endless.

And who wrote those?  It was a writer.

Today, with these ever-changing advancements, writers disguise themselves behind different names, such as marketing manager or communications coordinator or social media specialist or filmmaker or publisher or professor or tutor or translator or agent or publicist or columnist or critic.  These professions may not allow the writer to write 100% of the time, but the writer is still writing about something important to an audience that has a demand for it.

And doesn’t the writer love an audience!

I surely didn’t understand this when I was eighteen.  My plan was to write a novel while I studied creative writing at college, believing that I would have a publishing contract and book tour waiting for me on the other side of the graduation stage.  But when I barely could crank out five chapters by the end of my senior year, I was relieved that I got accepted into an M.F.A. program.  I thought for sure that, after three grueling years of perfecting my craft, my graduate thesis would be the polished manuscript every publishing house wanted.

Let’s just say that things didn’t go as planned.

I had my aha! moment when I got my first office job as a marketing assistant at Columbia College Chicago.  I found it strange that the marketing department wanted someone with creative writing experience, but after the copywriting and campaigning and event planning and social media-ing, it made sense.  Marketing depends on accurate research, creative problem solving, understanding the target audience, seeing the big picture and scrutinizing over miniscule details, and (of course) immaculate writing skills.  This is exactly what the writer in me loves to do, but I was so fixated on my one goal to be an author that I had closed my eyes for a long time to the other numerous possibilities of fulfillment in writing field.

I am a writer.  I’m still searching (longer than I’d like to admit) for that full-time career in any writing guise, but I’m always writing.  I’m writing my novel-in-progress, sketches for plays, cover letters, queries, and now–a blog.