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You’re a lousy writer!

Russell T. Davies

You might have noticed I like Doctor Who and Torchwood, both brought to the world by Russell T. Davies. I have Davies’ book A Writer’s Tale, which I loved reading. I’d invite Davies to dinner any day.

I’ve also read these words online to describe Davies’ writing: hack, schmaltzy, shit writer, lousy writing, and sexist tropes. Oh well. No one is perfect.

No matter who you love, someone is going to think the one you love is lousy. No matter who loves you, someone is going to think you’re lousy. Why let that hold you back?

Yesterday, I listened to a story from On the Media about why there are more male then female commentators, pundits, and news sources. While I don’t want to be a pundit, I think they made points that could apply to women novelists. Okay. Novelists. No? Okay. Me.

Some folks are too afraid to say they are good. Russell T. Davies said that you have to be arrogant to be a writer. You have to believe in your story enough to demand money for it. He’s talking TV, of course. This story is so good millions of people will watch it so go get a director, actors, locations, special effects…for my story. David Simon of The Wire fame probably doesn’t apologize for having an idea. Hey, I was sort of wondering if you might be, you know, if you have time, might be interested in reading this little thing I wrote, and of course, I realize it still needs some work, but I’m sorry if I’m bothering you…

Should women be more arrogant?

10 thoughts on “You’re a lousy writer!

  1. I think arrogance is more a male characteristic than not, that women who display arrogance are pursuing their masculine arc, that arrogant writers of either gender are over the top, operatic and, worse, revealing the defensiveness that further reveals their uncertainty.

    My preference is for confident rather than arrogant, thus a confidant writer as opposed to an arrogant one of either gender. In my mind I hear you asking, should women writers be more confident, to which I answer: How good for them if they can be confident. But how does one achieve confidence in the first place? Isn’t there a time after a work is completed that we have second thoughts, possibly even third or fourth thoughts? Thus this answer: Confidence is the quality that allows you to continue turning out new work. This quality exists in the certainty that the last work will not have been everything you intended.

    Liking an idea when it comes to you, then rearranging the furniture of your life to work on it, is energizing, in a way confidence oriented. Telling anyone who will listen how wonderful it is becomes arrogance.

    Confidence is beginning a new work, doing so in the face of evidence that it can never be everything you hoped, but also with the hope that it will contain some surprising awareness that will lead you to begin yet another, when this one has been finished.

    Norman Mailer was, I believe, an arrogant writer whose strongest and most enduring quality inheres in the smacking sound with which he plasters his words on the wall. Louise Erdrich is a confident writer, whose last work was a risky business in which nearly all of her characters are not likable.

    You may not see yourself as having confidence, but on the other hand, you are confident enough to always write the next story and make the next piece of art. Returning to the rhetoric of your question, I answer it with yet another question. What would it gain you if you were arrogant rather than confident?

    • I’d rather be arrogant. Sometimes in women it seems that confidence is called arrogance. Or manliness. But I’d lose a lot if I were arrogant. More confidence would be nice.

  2. Arrogant? Hmm. I think that’s opening a whole other thing – should women be arrogant, or did you mean women writers? Arrogance has a nasty feel to it. Confidence does not. Confidence is red saying, “Yeah, I’m red! I like being red!” and arrogance is red saying, “Yeah, I’m red and I’m better than blue.”

    Confidence is good. Arrogance is not. Whether you’re a woman, man, writer, or reader.

    • I think too many confident women are called arrogant (or bitchy). And some people give arrogant men too much credit for confidence. But yes, confidence is good.

  3. Not surprisingly, I’ve been thinking about this exact topic today. Well, I was thinking about how so many women don’t DECLARE what it is they want, what they need, who they are. So they don’t get it. They don’t get to live their dreams. Men more often are the ones taking those steps out and just taking what they think is their due. Women always apologize, ask for permission, put down their own work, let someone think they are… arrogant, selfish, bitchy, etc.

    I was thinking about it in regards to myself, and my need to make time for my work, which I don’t, because of the needs of the family… but how much of it is just because I don’t make the declaration, “this is my work and I need to have the time to get it done.”

    Or in the case of your question today, “this is my work and people should get to read it.” I think these are similar. Part of the reason I don’t declare my writing is because I am afraid of having people read it. Afraid of the results.

    (oh I keep trucking, but there’s a lot of slogging through fear and resentment and insecurity. but i do keep trucking. so there is some confidence there, and I’m not going to freak out over the insecurity issue.)

    • I’m trying to work on this in different areas of life–like instead of asking if I can take a nap, I just go take one. Amazing. Not asking for permission for everything!

      I want people to read my work and am terrified that they will. And that they won’t. Craziness.

  4. As you know, I myself have all the assertiveness of a… a… hey, you know what would be a good mascot for the terminally unassertive? A cringemonkey. (If such a species actually existed, I mean.)

    Anyway, I’m in no position to bark at someone else for not being more uppity. Or rather let’s say, …for not being as uppity as they deserve. Although most people speak of assertiveness as a character trait — a “built-in” identifying tic or mark, like red hair or a limp — it seems to me it’s more like a skill that can be learned, if one gets a chance to try it out early enough. Maybe on the order of difficulty of learning a second or third language. The younger you are, the easier it is to learn. If you wait too long, learning it becomes waaaay harder — practically impossible. Then, when you’re considering going someplace where the natives understand only that language which is different than your own, you really have three choices:

    (1) Take a guide who’s fluent in the language. (Let’s call the person, oh, say, an agent. Or at least, a mentor.) (Of course, you’ve got to fumble around with some sample phrases and stock verbiage to get a guide in the first place. Ou est la restroom?)

    (2) Bring along a phrasebook so you can at least figure out how to go through the motions, even if haltingly. (Writer’s Market/Digest; A Writer’s Tale; Stephen King’s On Writing, maybe?)

    (3) Avoid that destination altogether and be satisfied with reading travel essays and watching documentaries by others.

    I’m well into the fantasy stage: waiting for the right guide to find me. I just hope it’s not the final stage, ha.

    • You know how hookworms burrow into a person’s foot? Well, I’m thinking that cringemonkeys are tiny and burrow into a person’s head. Of course, I think this because I feel I’ve got one clinging to my gray matter right now.’

      May this please not be the final stage.

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