Writing Series - You're not the next great American Writer, so what?

Written by Chris Jorgensen

Here we are, back again with another quick word or two on how to be a better writer, editor, reader, or any other amalgamation of creative individual that requires words to make their medium flourish. This one I think is what gets to me more often than anything else, and I see this so much in young writers and readers who never really make it into the industry, and even if they do, they never take it very far. You’ve all seen them, perhaps met them, and maybe you are one of them. I’m talking about the “Starbucks writer.” So, we need to talk about these people for a few various reasons, but the general understanding of the lesson is pretty simple.

Lesson #2

You Will Not be the Next Great American Author

And that’s okay. Not every author out there is destined to write the next world-changing novel, but that does not mean they won't write a good book. With the massive influx of so many genres becoming more and more popular, and with the ease of access to books in the modern day, we have access to a broader audience than ever before. So your work might not be the next greatest thing, but it can find a very comfortable home on the bookshelves of your audience. So while I do make that bold statement, don’t despair, because it doesn’t diminish the story you can still tell. Now that we have that cleared up, we can start into the bad of this particular topic.

Really though, this is true, and we need to start accepting it. The fact of the matter is, it takes years of hard work and dedication to be on that level of great when it comes to your creative visions. The truth is that so many people treat it as a hobby or a small facet of their lives and expect the world to see their greatness. Frankly, this just isn’t the way.

Now, I label them as “Starbucks writers” because that’s where they gather. We see so many people gathering up in small coffee shops and attempt to look more trendy than they actually are. “What’s that you are working on?”, “Oh, this is my screenplay, it’s going to change film.” You all know the stereotype. These people are a real thing, and I want to emphasize that this does not mean that all people who study or work in a coffee shop are bad. I know many lovely people who enjoy coffee and the arts, but we can’t deny that these people are a thing and they are not going anywhere.

Coffee shops are a terrible place to work for several reasons, and we are going to tap into a few one at a time to really hammer in the point.

#1 You get no real work done.

More often than not, these are just places filled with distraction after distraction. From watching or eyeing the girls/guys working behind the counter, the number of different people who walk in the front door, to even just your coffee. What work actually gets done here? I use this as a number one because I used to write in a coffee shop, and realized just how little I actually did while trying to do it, and so my writing quickly shifted over to an office space that is meant for work. Which leads to the next.

#2 This is work

And so many people are going to get upset with me for that, but it is in fact work. Sure, writing can be a great way to help you through all kinds of things and can be a wonderful creative outlet. However, if you are a genuine writer who is trying to get your work out to the people, this is not a trivial thing, and should not be treated as such. This is quite literally your work that you are trying to get attention to, and it should be treated as work when you do it. Nothing is ever perfect on the first try, and it takes effort to make any of those great works to get to where they ended.

#3 You end up doing nothing

Alongside the first one, you end up not really getting anything done that is worth contributing to the work itself. After all those distractions you look down and realize that you have either done a massive amount of typing, or very little. If you are the first, you might read it over and see that not much was gained, and the distractions left you muddling through the bulk of what you were trying to say. If you are the latter, then you just spent the majority of the day sitting in a chair drinking overpriced coffee and staring at your screen (or piece of paper if you are one of those poor despicable souls who uses a typewriter for the “authentic and retro” feel. Burn in a fire). This has happened to me every time I have tried to work where there is any sort of thing that can distract me away from what I am doing, and even this laptop can suddenly take me out of the “zone” as it were. Work is not really about doing whatever and making the world change as a result.

#4 No one cares

Really, no one cares what you are doing over in your little corner. If you are in a coffee shop, some people want just to take their drink and go. They will neither look at you or suddenly become curious as to what magic words you may or may not be typing. If you are in a bookstore, people are there to read, get books, and leave to enjoy a book they felt was worthy of their money and be about their day. If you are writing at school, perhaps even a library, they have so much on their minds for their own sake that they can’t be bothered to do anything other than their own work.

So all in all, let’s drop this silly cliche of a guy sitting in coffee shop acting like he is working on the next greatest novel ever written, and acknowledge that this writer is probably just another hipster who is trying to garner your attention. I personally don’t really go for writing that I don’t see potential in, and I certainly don’t care to find writers who don’t want to put their real potential to the test and won't work hard at something. Yes, this is art, and art is about expression, but art also has a bad history and reputation of not being smart when it comes to “what is great” or not. Look up the story about the pineapple in an art museum and see just what I mean. The art world has diverged away from what art truly means, and has instead gone for the pretentious mainstream appeal. Perhaps that is also for another time.