Thursday, June 18, 2009

Squish! Under the Foot of the Giant

I can add nothing intelligent to the Google takeover of the literary universe, so there is no need for you, dear reader, to wait for my keen insight. There isn't one. Mostly, I just want to squeeze my eyes tightly shut and wish the conundrum away. But that's not possible. And it's not a question of That Awful Google, which is also hosting this blog, though I do worry a bit about any company worth billions that innocently states, Don't Be Evil. Sure, that and five dollars will buy you a great piece of real estate in Florida. No, if it wasn't Google it would be some other giant word-sucking digital vacuum cleaning up after authors.

And, to quote the character played by Mel Gibson in Signs (one of my favorite movies of all time, though perhaps not for the reasons one might think,) "It might be good. Might be bad." Yup, the space aliens have landed and writers are doomed. Or maybe not. (This is where I am not intelligent. I have no idea whether the Google Settlement, should it be approved, will ultimately be good for writers or not. I get a headache just thinking about it.)

But Google has put writers in the interesting position of having to re-claim their own work. To wave their collective hand in the air and say, "Yes, the work you have just stolen is mine, and thank you so much for screwing me over and giving me a few dollars for my efforts. We're just so darned grateful!" What's not to love?

You, dear reader, have probably detected a tone of cynicism in my words. Yes, it is there. But still, I am open to the vacuum-suck that is going on, because the Powers of the Universe, i.e., Google and lovers of all things digital, or LOATDs, (as opposed to those who consider consequences before they hit accept) have agreed that what's mine is theirs and proceeded as such, and, as an author, whatcha gonna do? I don't think Ghost Busters can help.

But it would have been nice of The Google to ask first. Really. The Glorious Future that you, Dear Google, have envisioned might indeed come to pass, and I might end up a happy participant. But you didn't play nice, and you took stuff that wasn't yours. Miss Manners would be horrified.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I am taking a break from my project today, which is cleaning my office/writing room. Rather, I'm giving myself permission to take a break, having realized that I won't finish this very major operation by dinner, by sunset, by bedtime, or even by daybreak tomorrow. I hate leaving a mess, but then my office was a mess to begin with, so really, what's the difference? Dust and clutter are my long-time companions. In fact, they never seem to want to go home. Oh, right. This is their home.

Eventually, my office will look better, but apparently not today.

Which makes me think about "better." The person and writer that I am is plagued with the notion that I must do "better." Clean better, work better, write better, tech better, blog better, be better. There is a deep panic over the feared truth that I am not better at any of these things and will never be--i.e., I am therefore, by default, a failure. Old bit of mental garbage, there. Still, it's a live electric wire in my mind.

Here at Fusty, though, I will just refer to the part about write better, as goodness knows no one else would be interested in the other ways in which I stumble around in a state of unbetter.

I know I am not alone in facing the "better" conundrum. Many writers (though not, of course, all) are plagued with uncertainty, with the belief that if only they were better writers, all would be well. Which could possibly be true. It doesn't hurt to have some spit and shine to your words.

But there is a wider aspect, a deeply-held belief that we (the other writers who share this concern) do not and will never add up. Will never be special, in a writing kind of way.

One issue is that some writers are simply better writers than we are. A painful but true fact. There is always someone out there whose words sparkle in a way yours don't. [Insert expletive here.] By way of encouragement, I feel this true for everyone, even the successful.

Another issue is the fact that the competition for getting published, for being recognized in any way, for winning awards, for being paid money for your work, for even being read at all, is so absolutely ferocious. Armies have nothing over writers, when it comes to clashes in the night.

By which I don't mean we aren't a friendly bunch, at least on the surface, as for the most part we are. But rather we (the uncertains) know deep in our hearts that you either make it or you don't, and your success has little to do with good writing. Though good writing doesn't hurt. Though you can also be a good writer and still get nowhere. Not to say that those who do get somewhere aren't good or excellent writers, as many of them are.

Is this confusing enough for you?

In a winner-takes-all publishing world, if you are not a winner, what are you? Something? Nothing? Anything at all?

This is not to get into a big boo-hoo over the hard life of being a wordsmith, but rather to wonder how to survive such a harsh landscape. I haven't quite figured it out myself, though I have been trying for several years now. I do, most of the time, walk on firmer emotional ground than I used to, which is good, as being a writer can include a lot of weeping-and-wailing time. At least for the uncertains.

Maybe the "better" I need to concentrate on is just being better at not being so freaked-out and discouraged all the time. That feels like a paltry goal, though, compared to fame and riches.

Maybe I need to just concentrate on being better at cleaning my office.