WW: Why I Am A Hack
There’s a lot of debate raging–and there has been since 2010, when the whole indie thing started getting big–about what designates a writer type person as an author. What, in short, makes you an artist instead of a hack. What merits the term ‘published’. What allows you that shiny badge of ‘professional’.
Traditionally published authors tend to get a little snooty about it, and honestly, I don’t blame them. Traditional publishing is big work, and when you’ve fought long and hard to have the big guys recognize and invest in your skill, I can see how it would be galling to see indie pubbers–sometimes people who aren’t even professionally edited–claiming the same titles, the same recognition, as you.
Indie authors then tend to get indignant in response. Again, I get it. Indie publishing is a dog-eat-dog-eat-novel world, and, to use a cliche that I think is an absolute truism here, only the strong survive. Successful indie writers have to fight pretty hard too. They have to invest good money. And they do it all without advances, without the reassurance that comes from someone in the publishing world recognizing their work is, at the very least, worthy of public consumption.
Let me tell you something about myself. I’m a hack.
You got it. I’m not an author, not a capital W Writer, most certainly not an artist. I’m not successful. I’m published, I suppose, but certainly in my own way. I don’t spend a lot of time wallowing in cups of black coffee, smoking cloves, debating the existential importance of The Masterwork I Am Currently Producing.
I’m a genre writer. I’m fond of curse words, slapstick, fart jokes. I’ve got my own eclectic sense of humor, my own way of doing things. I write what I think people will like, and I feel like I know this because I like it. I don’t have a deep and innervating message about the state of humanity. Or: well. If I do, it’s definitely backseat to story. Like all Deep Messages, if mine comes out, it’s because I’ve tried my damndest to suppress it and I simply can’t. (Hint: that’s how a Deep Message should be.)
I am, in short, the biggest hack to ever hack up hacktown on a three hack-stripper kind of night.
I’m saying this because, frankly, I couldn’t give less of a shit whether I’m ‘legitimate’, ‘established’, ‘professional’, or even, really, ‘publishable’. I write my little stories as well as I can. I edit the hell out of them. I have fun. My mom does the design work, and we have fun together doing it. I am, purely and totally, a vanity press operation in leopard skin pants. I am a one-woman fart joke MACHINE. I make words dance. I make them my tiny squiggly bitches.
I might not have a lot of fans, but those I do have I have a good relationship with. Because we like each other. Because I wrote something they liked, and, lo and behold, it was something that is totally and unpardonably me. So they like me too. And I like them: of course I do. They’re my kind of people. When they’re also writers, I like THEIR books.
Let’s stop bothering with legitimacy and the golden halo of ‘professional’. Nobody reading your stuff gives a shit how legit you are–they only care if they like the book. So write something someone out there–someone like you–will like.
Once you’ve done that, you’ve done your job. And, if you really want my opinion–you’ve created the only kind of ‘art’ that’s worth a great green goddamn in this boring fucking world. You’ve created something that made people happy, that kept them interested. You made someone’s trip to the in-laws shorter. You made a snowed-in evening at home better. You passed the time for somebody else. In a way, it’s like having superpowers.
And if you’ve made yourself rich while doing it, bully for you. It must mean a lot of people like hearing what you have to say.
Therefore, here is my hack promise to you:
I will never, ever, do something that isn’t me. That isn’t what I want to do.
It’s the luxury of indie pub. And, while it might not sound like much of a promise, it’s simultaneously the best and the only promise I would give–because if you’re my fan, and you like my shit, you’re in it for what I have to say. We might not always see totally eye to eye. You might like some stuff more than others. But if you’re my fan–if you’re the sort of person who likes my sort of writing–it’ll always, always, be worth a look to you.
Because you guys are the people I care about impressing. All .001% of you. The people like me.