Thursday, March 6, 2008

Why Writers Don't Read Manuals

I discovered Writers Market at age 18, but was past 40 when I first read those concise and helpful articles up front, appearing in every edition, about How do I publish? and What is a query letter? and How wide should my margins be? To this day I have never bought or read a single one of those tons of books on How to Become a Published Writer, or Make Money Freelancing. Just coaxing them from the reference shelf and flipping through is distasteful. . .

On the other hand, insatiably I read myself raw on any first-person books about the writing life, like Bird by Bird, One Writer's Beginnings, and The Artist's Way. My Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath fell to pieces and I'm annoyed they don't sell it in hardback.

This would be weird if I were unique, but it seems writers at all levels, all of them dying to publish, prize those esthetic-autobio-musings-type books, but can't swallow how-to-write books, even if they can be had at any library for free. Instead writers will pay flaming cash and cross a time zone to hear a living published writer TELL them about these publishing things that seem to them so magical and mystifying.

That's because we are soulful & don't believe what those how-to books and articles say. For the majority of writers (and other people!), magic and mystery trump planning and common sense. We live in a sort of Bronze Age of the mind. We want to see and hear in person the writer who has pulled the sword from the stone. Then we believe. Maybe we hope too for a little dharma transmission.

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