Photo: Jim Newberry http://www.picturedujour.com/

This post was originally published at my site, The Formality of Occurrence yesterday. 

 

I’m amazed at how many unbelievably talented writers there are in this world toiling away in every nook and cranny imaginable. Peeps in my raggedy-ass tribe of indie authors and bloggers live and work in India, Africa, Canada, South America, Great Britain, Australia, etc. as well as the U.S.

There are thousands of astounding writers so easily discoverable all over the Internet now. It’s like there used to be this small group of successful Super Men and Super Women or maybe it was a special guild of wizards, witches, warlocks, and magicians, I don’t know. They were special and easy to spot. Their books congregated in stores that we shopped at. They wore lots of black, more often than not they had dark circles under their eyes, drank coffee when the sun was up and wine or whiskey when it was down…and smoked in secret.

But now we discover there’s so many more of them. SO MANY. Imagine a comic book world where there’s a superman on every block and superwoman in every coffee house and diner. Or what about a world where you go to the train station or the airport and every sixth person is a language wizard buzzing around in a lotus position on their laptop? That’s where we are now. The question is, what exactly are these writers using their superpowers or their magic for?

I try to read stuff by all of these people as I move through the Internet because you only learn how to be a better writer by reading other writers. That’s actually a hazard in the book world. It’s hard to turn off the “writer as student” frame of mind when checking out stories and blog posts. I do my best. I know other writers are the same way.

Last week I read a post by an indie author I respect immensely who advocated for less blogging and more focus on story writing. I share that sentiment to a certain extent, however, I watch the world on TV, listen to the radio, and walk around my neighborhood every day. There’s a lot wrong with how things are being done. Take for instance last week’s bizarre scene in our country’s capital with the House Speaker scuttling a bill to provide support to New York and New Jersey, so utterly decimated by Super Storm Sandy…or the slayings of innocent children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut.

Good writing is a gift, in my opinion. Most people just don’t got it for whatever reason. But some do. In fact, that’s what is going on here with this whole League of New Indie Writers. All the unnoticed and misfit scribes in the world are now stepping out and kicking up their heels offering the world everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to Siren Suicides and The Homeless Killer. Some are finding astounding success with their novels and short stories. Others are still building their new careers. Many of us may never make much with our words, but we keep on keeping on because it’s who we are.

In so many cases, though, these new great writers stick steadfast to fiction and social networking about fiction and book sales. Many of their blog posts and freelance articles are about the writing life or bullet lists for marketing success as an Indie. Some absolutely fabulous writers can be found in the book review quadrant of the Internet. So many talented writers blog about marketing and social networking and sales it’s truly a wonder more of us aren’t successful yet.

What I’d like to see is more writers using their superpowers and their magic on social issues and stuff in the real world that’s close to their hearts. It doesn’t have to be political. You can write on your personal pain about watching friends go through a divorce, or the insanity of trying to pay for college when you have three kids, or how angry it makes you that women in other parts of the world are treated as second class citizens.

Look at some of the traditionally published writers you love. Most of them publish personal essays and do the occasional op-ed on issues that are important to them. Sometimes they get into pissing matches too, and that’s always fun to watch at places like The New York Review of Books or Huffington or Salon.

My point here is just to suggest that all these good writers should push the envelope with their talents. If you have a platform website already, what the hell? You don’t need to be in The Atlantic or New Yorker to put your words out there. Use your powers not just to sell yourself, but send some of those superpower incantations you wield out into the world with strong and vivid messaging. Provoke the hell out of readers. Use your art to push the boundaries of social discourse every once in a while. Surprise yourself. Surprise your friends and colleagues. Give the world more vision and possibility.

George Saunders

George Saunders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We read last weekend in the New York Times Magazine, a wonderful essay by Joel Lovell called “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year.” The last line of the essay quotes the end of a magazine article Saunders wrote for GQ“Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”

That’s the secret to your superpowers and magic. And that’s why it seems to me there’s a lot of work for us all to do still. …world without end…

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