New Rules For Writers: Ignore Publicity, Shun Crowds, Refuse Recognition and More


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"No great writer ever wrote for the audience at hand. And if you can't know your audience when you create, that's almost the same as saying that there is no audience at all. Is the audience your inner critic? You should have silenced that voice before you ever started writing. Criticism is for others, not for your own work. Your own work flows from passion and madness, not theories of completion and harmony and perfection. Is the audience a super-intelligent one, as well-read as you, as biographically diverse and adventurous as you, as restless for newness and experiment and reality as you? You should have killed that audience before you started writing, because why write for someone just like you? Where's the excitement in that?

"Is your audience the future? Is it the past? Is it the pantheon of writing gods, with vast legions of devotees at their feet? How can any of these be true, when you don't know the first thing about the art of writing? You will be a beginner until the day you die, you will have mastered nothing, you will be vanishing into nothingness without the most basic grasp on technique and manipulation. You write for no audience. You don't even write for yourself, you don't write for anything outside the bounds of the story you're putting on the page, to make sense to itself and only its compulsions. The rest will take care of itself."

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I looked at the article, but I only skimmed it. Then I was going to say something, but it didn't sound right, so I decided to read it in more depth.

I got through Number 3 and I got the enormous feeling that I was wasting my time, so I stopped.


This dude, Anis Shivani, is trying too hard to expound and astound and sound profound as he rants and rails against non-essentials, sprinkling shit and fuck through it all.

So where are the rules?

I saw some opinions (some decent and some horrible) amidst some serious posturing, but that's about all. He sounded more like a petulant child saying how to flip off your parents than a writer giving any serious writing information.

Do you want to see his whole main argument crumble? Those who don't like print publishers can write on the Internet and get their message out--like half a gazillion writers already are doing.

I don't think I'll be reading very much of this author.


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Anis Shivani is a fiction writer, poet, and critic, based in Houston, Texas. He studied at Harvard University.

He is the author of the short story collection, Anatolia and Other Stories, published by Black Lawrence Press. Booklist describes the collection as “extraordinary” and “caustically funny.” The collection has been longlisted for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award and one of the stories–”Dubai”–was awarded Special Mention for the Pushcart Prize.

I thought that it was all interesting and worth some reflection. I confess that I did not read the whole thing, either. Unlike Kipling's "If..." which also gives prosaic advice, this was not nicely crafted, but only passionately written. Myself, I am a big fan of projection. You only know yourself. (If you are a psychological counselor or a pollster, maybe you have more insight into other people.) So, when someone says, "You ought to..." they mean "I want...". And maybe that's just my projection, too. So, I viewed this rant by Shivani as an interior dialog. And that's fine.

For me the deepest lesson in Fahrenheit 451 is when Montag says, "Inside each book is a man." I am not much for literature. I got through my classes with Classics Illustrated comic books. But I have read Call of the Wild, The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby, Arrowsmith, and some Asimov and Heinlein and Gibson, and of course, Ayn Rand. Call of the the Wild is not "about" Alaska in the goldrush, and it is not even "about" the dog. It is "about" Jack London. So, on that basis, I accept Shivani's reminders to himself.

Myself, I have written what was asked for less often than I wrote from my passions. There was one time, my boss had me re-write a manual back down to the level it came from before I rescued it. I came home, showed my wife the definition of "hack: a writer who works for pay without regard for personal or professional standards." She said, "That's OK, honey, most writers have to quit their jobs to become hacks."

I have over 300 publications and four literary awards. My first came for an article that corrected the Encyclopedia Britannica. I can bang the work out when I have to. I just went around with an editor who thanked me twice and then rejected the article... and then had the nerve to ask me if I could fill two pages by his deadline... OK, I can do that. But I write non-fiction. And, that gets fewer props and less cred from the literary crowd. To me, it is still a story. If not, it could be a bulleted list or an spreadsheet of facts. I meet a business owner and find the story that will interest other people and then breath life into that.

And I do it for myself, as evidenced not so much from the checks that show up occasionally, but by the paucity of visitors and complete lack of comments on my blog.

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