Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cue Boredom

I think I was 18 when this happened. I'd just started college as a freshman, and I was taking a Sociology 101 class. During one of the first classes, the professor said something that I thought was pure bunk. This professor had made it clear he liked debate, so I raised my head and told him I thought it was bunk. He asked me where I was from. Then he completely demolished me in front of a lecture hall of people. The cool thing was, I didn't feel stupid or anything. It was a mind-expanding experience that I still remember clearly. This professor was armed with facts and data and perspective I'd literally never been exposed to in my small, somewhat insular hometown. For him, it must have been like an alpha lion batting around a cub for a while to show it who was boss. It's not an exaggeration to say he changed my mind forever that day.

On the scale of "You're an argumentative douche bag," I probably range between a 6 and a 9, with 10 being insufferable.

The thing is, I've gotten a lot less argumentative as I get older. I used to like debating people over just about anything. It was fun, and sometimes I'd switch sides just for the sport of the thing. Now it mostly feels boring and pointless. I want to say, "I pretty much know what you're gonna say, and you pretty much know what I'm gonna say, so why don't we just skip the whole thing and eat ribs?"

Which brings me to my point. I'm ex-haus-ted with the whole "end of traditional publishing stupid New York e-books will take over" debate. It's become a caricature of itself, and I don't even understand what people are arguing about. It seems to me that a very few people are doing very well with traditional print deals, and a very few people are doing very well with self-published Kindle books, and a very few people are doing very well with self-published POD print titles ... and the rest of us are just trying to write the best books we can.

I think it's useless to compare your own journey and goals to anybody else's. It's useless to criticize someone else's choices about how they want to write (really?). They won't change. You won't change. And the only thing that will come out of it is another pointless, long-winded argument about these huge issues over which none of us has any control.

Unless you're Markus Doyle or Jeff Bezos. In which case, call me.

17 comments:

Erica Orloff said...

OMG. Thank you.

When people start spouting "If you do it this way you will make x% more money"--it still amounts to x amount of money of actual sales. And so the choice to go traditional or self-pub, e-book, micro-press, a co-operative of authors, a small press, an academic press, whatever it is . . . still amounts to your goals, your personality/what you like doing (i.e., spend most of your time doing promo? Or most of your time writing?) . . . etc. Etc. It's mostly arguing about ethers . . . nothing. Because each choice people make brings with a host of other intangibles and a host of its own issues, and most of the time it's not a concrete comparison.

Mark Terry said...

I am, and probably always have been, too passive-aggressive to go full-face arguing. And (I'm all for the ribs thing, by the way) besides, I agree with you and wonder if what motivated it was the same thing that crossed my mind.

Just yesterday I read a blog post by a writer who shall remain nameless (JAK) who once again wrote about the end of publishing as we know it and patted himself on the back about his successes in e-book publishing and the Greek Chorus on his blog for the most part came back to sing his praises because he was saying exactly what they wanted to hear and I read the post and thought, "There isn't anything new in here. It's exactly what he's been saying for months."

And I'm tired of it. I give him credit, I'll pat him on the back and gladly say, "Hey, it's working for you," but I just don't think anybody knows where this whole thing is going.

Jon VanZile said...

Erica,

Totally agree ... it's ethers.

Stephen Parrish said...

From one reformed debater to another: nice post.

He asked you where you were from? I'm sure there's no category for that kind of fallacy, but it prolly falls under ad hominem or from authority.

Jon VanZile said...

Mark,

Yep. It the comment thread that did me in. Beside the usual Greek chorus, a few truly nasty anonymous commenters jumped in and started personally bashing other commenters. And yet ... like you said, it's the same stuff every time.

Jon VanZile said...

Stephen,

It was his first question. I think he was trying to establish my background and belief system based on where I was raised. As it turned out, he was right, and I ended up learning something about my own hometown that day too. I was raised in a very insular, very white, wealthy and protected enclave outside Detroit. This was one of my first brushes with "the real world."

Mark Terry said...

Jon,
I had the thought while reading the anonymous comments on that blog that one or two of them might actually be Joe writing them in order to get some controversy going. That's rather cynical, but the thought did pop into my head.

Natasha Fondren said...

What cracks me up is no one knows the future, and yet people get SO PISSED if someone else has a different idea of the future. And they are SO emotional about everyone agreeing that their path is the "right" path--I think they're subconsciously looking for validation that they made the right choice.

The discussion seems more about everyone looking for validation and reassurance, and thus becomes... pointless, intellectually, and too draining, emotionally.

Kath Calarco said...

My blog of last week mirrors your sentiment. Over the past three weeks I've read so much argumentative rhetoric that I couldn't stop hearing Howard Beale's famous line from Network, "I can't take it anymore!" It's INSANE! (Got to say, it was one of my less popular blog topics - two people commented.)

And I can't stop thinking that the average book-buying reader doesn't give a rat's ass about what's happening with publishing. I'd venture to guess that many haven't heard of Kindles (at least the older crowd that I know, lol). Just saying that the general reading public still has a say in what's the what in publishing - they'll steer away from the crap no matter its format and buy quality written stuff. And I believe that quality written stuff comes from the traditional publishing model (whether it's paper or plastic).

Whew! I'll be happy to produce something an agent or editor will like. That said, I'm not letting the newest publishing trend affect my writing (at least, I'm trying not to).

E. Flanigan said...

Natasha, you took the words out of my mouth (except you said it a lot better than I could have!)

The word "discussion" implies interaction, an exchange of ideas. But most of the time, people have no desire to exchange ideas, they just want to have their own choices/ideas/thoughts validated. (Not just in the context of the publishing debate, but in general.) How boring. And exhausting.

We all need validation from time to time. If that's what's needed, I wish people would just say so and not pretend it's a debate.

Jon VanZile said...

Mark,

No wonder you write thrillers. That literally hadn't crossed my mind. Now you've got me wondering.

Jon VanZile said...

Natasha,

I totally agree ... this is a point I agree with Zoe Winters on, although perhaps with a slightly different twist. People seeking traditional publishing are seeking validation from NY, and people eschewing it are seeking validation from each other. But why the acrimony? Draining indeed ...

Jon VanZile said...

Kath,

Awesome. You quoted Network :)

As for not following trends, I was more conflicted about this maybe six months ago. I started to worry I was making the wrong choice, but then I really searched myself and realized that, no, I'm pretty comfortable with my own path. That said, in this crazy environment, there's probably not a writer on the planet (except the very few who are make all the money) who hasn't questioned their decisions, whether they admit it or not.

Jon VanZile said...

E,

No doubt ... I think all this stuff is amplified a hundred-fold on the Internet too. It's easy to be douchy when you don't have to look at the person you're trashing.

Erica Orloff said...

JVZ:
LOL!!!

Jude Hardin said...

You're probably right, Jon. We should save the conflict for the novels.

Jon VanZile said...

Jude,

No doubt. Even if it's sometimes hard to resist wading in ...