You’re Not the Next…

So many articles that give advice to new writers contain the phrase, “you’re not the next…(insert famous author/wild overnight success story here.)”  Not only is it a cliche to include this bit of advice, but it invariably leads me to the same response; “How the hell do you know I’m not the next…?”

I don’t know if I am the next superstar, and I don’t know if you are. I can even accept that statistically most people do not end up becoming superstars in any field of endeavor, writing included. Yet it seems that professional advice to aspiring writers, more often than most fields, is tempered right off the bat with admonitions that one cannot expect to be a great success. Writers are constantly reminded that they must only admire and envy the success of Super Author from afar, because they are never, ever going to attain it themselves. They tell us that we must be willing to not only languish in obscurity, but to love it.

That’s all well and good, fairy godmother, but what about those of us that live in the actual world?

Not that being a superstar is the only way to satisfy me as a writer. Yet I question the efficacy of making “You’re not the next…” an almost universal proviso when making suggestions to writers. (And the best anyone anywhere can offer is suggestions; the writing world and the reading public are unpredictable in so many ways.) If I should become a success, that advice is going to look silly.

It should go without saying that Super Author was not Super Author, until they were. They were no more likely to be the next Super Author when they were still Obscure Author than you or I am.  Yet there they are today, one of the many names that completes the phrase, “You’re not the next…”

I of course admit that there are certain traits or actions that might have contributed to the success of Super Author. But then again, let’s be honest here, sometimes there are no traits or formulas, or qualities. Sometimes people just write themselves into 300 daily sex fantasies with their favorite boy band and become Super Author. Is an industry wherein this happens the sort of place where we should be reminding everyone that their odds of making it are next to zero? In a world where writing bad fan fiction about a bad set of books brings about one of the best selling novels of the last 20 years, telling new writers to eliminate even the hope of fame is laughable.

You know what, writers advice columns? I think we get it. Message received. Point made. Chapter read and lesson learned; you don’t want any of us to assume we will be successful. You don’t think we have what takes to be “the next…”. Got it. We’ll read your rules and guidelines if that  makes you happy. We appreciate your desire to advise us, we really do. But we’re not stupid either, and we see, just about once a month if not more, somebody, somewhere ignoring everything you say and becoming in the process, (you guessed it), “the next…”

So I think it’s time to do away with that proviso. One, most writers are not stupid, so they know what the score is. Two, it would be nice if advice and guidance consisted on HOW to become “the next…” as opposed to being weighed down from the first sentence with warnings that we haven’t got a prayer of being “the next…”. True, the advice still may not make us Super Author. But then again it might. Or something else might. Or none of it will. That’s the point I’m making. Therefore, on behalf of every new or emerging author out there that finds “You’re not the next…” to be a bit disingenuous, I request that you at least spell my name right, should I become Super Author, when you write advice that begins with, “You’re not the next Ty Unglebower.”



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