Thursday, 19 January 2012

You'll Never Get Rich...

Came across an odd little piece on-line earlier today* which states with some firmness that in order to become a writer it is first necessary to join the USA military.

*http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/01/why-every-writer-should-join-the-us-military-part-i#more

I feel I have to differ.

While I have any amount of respect for the US military (except when it’s urinating on corpses, raping their comrades, massacring villagers and blowing up sections of the British army that is) I doubt that service is a necessary adjunct to the literary life. After all, Claire Tomalin’s recent Dickens biography makes no mention of his stint in Fort Baxter and history does not recall any incident of Geoffrey Chaucer being screamed at by a crew-cut training sergeant who wishes him to give him twenty. Maybe that’s the real story behind Shakespeare? Forget the Earl of Oxford, the reason the historical record is so scant is that he was involved in Navy SEAL ops in curiously unspecified middle eastern countries.

It’s a sign of changing times. When I was of an age to serve we were told to join the army and see the world. I suppose I should be pleased that it’s now join the US army and write a book but my heart isn’t really in it.

And while I wish Mr Cole every success in his writing career, I do think he overstates the importance of marching on a writer’s development. I also think he massively overestimates the importance of being unhappy. He reminds me of the story about the fin de si├Ęcle author George Gissing who did not have the best of luck in his career. On one occasion HG Wells (I think it was) was extolling the virtues of a young writer he had discovered when Gissing growled ‘Has he starved?’ as if this was a necessary, if regrettable, prerequisite to being an author.

Well call me a cynic, I think they’re both wrong. I don’t know an easy way to become a writer save actually writing things and getting them published, but what do I know? I never served.


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