The more acquainted the interwebs and I become, the more I realize that there are, like, millions of fiction writers out there. Maybe. I’m the kind of person who’s never had a secure grasp on numbers. A million, I’ve been told, is a lot. Like, it would take a long time to count to a million, maybe half a million seconds. And half a million, too, is a lot. I think. (How long is half a million seconds? I’m going to guess 4 days.*)
Anyway, the sheer number of fiction writers out there depresses me. Because out of every million, 999,910 of them are crappy. (This is a scientifically derived number.) Or even worse, mediocre (why is mediocre worse than crappy? Because you can’t really make fun of the mediocre). And there is a much, much more depressing and urgent assumption to be extrapolated from that number, which is as follows:
I could be one of those 999,910!
I know, you didn’t want to hear that, but I don’t sugarcoat.
When I was young and idiotic**, it was easy to assume that there were two breeds of writers: the published (good), and me (shitty). Presumably, there were other unpublisheds like me, but not that many; after all, I didn’t really know any writers. Unpublished and semi-published and self-published writers didn’t have blogs where they lamented every step of the process. So, it seemed, if I was good enough I would make the jump to published (and, hopefully, not that breed of published that sat on the dollar shelf at the B. Dalton entrance), and since I wasn’t published, I obviously sucked.
Now, I am aware of the many levels of writers. There are shittier, more successful writers than me, and there are better, less successful writers than me.*** This is helpful because it gives me hope. It is unhelpful because it makes me jealous and I can witness firsthand the competition.
In 1993 my competition was sitting photocopied on a zine rack in an indie record shop, full of typos and sharpie drawings. Now? My competition seems a lot more formidable. I should just give up. What the fuck am I doing? What right have I to make my thoughts known? None, just an inexplicable desire to stand naked in front of humanity and scream my most disturbed thoughts. Which, in the end, is what writing is all about.
*I just calculated the actual amount: about 5 3/4 days. I don’t recommend trying to count to a million.
**One should not conclude from this statement that I am no longer idiotic.
***Just kidding. No one’s less successful than me, shitty or not.