When good writers go bad …

No, seriously that’s just to get your attention. Although, having said that, I could, if I allowed myself to, be completely depressed by the amount of depression I have been exposed to recently.

There is something very special about writers: in aggregate, we’re like the bit of seaweed hung outside the back door to tell the weather. We respond to the slightest change in environment – and as ‘recession’ bites, we – in the aggregate – seem to have become devastated by the down-turn. Almost every writer I’ve spoken to this month has been utterly down in the dumps. Established writers say their careers are over, emerging writers say their careers are going to be blighted and new writers say it’s not worth even bothering, with the publishing industry being what it is.


Look, I don’t want to get all life-coachy on you, but seriously, allowing yourself to be a barometer of bad news is an appalling way to establish a sustainable writing career. On the bright side, for example, people may read, buy and borrow more books as they cut back on their DVD and cable/satellite TV spending. I’m not a Pollyanna (I can imagine everybody who has met me in real life spitting beverage into their keyboards at the very idea) but I do know that in any talent-based industry, more people talk themselves out of success than ever actually fight to attain it. And it makes me angry to hear people who know very little about the publishing industry (like me) taking headlines and turning them into life sentences of failure. Yes publishing is at a crisis point – but so is banking and car manufacture, luxury travel and haute couture – you don’t hear anybody in those industries suggesting that talented folk should go away and not contribute to restoring the collective fortunes, so why are writers so very prone to folding their tents?

Um number two – did you know that ‘Colonel’ Sanders, who wasn’t a Colonel at all, developed his famous chicken recipe in the recession of the 1930s? In other words, without the bad times, he’d never have had the good times. Why can’t writers think like that?

I sincerely hope that loads of you are going to leave aggressively upbeat comments telling me how wrong I am about writers-in-aggregate, as that would make me very happy. Not that I’m unhappy, but you know what I mean …

Book burning courtesy of Altemark at Flickr (I'd like to say no books were harmed during the production of this image, but I'm sure that's not true!)