the World Through Typing
©2003, Holly Lisle
you're a writer, and you want to use your writing as your vehicle to save the
talk you out of that?
all sorts of writers. I know
Earnest Craftsmen, who are forever looking for a better way to tell their
stories; Obsessed Lunatics, who put writing right after breathing and
considerably ahead of eating or going to the bathroom; Tortured Idealists, who
have survived something tough, and who are determined to get their experiences
on paper so someone out there might read what they've written and escape the
same fate; and Exuberant Talesmiths, who are forever bounding into view
shouting, "You won't BELIEVE the idea I just had!"
there are the other sorts. The
Scam-Artist Writers, who write things they have no respect for while publishing
this self-described dreck regularly, who sit around muttering, "I can't
believe those suckers paid money for that".
The Pain-In-The-Ass Artistes, who throw tantrums when editors suggest
that their words might be less than perfect.
And the worst of the lot, the Writing Superheroes, whose self-declared
goal is to change the world through typing.
you may be saying, "Wait a minute. I was with you right up until that last one -- but what's
wrong with wanting to change the world with my writing?
look at the big picture first: the Whole World picture.
The last guy who really changed the world -- the whole world -- with his
writing was Karl Marx, who had the unfortunate idea, based not on real-life
experience but on theory, that we would all be better off if people were forced
to share. Along came some folks who
read his work, agreed with him, and thought they would like give his theory a
test run -- from the position of Person Forcing Others To Share, mind you, not
from the position of Person Being Forced To Share.
They carried Karl's half-baked theory into the real world.
ensued: mass slaughter, war, totalitarianism, annihilation of human rights, and
the impoverishment of whole nations. There
are folks who will read this and scream, "But the people who tried out his
theories misinterpreted his words." Maybe.
That does not change the fact that he had a fundamentally bad idea, he
decided to gift all of us by writing it down -- and that no matter which way you
interpret the theories of Karl Marx, bad things are going to happen.
big picture. Let's look at the
authors of the four Gospels of Jesus Christ, and Paul of Tarsus and his preachy
letters; Mohammed and the Koran; Joseph Smith and his mysterious vanishing stack
of gold tablets; L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics. The first
two are genuine big-picture, the second two are big-picture wannabes.
Nonetheless, these writers have changed the world.
The Gospels and the Koran between them have been responsible for
everything from hot-lead enemas and daughter-drownings and witch roasts and
ripping people apart with horses, to war, to torture, to genocide, to
infanticide, to the stripping of basic human rights from whole genders and
classes and races of people. And
people acting on these writings continue to screw up the world today.
People are still being tortured and slaughtered and imprisoned and
executed and oppressed, based on the dictates of these written works and the
interpretations of the nutcases who believe them.
To a lesser extent, the L. Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith works are guilty
of crimes just as vile, and they would both be much worse if they were bigger.
you're inclined to say, "Yes, but so much good has come of these
works," I simply counter, "Is there any way we can have the Pieta and
Chartres and the Ode to Joy and
people loving their neighbors, and just skip the iron maidens and the rack and
the slaughter of Jews, slavery, Crusades and other oppressive, evil
goodies?" Because the bad is
out there, and it is terrible almost beyond imagining. And the bad is as much a direct result of readers acting on
the words of writers as the good. You
don't get to claim one and pretend the other didn't happen.
the best thing you can say about Genghis Khan is that he didn't
write a book.
want to save the world through typing?
do a Superhero Writer Sniff Test,
then, and see if you're qualified.
by giving yourself ten points, and honestly answer the questions below.
1. Have you ever
successfully saved civilization before?
subtract one point and move to question two.
YES, answer questions 1A-1E.
wars or human rights violations occurred as either primary or secondary
fallout from your intervention?
YES, subtract ten points and go away. Sucking at your job the first time around does not qualify
you to receive a second opportunity to screw up people's lives.
Has anyone ever killed anyone else in your name?
YES, answer subquestion IB-i.
skip to question 1C.
IB-i. Do you
think having someone killed in your name or based on your precepts was an
YES, subtract ten points and go away. We're up to our asses in zealots already.
(in other words, if your words were misinterpreted), subtract eight points. If
you can't write words that can't be misinterpreted in such a way that they
result in fatalities, why do you think you're qualified to save civilization?
Go to question 1C.
1C. Does your
current plan for saving the world involve IN ANY WAY using force to change the
minds of those who disagree with you, or require a majority of the world's
population to follow your plan for it to succeed?
YES, subtract ten points (or all remaining points) and go away.
We have no job openings for the creators of dictators.
go to question 1D.
Does your plan for saving the world discriminate based on race, creed,
gender, sexual orientation, philosophy, handicap status, or in any other way?
YES, subtract ten points, (or all remaining points).
Only equal-opportunity saviors need apply.
go to question 1E.
is your plan?
it out in appropriate manuscript format.
If you have less than five points, burn the manuscript and hit your
head against a wall until you forget what you wrote.
It's a bad idea.
If you have five or more points, but less than ten points, put the
manuscript in a drawer and forget about it.
Maybe someday someone will come along and find your manuscript and do
something worthwhile with it that won't result in disaster.
If you still have all ten points, go ahead and submit your
manuscript to publishers until one of them agrees to take it on, and then wait.
Once it's on the shelves, maybe we'll decide to shell out the bucks to
buy it, and if we like it, and if we decide we like it enough to actually change
our lives based on what you've written, maybe we'll get back to you in fifty or
a hundred years.
2. If your plan
to save the world through typing is not based upon successful world-saving
experience, on what is it based?
My written works have single-handedly saved an entire race or nation from
one point for not having saved the whole world, and go answer questions 1A-1E.
My written works were responsible for the elimination of the national
debt, poverty, or world hunger.
five points for having dealt with only one very limited issue, and go answer
I am or have been leader of a first-world nation.
ten points and go away. You didn't
save the world through action, sucker -- there's no WAY your writing is going to
do the trick.
I have no relevant job experience. All
I have is a wild-ass theory that I think would work and that I would like my
readers to force down the throats of unsuspecting world populations.
you ... uh ... pass this theory on to the FBI, the CIA, and maybe Interpol, and
title it “My Plan to Save Civilization”, and then ... um ... go stand in a
dark alley in a crime-ridden neighborhood and try out your theory on the folks
subtract ten points for sheer idiocy, and ten more points for callous disregard
for your fellow humans and their rights, and take a sledgehammer to your
computer before you hurt someone.
I have decided that I really don't want to save the world through
YOU! Oh, thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Subtract
ten points -- you didn't want them anyway.
Pick up your NotSavingTheWorld
pip if you're a member of the Forward Motion Community, and wear it proudly.
Then go write something wonderful that we can read and enjoy.
to change the world, alter civilization, or save humanity are bad, bad goals.
However, writing to pass on your own experiences is life-affirming, and
can let you make the world a better place for those few of your readers who WANT
to have their lives changed. When
you're writing from experience, you will manage to reach people who needed to
read what you wrote, who were looking for answers, and who found them in your
words. You will be a candle making
your corner of the world brighter. And
you won't have to get up every day, put on your superhero tights, and trudge off
to carry the future of civilization on your shoulders.
Nor will you turn into a pompous ass while carrying it.
thank you for that, too.