Every writer I’ve ever known has something I like to call their ‘seasonal masterclass’. A personal masterclass is a book, television show or movie that you watch or read repeatedly to remind you of good writing. Seasonal masterclasses are so important. They provide personal, reliable inspiration hooks that give you fuel for the oncoming days of hard, solitary work. Mine is ‘The West Wing’. I watch the entire seven seasons at least once around every three years. Rhythm, drama, structure and dialogue - for me it’s all there. This has provided me with a handy (but rather embarrassing) wealth of quotes and scenes that I can rattle off from memory. One such moment is in the second episode of season four, where a beleaguered Josh and Toby wander into a bar. The two are searching for a policy that they can hang the President’s re-election campaign on. They get talking with a regular Joe Blow at the bar, a middle-class white dude, who’s trying to send his first daughter to college.
‘I don’t mind it being hard,’ he says, ‘it should be hard. I don’t mind working for it. I just wish it were a little bit easier.’
That simple statement says a whole lot about how I feel about the publishing industry and being a writer. I’ve met, taught, and worked alongside hundreds of talented, engaged, interesting writers who have terrible difficulty taking their work to the public. This is no one’s fault in particular. The industry is in a time of seismic shift. Everything’s up for grabs. Even writers who were considered safe bets before, able to rest on the knowledge that their publisher would take a work from them every few years, are now finding themselves kicked to the curb as publishing departments re-structure their entire staff.
There are many roads to go down. Self-publishing. E-publishing. Licensing. Adapting. Workshopping. Developing. Editing. It’s exciting, but it’s also overwhelming. No single writer can be expected to know every opportunity that is available to them, nor make a detailed analysis about where their particular work fits in an environment where the sand is constantly shifting.
No one can promise it’s not going to be hard, and it’s not going to take work. Now more than ever, it’s about the artist proving themselves worthy of merit, becoming as engaged as possible in how their work goes from personal to public. But unique services like those offered by For Pity Sake are about making it just that little bit easier, providing information, appraisals and analysis where it’s needed most.
The success of any nation’s culture is dependent on a strong community. It is easy to become dispirited and disconnect from services that may provide help. It’s easy to dash off 10,000 words in the hot streak of inspiration in the middle of the night, only to find a mountain of editing and pitching work to do in the light of day.
When I taught Creative Writing at university, and now as an editor, this was one of the biggest sticking points. Writing is both the hot streak of inspiration and the hard climb up the mountain. Both are rewarding in their own ways. One is short-term satisfaction, the other is long-term. Now more than ever, the publishing industry is built around writers who are willing to help themselves. For Pity Sake is about providing a water break, a map, a handsome sherpa or an express pass to the top of the mountain.
So, fellow, weary traveller, I’ll see you on the mountain.
Have a look at Dave's website here!