Challenge Your Beliefs – Pt. 1

One of the reasons I’m glad I don’t hang out on social media with other writers anymore is I got really tired of noobs popping into the forum and without reading any prior posts start asking the exact same list of questions.

  1. How do I drive customers to my Amazon page?
  2. How can I get my title into book stores?
  3. How can I get recognized as a great writer?

Sometimes I bit my tongue, but, sometimes I gave them the answer they needed to hear.

If you started on you can forget about all 3. Choose a pen name and start over.

Okay, I understand “writing for rent and groceries.” Typically people who are doing that know they are doing it and they don’t hold aspirations of being a great writer. I can even applaud them for being able to work at the factory to feed and raise a family. Genre factories serve an important niche. There are millions of girls curling up with Harlequin romance novels getting all misty eyed and trusting the formula will always be followed. By the same token, Don Pendleton’s “The Executioner” series has a stable of writers keeping 12 year old boys happy through high school. Somewhere on a box or a shelf at either my brother’s place or mine are a few dozen of those original paperbacks, some with the spine taped together due to over use. I see by the link that they are now up to 444 in the series. Yes, I read those books many times and yes I’m now an author, go figure. Sort of challenging your belief of what type of person actually read that stuff, eh?

The first belief you need to challenge is “all you need is Amazon.” That belief is what sent you down the path to obscurity and oblivion. In all honesty, you have a better chance of actually meeting the Easter Bunny than “all you need is Amazon” ever being true.

Another myth you’ve been fed, which helps to re-enforce the “all you need is Amazon” myth is that they are the world’s largest book seller. There are many people spouting this falsehood, but there is not a shred of evidence to back it up. Amazon hides everything in its financials so it is impossible to tell how many books, Kindles, power tools, blue jeans or rolls of toilet paper it sold. A $5000+ milling machine has a bigger impact on gross sales than a $1 ebook. Yes, Amazon is currently the largest retailer in the world, but it is also one of the most incompetent when it comes to turning a profit. Compare that with a company many wrote off for dead, but once they had a change of management, got back to making money, JC Penny.

I do not consider myself a great writer. I know that you cannot be a great writer until you challenge every belief you have. It is even better if you can challenge those beliefs on the written page so others can take the same journey.

Before writing this post I went searching on the web for a story I read in high school English Lit. It was one of those magazine length articles in our book which are teacher had various students read paragraphs from aloud in class. I cannot find this article. It is probably not even aloud to be taught anymore. I know we got to read “Fahrenheit 451”  but that book is banned in most schools these days. They ban a book about banning books…sigh.

As I recall the title of the article was “Grass is Black” or “Because Grass is Black.” The entire story was a conversation between two people in a doctor’s office waiting room or some place like that. Bored with the magazines or whatever, they struck up a conversation. I was neither hooked nor interested in the story until the man in the story said the line “That’s because grass is black.” The woman responded with something along the lines of “Oh that’s nonsense, everyone knows grass is green.” The man corrected “No, someone told everyone grass is green and they chose to believe it, but grass is black.”

I’m north of 50 now, but I remember that story. I actually wish I would have bought a used textbook from the day with the story in it. Especially since I cannot find the story with basic Web searches now. Every person who has any desire at all to be a writer should read that one story. Once you have read that, your writing and thoughts will never be the same. Perhaps everyone should change their definition of a great writer? Perhaps a great writer is a single person who writes a single story which makes the life of another better?

Herd mentality is something humans all too willingly partake in. This is why political spin doctors repeatedly tell a lie. Because a lie told often enough becomes the truth even without any evidence to back it up, much like your beliefs about Amazon. I would not be shocked to learn this is also how Lorillard Tobacco Company could market the health benefits of the asbestos filter of their Kent Micronite cigarette brand.

Challenging you and/or your reader’s beliefs doesn’t have to be something massive, though it is great when it is. You can start slowly by simply turning a trope upside down. I did that with “John Smith – Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars”  and was actually pleased when one reviewer mentioned it:

At one point the reporter complains to Smith that she doesn’t dare enter a radiation-steeped forbidden region. It is an oft- used trope: the dreaded forbidden zone. True to the trope, real danger lurks there, but Hughes additionally turns the cliche` on its head. Krowley considers the practical concern that, should she enter such a region, she might lose her job.

One thought on “Challenge Your Beliefs – Pt. 1

  1. Another search this morning turned up this short story:

    I am not certain this is the story I read in high school. I certainly don’t remember it being a little boy nor do I remember two women being part of the story. Some of the phrases, “grass is black” “wind is pink” I do well remember though.

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