Opinion: Art mArtyr – Forget To Book, Or Leaf Well Enough Alone

December 11, 2014



Every year, numerous literary awards including the Pulitzer, Man Booker and Goethe Prizes are dished out to those who pen riveting tales. These authors recognised evoke emotion, memories and untold feelings about an array of subjects.

We all have our favourites, from George Orwell and Mark Twain to Stephen King and JK Rowling. These are gifted artists who tell unforgettable stories, and they know it. That is why readers flock to book-signing events and to launches. That is why, in this day and age, there is still a surprising number of people who buy physical books, instead of downloading them for consumption on some or other gadget.

My only gripe with this scene is that everyone thinks they can write a book. I am sorry to break it to you folks, but not all of us have been gifted with the skill of arranging words in such a manner as to make the majority of the population want more and more.

Chances are, you are not interesting enough to merit an autobiography. Yes, you might be some hot-shot athlete who can run the 100m dash in less than 10 seconds, but no one really cares about your life story.

What most of us need to realise is that it is simply not true that there is a book hiding in all of us somewhere.

As much as I am a lover of literature, surely it cannot be a great idea for all of us to spontaneously start writing and just hoping for the best? The way I see it, we will be doing the craft a huge disservice. Sometimes, unrealised aspirations are best left that way.

For those who do get as far as writing something, there is the issue of getting published, and the plot only thickens here, as more manuscripts means more need for fly-by-night publishing houses.

What I propose is that, before anyone puts pen to paper, they consider a few factors:

  1. Do not consult your family about whether or not your story about pub crawling is engaging. Do so and you will end up with egg on your face.
  2. The story you are trying to tell is not as unique as you think. John Carlin, author of Chase Your Shadow: The Trial of Oscar Pistorius, tells the story of the troubled athlete who killed his girlfriend. Google “athlete kills girlfriend” and see how unique this is.
  3. Just because you have free time does not mean you should write a book. That would make every unemployed person, stay-at-home parent and company boss perfect for the job.
  4. If you only want to write one book, you probably shouldn’t star. Those who are true authors have an insatiable thirst for putting their ideas on paper, and they just keep them going. If you struggle to do this sustainably, you will at best end up a one-hit wonder.