When the Market Gets You Down…

Lately, the writing market is getting me down–which is ridiculous because, if you want to win the lottery, you’ve got to buy a ticket–and if you want to get something published, you need to send your work OUT.  Which, of late, I have not been doing.  Nevertheless, along the lines of “nothing ever changes,” I found some words of Jack London perversely comforting.   From Martin Eden:

“…He was amazed at the immense amount of printed stuff that was dead.  No light,no life, no color, was shot through it.  There was no breath of life in it, and yet it sold…(p.118)  …they sound the popular note, and they sound it so beautifully and morally and contentedly… .   They are the popular mouthpieces.  They back up your professors of English, and your professors of English back them up.  And there isn’t an original idea in any of their skulls.  They know only the established,–in fact they are the established… their function is to catch all the young fellows attending the university, to drive out of their minds any glimmering originality that may chance to be there, and to put upon them the stamp of the established. (p.201)”

And from London’s article,”The Question of a Name,” published in The Writer, in 1900:

“‘The chance of the unknown writer’ may be discussed ad nauseam, but the unpleasant fact will yet remain that he has not the chance of the known writer…he cannot compete with the latter on equal ground of comparative merit.  Every first-class magazine is overwhelmed with material (good material), of which it cannot use a tithe; and it will reject an unknown’s work, which may possess a value of say, two, and for which it would have paid a price of, say, one, and in place of it accept a known’s work with a value of one, for which it will pay a price of ten….the magazine editor must consult first and always the advertisers and the reading public; he must obey the mandates of the business department, and be deaf, very often, to the promptings of his heart.  Trade is trade.”

Apparently, the writing life–or at any rate, the struggle to get published in established markets–was ever thus.




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