Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You -Day One

By Suzanne Macpherson

Mood: POSITIVE Project: Highly Directed.Music: Cast Your Fate to the Wind by Vince Guaraldi

Alexis’s wonderful post reminded me of something my *brilliant* son wrote to me recently when I expressed my frustration at riding out the trends. I thought it was funny the way he *capped* words with asterisks at interesting times. The entire piece struck me so deeply I have sent it around to many friends. Now I’ll share it with you.

By the way he just finished his first novel and is in the process of revising.


So this is what occurred during a day in my life last week as I strove to focus on the most positive aspects of the joy of a writing career; because it is a joy. It is pajamas and tea and cats on the desk, researching wonderful subjects, and reading book books books! It is my Gratitude for all of these things that rises above the frustration, and above all it is ART. After I read Evan’s note to me I began my new Day in the Life of: Believing in myself as an artist. Day One.

I will add a note that GREAT work exists in any genre, including our own, and is not exclusive to what we term more “literary” works. But we all know what it looks like, smells like and tastes like when we sink our teeth into the best books in any genre, don’t we?

I hope you are empowered by his words. Suzanne


Well on *this* point I maintain my stance that great work speaks for itself, and all of this is just further evidence that if you can’t sell a concept on spec then maybe you really *shouldn’t* anyway— you should finish it, and make it shine enough that it *must* be published by *someone*, market or no market.

I have a note card with a quote from the brilliant comedian Steve Martin, a response that he made in an interview about how to make it in show business, and I keep it in mind whenever I feel like people are not “getting” what I’m trying to do (or if *I’m* not getting it). This is the quote:

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

That’s it, and I think it holds water. Personally I think it is far better (not only for ourselves but, sort of paradoxically, for our careers) to strive for greatness than it is to strive for marketability. We are writers, and if we want to be great it’s crucial to *read* only the greatest writing, and to *admire* the greatest writers for what they did, which was to constantly become the best version of themselves they could, and to write those stories that only they could write, and to refine their own style that ultimately became so good it could not be ignored. That’s the pep-talk I give myself, anyway, when struggling with distracting thoughts about marketing.

Great work *creates* the market, and from what I can tell— which is from observation, anyway, and not experience— it is *much* better to put yourself in a position where you are one of the creators, rather than a position in which the market creates you.

Focus on your art, because people still *want* art, and they will *always* want art. Even if a market is in shambles there will always, always, always be a market for work in all fields that is GREAT.

I would prioritize giving your work the power to break through reluctance (of publishers) by virtue of its own strength and shut out the distracting and pat siren songs of market viability. The only thing about the “market” I have *ever* heard that was worth hearing (on panels, in interviews, wherever), was that voice wins them over. To hell with making it dark and mysterious enough, or steamy enough. Just make it great enough and make it undeniably yours.


Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You -Day One — 4 Comments

  1. Huzzah to Evan! What an inspiring message. I will cherish his words like a can of AquaNet hairspray and a cigarette lighter, which I will use to incapacitate and then set on fire the little demons of doubt that plague me. Even if I cannot destroy them permanently, I can at least amuse myself with their frantic little demon-on-fire antics.

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