I was diving today, so can’t brain… The count-down to Christmas is getting to us too, even though we have no kids home for it, this year, and I’ve volunteered for Ambulance call – as I have no large family meal to be inevitably called away from. It’s an odd feeling as we’ve spent most of our lives at some kind of ‘clan’ gathering, with, usually a lot of people (we’ve a few invitations, but – for obvious reasons, I’ve given up accepting invites when I am on call). It’s a wonderful time of year for families and friends and especially children, but hard on those who have them absent or have lost loved ones they’d have spent it with.
(The picture is the view from Barb’s work Christmas beach barbecue, very Australian.)
Which is why it is good time for a read – if you’re me, anyway. I’ve been so tired with working on the house that I have struggled with my writing (was that if the weather was just impossible, I’d put in the time writing – but the work is now mostly indoors. This is good for me – working in Tasmanian winter weather was tough – but bad the flow of words.)
I’ve been slowly making my way through a friend’s collection of Australian books. Mostly the novels that end up in a holiday house… This now my home, my country (or I am her citizen, rather) and only the very stupid expect the place and people to change to fit them (seriously, that’s the way to weeping cross if you’re a migrant. You will isolate yourself in a group of your fellow ‘ex-pats’ – and probably perpetuate the very problems that made you have to, or want to, migrate. Fit in and learn the new country’s ways. That way you end up happy and getting the best out of your new country, and giving it your best, willingly, indeed eagerly, because you want to. If these ways are too alien to you: go to where they are not. Trying to remain in your little bubble and demanding the place and people change to accommodate you… that’s going to make them hate you, eventually, even in the most tolerant of societies (Australia is one. As is the US. The facts speak for themselves – when you have to fake hate-crimes to make an issue of them, a la Jussie and many other examples… ).
Logic says that can –and has – in many historical examples, end up hurting not just the people who demand to have it all their way, but the people who have done their utmost to fit in. At least the latter, on a personal level, it can ameliorate it. So… well, I know logic is the enemy (like math) of the dim and easily led, but the best I can do is to work on the subject: ergo, read local books by the locals, especially the older, foundational books that many people living here will have read and been influenced (as well as shaped by being what they were), that I have not – and poetry (we disregard poetry and song lyrics – but poetry (and some lyrics are poetry, really) condenses things to their essence, and lyrics reach so many people, because they’re popular.)
I was reading a series of anthologies, from the late 50’s to fairly recently, so I have an ‘outsider’s’ opinion formed by it. (I suspect that much of this could be applied to the US too, just earlier in that country’s history.
Australian writing, by virtue of its geographical isolation, the pride born of being a new nation, had a strong clearly Australian flavored literature: POPULAR literature which was widely read by Australians – and not that much by outsiders. Reading was a major national entertainment, pre-TV – especially in the remote areas. The local industry existed behind a tariff-wall, which allowed local publishers, despite the small scale, to survive. Of course: it was too good to last. The prices of books rose to 4-5 times that of a US novel, and the Dahlings took over publishing – making it at once more pretentiously literary, and far less crassly ‘provincially’ Australia, but more like NY or LA lite. The one-time common heroes (outback people and the common man) got replaced by whatever the Left wing Dahlings urban upper-middle class flavor de jour is. The egalitarianism and uniqueness were hugely diluted, the national flavor virtually vanished. So, it appears, did sales. I learned little about my new country from the newer works, but a lot from the older ones.
Which kind of brings me to today’s thought about being a successful writer: Writing is mostly downstream of culture. This is something a lot of writers – and trad publishers just don’t get. The old Australian novels (very ordinary, probably not world-shaking on an international stage, but popular and successful here) were popular because they reflected the mores and values of the vast majority of the potential readers. I deal with enough patients in that age-group to recognize the character types and traits and attitudes written about. What confuses the modern dahlings is they assume these traits came from the literature of the time – rather than the literature coming from the people of time (that’s why you get ‘so and so was a racist/misogynist etc etc, we must rename the award’ silliness. The context of the time they lived in and how much they deviated from the thinking of that time –and changed culture and attitudes is never even considered.) Look, the books and poems did shape and form the people too. But it was a molding board changing the direction of the flowing current – a little here, a little there — rather than generating the current – especially when the water is not running that way.
Go with the flow, and you can shape it a little. That’s the flow of your target audience. learn who they are, and about them… and how many people ACTUALLY fit there. (the clue is not even political votes. That can and has been shaped by the MSM (although they’re losing that war). That can change, given the MSM losing influence, or issues big enough to cut across it. Instead, go to a supermarket in an ordinary place and look and listen. Or go to a country fair. But large city media is mostly actually only informative about large city media and their bubble. And actually, that’s a small audience – which has a lot of people writing for it already.
So I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a great, productive new year.