Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Things Rita Mae Said: Or, as I call it, my WWRMD list (What would Rita Mae Do?)

Though some of it is dated (published in 1989, much has changed,) Dr. Brown's Starting From Scratch is a dog-eared valuable asset in my writing library. I made a list of excerpts to refer to when I am in the throws of artistic self-doubt.




My top ten writer’s soul-healing words of wisdom from Dr. Rita Mae Brown’s Starting from Scratch

1.            Your readers are your best friends. As time goes by you’ll find out who they are. No two readers are alike. These distinct individuals put down good money for your work and then spend their valuable time reading it… Sometimes people throw tomatoes instead of roses, but hell, they sat at their desks and tried to connect with me. I give them credit. I’ve learned more from my readers than I have from the usual literary sources: other writers, publishers, critics.  
2.            I expect most writers feel about critics the way a fireplug feels about dogs. However, no matter how many dogs befoul your work they can’t really hurt you…A book still sells by word of mouth. You can be sliced and diced from the Atlantic to the Pacific and have a runaway best seller.
3.            On my bad days I think of a critic as someone who’d put a cyanide cap in an Easter egg. Tallulah Bankhead said, “Criticism is the distillation of bias and prejudice.” The truth lies somewhere between me and Tallulah. Most critics can’t create what they criticize. If another novelist writes a review, that’s one thing. If the review comes from anybody else, it’s hard for me to take it seriously. But then, as you may have gathered, it’s hard for me to take anything seriously.  
4.            As a writer my feeling is that the critic can help me only when I am writing the book. I don’t read reviews of my novels. They’re too late to do me any good. 
5.            If you’re one of those people who reads everything written about you, I suggest you be grateful if your name and the book title are spelled correctly. 
6.            Don’t be surprised, if you do read criticism, if you are personally criticized through the book. The more controversial you are, the more loaded the reviews. My advice: Eat the chitlins of forgetfulness. 
7.            Reading into the tea leaves of literary triumph can be thrilling. Sober up, honey. Tomorrow they’ll be on to someone else. 
8.            Don’t believe your own publicity. That way madness lies. You’ll soon be stinking in your own decayed ego. 
9.            Don’t feel responsible for how people misuse your work. Whatever you do can be used against you and probably will be. Keep writing. You’re on earth to write, not to indulge yourself in petty squabbles justifying yourself to pissants. 

10.         Whether fame or notoriety is your fate, put it behind you and put the typewriter in front of you. And put next to your typewriter these words from Albert Einstein: “The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working.” 

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