It’s Complicated

Nothing is easy. Everything is complicated. And no, you’re probably not imagining it: things are more complicated than they used to be.

Take writing. In the old days, before the internet, answering how do I become a writer was easy. There was the work, and there were publishers, and you did the work until you found a publisher and that was how your book went into the world.

You, as the author, did not have to have a one-on-one relationship with your readers. The book-stores had that, with the folks in their local area, and you had a one-on-one relationship with your agent, your publisher, or the reps from your distributor.

Today? It’s complicated. You can go with the traditional publishers, or you can work the proliferation of small presses that are springing up, or you can publish your book on your own and have access to distribution models that make self-publishing effective.


Lots of choices.

And none of them are simple. They ask you to factor in how you work and what you want to work on and what your long term goals are and what’s your business plan before the useful answers even begin to show up on the radar.

And yet, people still seem to think it should be easy. They set forth to argue that traditional publishing is the one true path, or that indie publishing is the best choice for authors, or…fuck, I don’t know, whatever their preferred catechism is when it comes to writing and publishing.

We all have them. I have them. You see them seeping through into this blog every day, but I will opening admit that I know fuck all and my articles of faith, when it comes to writing, are exactly that.

Thing is: in writing, we have it easy.

Things that are more complicated than they used to be, when you first heard about them: feminism; equality; every strand of politics and economics.

Because, like writing, we used to focus on the one story. The equivalent of write a good book, find a publisher, get it out there. You’ll hear them echoed in the speeches of politicians: this is the way the family unit should be; this is how relationships should be; this is who belong here, in our country, and this is who should not; this is how you should be an adult; this is how you should earn a living and be a productive member of the capitalist culture that surrounds you.

We have old, worn-in stories about the way we live in the world that people are trying to change. And it’s not easy. If dismantling the patriarchy were easy, the first wave feminists would have done it and gone out for waffles after.

But making that kind of change, especially if you’re the kind of person who has benefited from those old, worn-in stories? It means you need to get comfortable with the idea that things are complex. That no-one is going to come out with an easy answer, any time soon.

You need to get comfortable with the idea that one story, one way of doing things, isn’t going to cut it.

You need to get comfortable with your own discomfort, ’cause complexity ain’t exactly easy to embrace; we are, after all, a path of least resistance kind of species.

Whenever someone says I have an easy answer, punch them in the throat and run. Odds are, they’re trying to sell you something. Or win an election.



  1 comment for “It’s Complicated

  1. 06/04/2016 at 3:30 PM

    This is really insightful, thank you. Also made me think of this:

    “The difference between stupid and intelligent people — and this is true whether or not they are well-educated — is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambigous or even contradictory situations — in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.”

    Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age:

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