Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blind and Blinder

Lately I've been thinking about the screenwriting industry.

Not that screenwriting industry. Not the one where people actually write and sell screenplays to get made into movies.

No, I've been thinking about the other screenwriting industry; the one where people pay lots of money for classes, workshops, books, seminars and coaching so they can learn how to write.

It's not limited to screenwriting, of course. Pretty much any type of writing has its associated industry of writing education. I've seen workshops and whatnot for poets and novelists and game writers and song writers and you name it. I suppose they probably exist for things like technical writing, but I don't think to the same degree. Who aspires to be a tech writer? Damned if I know.

But teaching people to write is a big business. I have no idea how big. There's probably no easy way to track it, but if I had to guess, more people make a living off the "teach you how to write" industry than actually make money by actually writing actual stuff.

A lot of people want to be writers, for whatever reason. I'm one of them. And probably, most of us will never "make it," not in the fame and bright-lights sense of the term. For every JK Rowling, there are probably 10,000 hacks sweating away over their laptops, dreaming about a big break that's never going to get broke. I have the creeping sensation that I'm one of them, too.

Is there any real value to this writer education industry? How much do we get out of it, collectively? I've taken some classes and seminars that I've enjoyed, and I've read some books that I got a lot out of. But I can't shake the idea that a large part of this industry is just a parasite that feeds on the dreams of would-be writers.

Lord knows I've spent my own share of money on this stuff, some of it very unwisely.

I wonder what would happen if every aspiring writer in the world just boycotted the entire writer education industry and spent their money on vacations and museum memberships and bicycles. We could all live the good life instead of chasing down the fame monster and trying to get it to eat us.