Let my qualify the title somewhat, since I feel a tad hypocritical, seeing as I am often grumpy, and occasionally a bastard: Don’t be a Grumpy Bastard all the time, and as seldom as you can manage it.
I spend a large quantity of my time with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, but life is difficult when you go through it constantly angry at something. It’s tiring to always be yapping discord and misery about whatever topic is infuriating you at the given moment.
I have seen other writers, storytellers who are successful in their own right, who are so pissed off about everything that they don’t have a kind word to say about anyone. They are hyper-critical of other stories, and can’t admit they like something (unless they are trying to be a kiss-ass) because they seem to think that by doing so they diminish their own success.
I can’t get out my sanctimonious apple box and climb on board to wave my flag of idiocy too terribly much, because I’m critical of other writers when something especially irks me (see my previous posts about Stephanie Myers and Snooki, if you need examples of my grumpiness).
Criticism is a part of the writing life, whether it is the friendly faces in your writing group quietly telling you to make some changes to your manuscript, or a critic in the New York Times telling the whole world your writing is shit. We can extrapolate that to conclude that examing and criticizing other work is also part of the writing life, but be careful it doesn’t become a habit; you have to remind yourself, every once in a while, that it is okay to like something someone else has written.
When you look at the greater universe of writing, at all the collected works of the storytellers both long dead and currently in the market, you have to remember something vitally important:
We are all in this shit together.
The publishing industry is an tumultuous entity right now; there is a big, and largely unknown, flux happening with the propogation of e-books – and the piracy that comes along with it. Several small “brick and mortar” bookstores are closing, while giants like Amazon post huge profits. The publishing world is a bit of a shaky place, and it is a time when we should all be leaning on one another to keep our balance.
The success of another writer is good for you. Why, you might ask as you gnash your teeth and pull your hair out? Because, as much as we may hate some author who writes an abysmal story that sells 100 million copies, there is value in that story – even if we think it sucks. When people are reading those books they are at least reading. And if they start reading what we consider trash, they might put down the terrible book and pick up something a little better. And that is good for everyone.
When you look at the success of another writer, don’t be jealous, even if you hate them and want to throw them down the handiest set of stairs. Instead, be grateful. Be grateful they are making their contribution in the best way they know how, and be grateful that contribution might make the publisher enough money to allow them to take a chance on you and publish your story that likely won’t make them a cent.
I am as guilty of being a grumpy bastard as anyone – and likely even more. But even a goon like me can see that life is a much better place when you strap on some manners and realize that we writers are a community – well, most of us anyway – and we’re all walking the same, ugly, ditch-filled, troll-infested road. We’re much better off traveling in packs; it’s safer that way.
So, come on. We’ve got a long way to go.