Back in the 1960s, there was a reality TV show called “Candid Camera”. The show’s premise was that the producers hid cameras on the streets of New York City, and sometimes elsewhere, and presented people with bizarre and outrageous situations and then filmed what happened. Then the producers would edit it and put on TV. It was quite popular for many years. Then it was cancelled. So the show’s producers decided to produce a movie with the title “What Do You Say to A Naked Lady?”
What they did was set secret cameras around New York and then hired various models to walk up to strangers wearing high heels and nothing else? This led to several scenes of embarrassment for simple as well as sophisticated people.
The movie was bizarre and a bit rude and faired poorly compared to the TV show. Asking strangers to stand still and try to balance a small ball on their noses or put a spoon’s worth of peanut butter in their mouths and then recite the Declaration of Independence with a mouthful of peanut butter was funny, Embarrassing good people on the streets with naked women and listening to comments, some of which were nasty and absolutely obscene, was not funny.
Mostly, what the film had going for it was sex and nothing else.
What am I getting at? Well, if you’re only writing to arouse the reader or embarrass him or her and little else, don’t be surprised or disappointed if most readers don’t enjoy your work. As I’ve mentioned before, you have to make a good product. People will be attracted to that product. It may not happen at the rate you wish to happen, but it will happen.
For instance, the mid-range writers, the ones who don’t have a lot of fame or riches but make a decent living from writing, write all the time. They write lots of articles and short stories and novels. A good example is author David Weber. He writes fantasy and military science fiction. He’s probably not rich, but his books are entertaining. And he writes lots of them. If you research him, you’ll probably find dozens of his titles in print.
Another way to look at it is to follow the careers of stand-up comics. Few of them become so successful that they get movie contracts and TV contracts. But they’re highly entertaining. They perform lots of shows and might appear on late night shows and they’re generally popular and happy, even if they can’t afford a new car every year or big houses or family trips all over the world.
And for every rock or country western superstar, there are dozens of mid-range performers who right songs and produce moderately successful albums. And for everyone of those, there are thousands of musicians and singers who teach music and perform in bars and cafes and coffee houses, or just in the streets and subways of New York City.
You could call these mid-range writers, actors, comics, and musicians the middle class, with their 9 to 5 careers which sometimes are from 7 AM to 11 PM. They are constantly working to produce a good product. They’re not waiting around for the BIG ONE to come their way. They just keep making good products that some consumers here or there will like.
Fame is fickle. It’s not as dependent upon product as popularity.
Writing is not about popularity or fame or fortune, but about being a good story teller.
Your legacy shouldn’t be like a politician’s legacy, based on spin and hype and how easily he or she can frighten you or otherwise manipulate you. On your grave stone it should read “He was entertaining.” Or, “He was a good actor.” Or, “He painted beautiful pictures.” “She was funny.” “She made beautiful music.” “She wrote good stories.”
Politicians, likewise should tombstones which read, “She was a good servant.” “He was a fine senator.” Not, “She built a train or a bridge that went nowhere.” “He passed a bill that punished us all.” “She took the water from those who needed it and gave it to those who squandered it.”
Now, the Candid Camera movie has been almost forgotten. It didn’t restart the series and didn’t make much money and it wasn’t funny. It failed in all respects. Why? Because when you’re working on popularity instead a good product, you’re on the path that slides by self-righteousness and ends in self-destruction.
Be yourself. Make a good product. Don’t expect much. Be patient. Be happy.
All good advice.
See You Out There.