East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

I hope the cat did it…

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There’s this photo a mate sent me, posted on some social or other by a Good Writer (and no, I don’t know who) somewhere here in Italy.
And no, I will not post the photo.
But to give you an idea, we see a desktop, with a flat screen, a sleeping cat and a keyboard. There’s an open notebook by the side of the keyboard, filled with scrawled notes (very neat) and a pile of books. Six books. On the screen, what I think is Microsoft Word, with two pages of manuscript side-by-side.

Yes, you know that sort of photo. Maybe it’s not even a stock photo (like the ones you’ll find in this post), but it looks and feel likes one.
It’s the classic “writer at work” photo you see posted around the web by Good Writers showing you their “WIP” – that’s “work in progress” for the uninitiated.

The photo comes with a comment, in which the writer tells us how they learned to write (by internalizing the writing of Great Writers), how important for them is their Moleskine notebook (only proles like me buy their notebooks in bulk from Lidl or jot sown notes on post-its), how they keep handy other people’s novels to look up in case of need (a detail about which we’ll talk later).

It’s so fake, the only thing I can hope is the cat wrote it – because it would be an OK text from a cat, and because the poor kitty is not even mentioned, and that’s a pity, being the only thing alive in the whole set-up.
Unless it’s a stuffed cat, placed there for effect – the whole thing is so fake I cannot exclude it.

This sort of thing is so fake, I’ve half a mind of doing a series of parodies – just like I did a series of parody author bios, a while back.

Writing is a serious job, and it’s a lot of hard work. Most of us that do it professionally make less than 10 bucks per hour … ah, often less than 5 bucks per hour.
This sort of posturing is deeply irritating.
It goes hand in hand with battling one’s demons, getting Inspiration straight from the Muse, writing after hours in smoky jazz clubs while women with big boobs and evil faces rub themselves against us, and all that stuff.

I do not post photos of my desktop because I am ashamed of what’s piled up against the post-it-strewn screen – let me see…

  • a bottle of baby powder (because sitting here for hours on end during summer causes certain problems…)
  • a bottle of peroxide
  • a bottle of effervescent digestive
  • a lone effervescent aspirin tab
  • a comb
  • my smartphone (turned off, low on battery, credit exhausted)
  • a pack of knock-off supermarket Kleenex
  • a box of band aids
  • the pizza takeaway menu
  • my wristwatch
  • an egg timer
  • two decks of tarot (one Smith-Waite, one Lenormand)
  • a few dice
  • two mugs – one for tea, the other for cappuccino
  • a tower of second-hand plastic cups
  • assorted cutlery including a Swiss Army knife
  • pencils and pencil-sharpener
  • a Lidl copybook
  • a bunch of USB thumb-drives on a Volkswagen keyring

My cat would never take a nap on top of this desk because there’s no room, because it’s a mess, and because my cat has a sense of integrity-

As for books, I write in my library, and I’m surrounded by books but … other people’s novels for reference? Really?
I have a lot of non-fiction for reference.
Biographies, too – right now here on the top of my PC case sit A.S. Byatt’s essay on historical novels, a biography of Giovanni Battista Belzoni, Belzoni’s diaries from 1822, and a copy of Gordon Enders’ 1942 Foreign Devil, and Richard Ellis’ No Turning Back – the Life and Death of Animal Species.
But novels? For reference?

Using fiction for reference is a well-known no-no, because writers are well-known liars that make up what they don’t know and then they pretend they know … so you reference their novel, and end up believing there’s something called Bembridge Scholars that published learned articles about Egyptian archaeology in the ’20s (the example comes from a movie, but you get my drift).

The bit about referencing other novels is another of those off-key bits that underscore how fake the whole thing is. It’s marketing, designed to sell the writer as some kind of glamorous character, and they’re so glamorous, you should really buy their book, right?

I’d love to put together a book of fakes – fake bios, fake “meaningful” posts about WIPs, fake cat photos and other rubbish.
But right now I am too busy actually writing my stories.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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