What does it take to be a successful comic book writer? A luxurious beard is a good start. A penchant for wishing your critics would drown in hobo piss helps too. Oh yeah, and according to Marvel superstar writer "The Great One" Brian Bendis, you have to actually write. At least, that's what Bendis said on Tumblr over the weekend, setting off a torrential shitstorm of backlash (pictured above) as a result.
Q: what advice do you have for someone that has had writers block for the past 6 or 7 years?
Bendis: this will sound harsh but you’re probably not a writer.
writer’s writer every day. it’s ok, not everyone is.
but if you consider yourself one, get off your ass and get back to work!! write about why you haven’t been writing . anything. just write.
On the other hand, proper capitalization is apparently not a requirement of being a writer. Fans were none too pleased. Bendis continued:
writing is a discipline, a practice, a religion …
i would love to consider myself all kinds of things but unless i’m actually actively doing them i am probably kidding myself.
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.- STEPHEN KING
Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. - RAY BRADBURY
Notice that King and Bradbury use capital letters. Just saying.
Fellow comics pro Greg Rucka chimed in, going so far as to compare writing to a serious illness:
Brian is right.
Brian is being far more diplomatic about this than I would ever be.
The excuse of waiting for inspiration leads to exactly what is described; 6 to 7 years of producing nothing. This is the difference between being a writer and someone who likes to write.
A writer fucking writes. Whether she likes it or not, whether she wants to or not, whether she’s inspired or not. She pushes the boulder, like Sisyphus, until the damn thing rolls or shatters or reverses and crushes her. But she doesn’t sit there and wait until it feels good or it feels right or until the stars are right or anything else. Writing takes discipline infinitely more than it takes talent. That’s the dirty little secret of being a writer. You want to be a writer? Put your ass in the chair and put in your 10,000 hours and your 100,000 pages and then you’ll be a writer.
And yes, I know how harsh this sounds. I know what it sounds like. But it’s the difference between being a writer and simply being someone who feels good about putting their words down when they feel it.
If you want to argue that waiting is necessary, it’s what’s required, then I would offer you’re making excuses for why you’re not writing.
Writing isn’t a profession and it isn’t a hobby. It’s a fucking debilitating illness. It’s an addiction. You either write or you don’t. But you don’t sit around waiting for inspiration. It’s a craft, and you hone it, the way you would hone any other craft — by doing it.
Now get the hell off my lawn.
Comparing writing to debilitating illness and addiction? Setting requirements for when someone can call themselves something?
That's gonna go over well. Here's a response from Tumblr user barbeauxbot:
Oh my God just change a few key nouns/verbs and this is exactly the “YOU’RE NOT A REAL GAMER/NERD/FAN” gatekeeper bullshit we get everywhere else
So let me chime in a a Real Life Professional Writer who is adding my two cents to the conversation that:
- It is bullshit to dictate process to anybody. The brain works in mysterious ways, discovering the process that works best for you is the key
- Equating the desire to write to addiction and/or mental illness is disgusting. Romanticizing addiction and/or mental illnesses in order to make yourself feel better about the fact that you tell stories for a living is so obscenely offensive I can’t believe I’ve seen this crop up multiple times in this conversation.
- Not every writer has the need or the desire to go pro. It’s the height of condescension for you to assume that profit should be the ultimate goal of art.
All I see here is a bunch of dudes who are insecure about the fact that they tell stories for a living and are desperately seeking some way to prove to themselves that they’re better than all those plebes who just don’t work as hard because they obvs don’t want is as much as they do (this is totally merit based please ignore the fact that they’re all white dudes)
Ok... here's another one, from thejokesdontcount:
Fuck this noise. This is some pretentious bullshit, this guy gets an innocuous question “Hey I’ve had writer’s block, can you help because I respect you.” And his response is “You aren’t what you hope you are.” I hope this dude writes the next Harry Potter because this is some grade A ivory tower garbage. I might not be a writer, but I am a musician and a teacher of music, and if I stopped RIGHT NOW and never played another note again I’d still be both of those things because what you did, do, or are doing doesn’t make you who you are, it’s who you are that makes you who you are.
DOB, while your response was less abrasive than the other guys’, my response to what you said about being sad for the rest of your life and not knowing why would be because YOU’Re A WRITER and you would be even if you weren’t writing and that’s why you’d be unhappy.
Fuck you people and your bullshit labels. Notice in the question, which you barely addressed before you started liberally applying your condescending nonsense to this person’s life, the words “am I a writer” do not appear. So how about you fling open the stupid gates of your dumb categorizations of people and let writers be people who write as little or as much as they want to or are able, so long as it makes them whole and happy.
None if you will read this because it was not written by a writer, but I hope this gives permission to someone to make something beautiful in spite of your exclusionary bologna.
Exclusionary balogna. Strong words. One more for good measure, from egregiousxenophile:
Man this is great and I like it.
Writing isn’t a club. There is no “you must be this published to ride” sign. And I know that when people say “I’m a writer”, what they generally mean is “writing is my job; I intend to create books and/or get paid to write” but all writing is writing.
We are all writers. Some of us write more than others. Some of us write better than others - let’s be brutally honest about that one. This isn’t to demean the achievements of the brilliantly, heartbreakingly, beautifully talented people who write things that change the world. But publishing is an industry and it’s not for everyone. Just because you give up the dream of being on a bestseller list doesn’t mean you have to give up the words.
Some of us write for a living. Some of us will foster the stories in our hearts and share them with only a few people, or write them collaboratively with many people across this brilliant, beautiful world wide web, and some of us will scream them out for the whole world and never be heard. Some of us will write whatever will give us a paycheck because it’s an ugly world and you do what you have to.
And every time I hear someone say “I haven’t written anything in years” I want to tell them but you have. You write every day. You’re writing now. You are taking words and making meaning out of them.
You are a writer because you want to be.
We're all writers, people. Each and every one of us. God bless the internet.
There are literally hundreds more of these, possibly thousands, on both sides of the fence of this argument. Head over to Bendis's Tumblr and click through yourself for hours of holiday entertainment. Thanks to Outhouser Frag It, who tipped us off to this story on The Stranger.
As something of a writer myself (of jokey news stories on this website), I'll say this: I do write every day, several times a day, whether I'm feeling particularly inspired or tired or bored or sick of it. It feels a lot like work sometimes, and sometimes it results in a mediocre outcome (like most of Bendis's Avengers run), but it is a great way to hone your skills, and the best way to get over writer's block. And "write every day" is something I've heard from pretty much every professional writer that's ever answered a similar question. That being said, while my wife might disagree, I wouldn't call it an addiction or mental illness either, and honestly, there's no need to be a dick about it. Maybe, just maybe, both sides could stand to turn down the hyperbole a little bit, and we could come to kind of reasonable...
Ahahahahahahahaha! Yeah, I'm just playin', internet. Have at thee!