As a writer, I often get asked the question "Why do you write?"
Ha ha, just kidding. I never ever get asked that. No one does, because it's stupid.
It's a lame question only ever asked by unimaginative author interviewers, meant to elicit a torrent of pretentious word vomit about the page being the canvas on which the writer expresses his soul... or some shit.
If you see an interview that begins like that, you can not only safely avoid the rest of the interview, but you can feel free to stay away from anything either the interviewer or interviewee has ever written. Think of the time you'll save!
Likewise, you can tell a lot about people by the memes they share on Facebook. Just by scrolling quickly down their timeline, you can tell if someone's a racist who loves cats, or a political activist who occasionally takes a break from bukkake-ing your feed with their personal politics and express their lighter side through hilarious pictures of bacon, or a... No, I think that covers just about everyone on Facebook.
Being a self-published writer, I've acquired a fair number of self-published writerly friends (I say friends, but most of the time I look at people's names as I scroll down my feed and think to myself 'Who the fuck are all of these people?'), and so my feed is filled with a high concentration of book related things.
I'm not talking about authors spamming their book ads. That's what Twitter's for, after all. No, I'm talking about memes related to writing and books. And just like you can make certain assumptions about the guy who unironically posts a picture of Jesus holding an American flag and an assault rifle, you can make some healthy guesses as to what kind of writer you're dealing with by the memes they make or share. Here are a few to look out for...
1. I Love Reading SOOOOOOOO Much!
There's nothing wrong with loving reading. In fact, there's a lot right with it. I depend on your love of reading to make a living. Hell, I love reading. But then, that should come as little surprise, considering my profession.
No, my problem isn't with the love of reading being professed. It's what I see when I read between the lines and speculate on the motivations behind why someone feels compelled to remind us every goddamn day how much they love to read.
This is the sort of shit I'm talking about:
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm pulling the images I'm using from Google, so as not to be an outright dick to any of my Facebook followers. So I don't actually know that this was made by a writer. But any of you who follow a significant number of self-published authors will recognize this as typical of something you see on your feed.
So what's wrong with it? Admitting familiarity with Disney's shittiest movie? Of course not. My caption betrayed my own familiarity with the film. I have a daughter.
My problem is with what I suspect the writer is trying to communicate here. He or she has something to prove. You don't see memes like this for other things that people enjoy. Football fans might post content that supports their favored team or mocks a rival team, but you'll never see a picture of Elsa with the legend "How I feel when I enter a stadium:"
Nobody feels the need to brag about how much they love football. The creator of this meme, however, feels that he or she has something to gain by you knowing how much they love reading. 'If she's this passionate about reading,' her imaginary potential customer thinks, 'her books must be something special.'
But that's the bigger problem. You can imagine how proud the creator of this meme was when the idea for this meme was born her mind. The epiphany likely occurred early in her Taco Bell shift, and she spent the rest of the shift anxiously waiting until she could go home, get on Photoshop, and blow people's minds.
She got halfway there, in that this certainly blows.
What does that really say about the probable quality of her writing, when she thought that this idea was worth the time and effort it took to make this meme?
But others don't feel the need to make such effort.
2. Wise Words From Famous Authors
Do a Google search for "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write", and this is what you'll see:
This is a quote lifted from Stephen King's On Writing, a book that every aspiring writer should absolutely read. With so many books about writing on the market which are absolute garbage, King's book is an oasis in Shit Desert.
And the quote is a good one. It's absolutely true. So why is there more than one image of this? After it was done the first time, why did any writer feel the need to spend time making a new image, with a different picture of Stephen King, time that might have been better spent maybe... I don't know... reading or writing?
What are these people saying to their potential customers but "I want credit for a meme that I didn't think of, using words that aren't mine. If you want originality, you can totally find it in my books."?
3. Hyperbolic Bullshit About Books
Books give a soul to the universe? What the fuck does that even mean? I need you to go either one of two ways than this. Either go whole hog and say art gives a soul to the universe (in which case I'll still ask you what the fuck you're on about), or narrow it down and tell me of a particular book that "gives a soul to the universe". My books certainly don't.
As for giving life to everything, I have it on pretty good authority that life existed well before books.
You've wasted five precious seconds of my life with your steaming pile of horseshit. I'm certainly not going to pay for the privilege of reading more.
4. I'm a Lovably Quirky Writer Type
If you're a self-published author, the chances are good that you've probably cornered some poor stranger at a party to let them know they are actually speaking to a real live, honest to god author. You might have even been so calculating as to say you were a published author, but to leave out the self part.
I'm sad to have to share some bad news with you. Your calculations were all for naught. What you may have mistaken for fascination, when their eyes glazed over and they instinctively nodded every time you stopped to breathe, was actually them trying to decide whether faking a seizure or stabbing you was the better conversation exit route.
And it's no different on Facebook, where people may even give fewer shits about you being a writer.
Nobody actually "LOL'd" at that picture of your enormous novelty coffee cup. (Because we writers LOVE us some coffee, amirite?)
Nobody "ROFLAO (or whatever)" at your picture of the frustrated kitten at the keyboard suffering from writer's block.
Not a single goddamn soul "Literally almost peed myself!" upon reading the latest of your "You know you're a writer when..." Someecards.
See if you can tell me what's wrong with this picture:
The problem here is the preposterous notion that anyone at all finds your writing career interesting enough to talk about.
There's a big difference between being in love with the oftentimes misguided fantasy of a writer's life, and being willing to sit alone in a chair and write, edit, publish, and market enough words to a cruel and uncaring world of readers, many of whom are just waiting to chew you up and spit you out on your narcissistic ass.
Am I saying that every moment of your life needs to be spent reading, writing, editing, or marketing in order for you to be successful? Am I saying you don't deserve to turn your brain off for a while and just screw around on Facebook for a while?
Of course not. We all need to take a break from time to time. Hell, I wouldn't have been inspired to write this if I hadn't first spent a bunch of time scrolling through Facebook.
And I'm also not saying you shouldn't make memes. Memes, when done well, can be very entertaining. But keep in mind that, when you create or share something, you're telling people something about yourself. And if courting readers is important to you, it's probably not a good idea to advertise your shitty taste and lack of creativity.
It's too easy to criticize others' work without putting my own neck on the line, so I'm going to share one of my own memes with you in an effort to demonstrate how I think it should be done.
Your first thought (well, the one after "Who the hell does this arrogant douchebag think he is?") might be "But wait a second, this doesn't have anything to do with writing."
You are correct. As we've already discussed, no one gives a shit about that. People give plenty of shits about Game of Thrones, though.
Now... what does the above meme say about me, its creator?
Thank you, Stock Photo Child, but that is not the answer I was looking for. But I'm interested in horrible and disgusting human beings. And, wouldn't you know, horrible and disgusting human beings are featured heavily in my writing.
As I mentioned in a post I wrote a couple of months ago, I believe it's as important to keep people who will hate your books away from them as it is to draw your target audience in.
The above meme, I hope, will serve both purposes. If you were offended by it or scoffed because the surface joke was just a crude reskinning of the tired old Venetian blind joke, then you probably won't go on to buy any of my books, and subsequently fail to write me a bad review.
But for those of you who caught and appreciated the nuance, that the icy, humorless, stone-hearted Cersei Lannister could be moved to a reluctant smirk by a corny joke about the rape and murder of her enemies and their children, you are the aficionados of complex and layered comedy who I wish to court.