Sometimes I find myself googling up words for no other reason than the fact that I’m a linguistic nerd. It all started in my childhood, when I’d get my kicks out of reading my dad’s English-Spanish / Spanish-English dictionary. I’d go through pages and pages of words, aimlessly, for no other reason than discovering words I liked, or didn’t like, or to fill some information gap in my brain cells. Earlier than that, I’d got into the habit of looking up just ANYTHING in my dad’s encyclopedias.
In 1996 I got my first Internet connection: 12 hours a month for U$S 150. In spite of the high cost, I continued with my ‘look up’ habits. Since then I haven’t stopped, hehehe! So last Sunday I decided to enter the expression ‘bullshit artist’ into the Google search field. Apart from some dictionary definitions (nice!), I found this article that was really inspiring in more ways than one: 10 Ways To Avoid Being Labeled A Bullshit Artist. Scott Ginsberg, the author, has dissected the bullshit artist to an extent that my high school zoology teacher would love. Here’s a bullet point list that we should all print out and stick on our office walls. It’s about the fine lines that bullshit artists walk on.
a. In-demand doesn’t mean highly paid – popularity doesn’t necessarily indicate profitability.
b. Passionate doesn’t mean productive – some fires just burn with no purpose.
c. Cool doesn’t mean useful – baseline remarkability isn’t enough.
d. Desirable doesn’t mean satisfying – sustainability is the secret.
e. Activity doesn’t mean accomplishment – there’s a difference between motion and progress.
f. Attention doesn’t mean conversion – web hits are an acronym for “How Idiots Track Sales.”
g. Creativity doesn’t mean innovation – one is a state of being, the other is a practice of action.
h. Dazzling doesn’t mean sustainable – shtick must be supported by substance.
i. Knowledge doesn’t mean wisdom – information is worthless until applied and LIVED.
j. Experience doesn’t mean expertise – only reflection upon that experience does.
Now, here comes my two cents to the discussion on bullshit artists, but in this case I’ll be talking about the LBA or literary bullshit artist.
- The I’m-gonna-write-a-novel-someday bullshit artist: This is the typical person who says ‘I’ve always wanted to write a novel and one of these days I may do it’ as soon as they meet a writer.
- The Blah-Blah bullshit artist: this chatterbox carries on endlessly about what he/she is writing about, what they’re thinking of writing about, what they could write about, what they would write about, and what they would have loved to write about had they been born in the seventeenth century. They appear to suffer from writer’s blah, in the words of Erin M Fry. If you see this type coming towards you, run for the hills.
- The I-don’t-give-a-stuff-about-grammar bullshit artist: I had the painful experience of meeting one of them at a writing workshop. He called himself a ‘poet’, but I beg to differ. All his verses were a mishmash, with no rhyme or rhythm to speak of, sprinkled with badly used apostrophes in plural words (his poetry was choc-a-block with breast’s and lip’s). If you’re going to break the (grammar) rules, you may just as well be aware of what the hell it is you’re ‘breaking’.
- The I-don’t-need-an-editor bullshit artist: Ha! This pedigree type is right up my street. NOT, he! They believe editors ‘stifle your creativity and corrupt your writing’. Their arrogance knows no bounds and turns them into literary laughingstocks. In the current literary climate, this is by far the most common type of LBA. They publish e-books that only their mother could buy (and read).
- The I-won’t-do-research-for-my-novel bullshit artist: Their work is dangerously based on false premises and believe that doing research is against literary creation. Ha! How can anyone possibly write about, say, an earlier historical period without conducting some basic research on how people lived at the time? Of course, as a writer you’re entitled to indulge in as much fantasy as you like, but if your novel is about the Second World War, make sure your characters don’t send emails to their loved ones on the war front from their latest, state-of-the-art tablets—unless you’re writing some kind of sci-fi fantasy, of course.
You may wonder what in the devil’s name is my rub with LBA’s. For a start, our lifespans are limited. Time is of the essence, and once you waste it, it won’t come back. Besides, some of these people can be toxic attention-seekers. I’ve met a few of them, and they should be managed respectfully, but at a distance, unless you want to write a satirical piece about them, in which case you’ll need to play their game for a while. Last but not least, LBA’s don’t add anything to our experience, either as human beings or as writers. Once you get stuck with their Fifty Shades (or more) of Bullshit, they squeeze the life out of you.
Literary Bullshit Artists suck!