Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons was very relevant to writers. It featured fantasy author Neil Gaiman as one of the guest voices (he played himself). After finding out that young adult literature is nothing more than the product of many overworked lit majors and a made-up author persona, Lisa grows very cynical. Homer and Bart believe that a random group of people can write a book, so they enlist Gaiman, Principal Skinner, Moe, Professor Frink, and Marge’s sister Patty to be co-writers. They come up with a story that’s pretty much Harry Potter, but with trolls instead of witches and wizards. Lisa plans to write her own book to prove that books can be written by just one person and not a conglomerate, but she gets caught in the web of procrastination and doesn’t write a thing, proclaiming, “Writing is the hardest thing ever!”
Eventually Homer and the gang finish their book and submit it to a publisher, who accepts it immediately – but on the condition that there must be a fake author. That author ends up being Lisa, who becomes enamored with the idea of fame without having written a word. Sometime during the publication process, the troll premise is changed to vampires and the creators are indignant. They suddenly become attached to the story that was formerly just a means to become rich and famous.
I felt like the episode did a good job of portraying writer’s block and procrastination, while poking fun at the publishing industry and trends in YA literature. But it was the “pride of authorship” element that really got to me. Once we spend so much time with writing a book and going through multiple drafts, developing characters and putting our hearts and souls into the writing, we become attached. We’re reluctant to change our story, even if it might be for its own good. It’s almost like being overprotective of a child or a pet, but sometimes we have to let go and realize that we must “murder our darlings” in order to turn the book into the best it can be.