Pride of Authorship

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!”

Lisa procrastinating

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.

7 thoughts on “Pride of Authorship

  1. A great post. I think you’re absolutely right when you say that when you write a book you become attached. I’m sure if I did write a book I wouldn’t want to let it go!

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  2. Very good post. I think the important thing for us to remember as authors is that there is no such thing as a perfect manuscript. No matter how hard we worked, or how much time we put in, there is always the potential for improvement. The worst thing a writer can do is raise a defensive shield around his/her work and ignore criticism or feedback because it asks us to change too much.

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  3. True, but killing your darlings can’t become a rule, either, as we’ve been discussing over on my blog. Sometimes you have to trust your judgement and preserve the little dears.

    And, yes, we do get protective about things we work on, no matter if they deserve it or not. There was a word processor at work once who got so attached to a document he’d been working on that he said nobody else could work on it or they’d screw it up. The boss had to call security and have him escorted from the building.

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    1. That’s right – otherwise if you killed off all your darlings, you’d end up with a story that doesn’t interest you anymore.

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